Sunday, November 11, 2012

Ask Bee - Help! My Chickens Have Worms / Parasites!

Dear Bee, 

I'm very interested in going a more natural route.  I want my girls (and boys) to be as healthy as possible - and I definitely don't want to have to keep treating them with medicines if I can avoid it.

Presently I have 14 chickens of varying ages from 10 weeks to just over a year.  I have a 5'x10' raised coop for night time with a 15' x 10' secure run around it that I hardly ever use.  There is an additional less secure 50' x 25' run that I rarely keep them penned in.  I prefer to let them roam about the 1 acre yard and find what they please to eat/do.  I feed the older ones Layena Crumbles & oyster shell in containers that they have access to at all times.  The younger ones had Chick Starter when they were very young and then were switched to Flock Raiser at 8 weeks of age.  I've noticed that the older girls’ feathers are looking a little ratty lately and my oldest is going through a severe molt right now.  I've also noticed 5 of my 8 layers have what I call "dirty butts" - and they have a white creamy substance that comes on their eggs from time to time.  I'm thinking it is gleet - and I've ordered the Nustock for treating it.  I've put the Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) in their waterer - but the kind I have doesn't have The Mother (live cultures) - so I will get some of that soon.  I have a manure box with roost overhead and the box is filled with Sweet PDZ which makes it easy to scoop daily.  I do a modified deep litter on the floor - in that I use pine shavings and keep it stirred - adding more shavings until it builds up and spring comes.  Then I clean it all out and start again.

The only really bad incident so far was that over the summer maybe one or two of my girls had roundworms in their manure.  I treated the flock with Valbazen because I didn't know what else to do to help them and that was the advice.  Should I have done something different to treat them after finding the worms?  I guess I don't really understand why they would suddenly get worms - unless the worms have been multiplying over time and this was just the first time I was able to see them.  Would having a FF (fermented feed) diet help reduce their chances of getting worms? 

I've ordered the following that will hopefully get here soon - Nustock and Bragg ACV. My goal is to start feeding FF once I get the Bragg and to treat the girls with Nustock for what may be gleet.  I think I'll start doing FF with the layer feed for the layers and the Flock Raiser for the littles.  Should I slowly add or change things or just go to it right away? 

Thank you!

Bee's Answer:

I'd change from doing a modified deep litter into doing a true deep litter, do away with the manure box and let those droppings fall so they may start developing a good deep litter system for you.  This will help with worm ova that are shed and keep them from being recycled, as the beneficial bugs in the deep litter prey upon parasite larvae. 

I wouldn't use a commercial dewormer as I believe all it does is let the strong worms survive.  Those that survive the chemical will only reproduce to make more worms that are able to withstand the chemical.  This requires that you keep switching your chemicals around and eventually you have naturally selected a super worm to live in your chickens that can survive any chemical preparation that you throw at it. 

I'd use garlic, pumpkin seeds, soap... all things that worms do not build up a resistance or tolerance to.  I'd start FF... it does indeed cultivate a bowel environment that is not conducive to worm growth and reproduction. 

If the soils in your runs and pens are barren, I'd recondition those soils, even though you don't use them often, the chickens are still on them when they live. 

I wouldn't add things slowly... I'd start the FF as soon as you can, the ACV in the water, I'd see about getting some pumpkin seeds for them... should be easy this time of year.  If they don't want to eat them, dry them and grind them up and put it in the feed.  Garlic is easy... garlic powder sprinkled on the feed. 

If you use soap in the water for worms, I use Shaklee's soap... it's all natural and made of soy plant proteins and it only requires the tiniest drop, as it is concentrated to the max.  If you think it isn't safe for animals, Joel Salatin uses it exclusively for all this animals, I've used it for mine a time or two when I got cows that needed reconditioning from an outside source... and I've even ingested it myself before I gave some to the animals.  They used to use Shaklee's to fatten turkey and cattle over in Europe and using it to wash things was secondary. 

Dawn dish washing liquid works the same if you want to go that route.  Actually, any soap works the grandma used lye soap in her dishwater and gave that to the hogs and chickens.

My granny used to feed her pigs and chickens her dish water... which had lye soap in it.  She said it made them healthier but I doubt she knew just why.  The soap acts as a surfactant to internal parasites, dissolving the protective coating of oil on their skins and allowing the gastric juices to kill them.  I wish I could show you pictures of a cow that had Shaklee's and ACV for reconditioning at my place that would blow your mind.  You wouldn't believe it was the same cow and in such a short amount of time! 

Good luck and happy chicken keeping –



  1. Love it!

    Julie (Just Me)

  2. How often do you put the Shaklee soap in the water and how long do you leave it in? I ordered some and have read and read your posts and can't find any info other than this sentence; "If you use soap in the water for worms, I use Shaklee's soap... it's all natural and made of soy plant proteins and it only requires the tiniest drop, as it is concentrated to the max. "
    Thanks for all this info.

    1. It will depend on how big your waterer is. I would say just a few drops per gallon - but be sure to put the soap in *after* you have filled the container with water to avoid presenting your chickens with a bubble bath.

      Make sure they are getting this water for at least a week. Watch to make sure they are drinking it - if not, refill and use less soap the next time. Bee's grandmother fed her chickens the daily dishwater - this soap shouldn't hurt your chickens... even with extended use.

  3. Thanks.
    I have tried the DE and ACV and FF thought it was working. I had some chickens get sick with sinus problems. I was really shocked they got sick, I was working hard keeping all the proactive actions going.
    I and took some of the sick chickens to the vet and put the sickest three on antibiotic because the vet and I were sure they would die if not. The rest I stuck with the program of DE ACV and FF. Everyone is fine now (the vet can't believe it. He said 'these things never resolve themselves..hardly resolved themselves...but anyway, no drugs). BUT in the course of things the vet tested thier poo and saw a really heavy load of round worms; again. I was so surprised.
    I treated the flock with piperizine once. I want to continue with DE, ACV and FF AND now the Shaklee soap. I am hoping that the one round of piperizine will get the worms in check and the continued holisitic action will keep everyone off any more chemicals.
    I'll have them tested in a month and see how they are doing.

    1. Instead of DE, you might try regular old wood ash - the very same stuff you find the day after having a wood fire in your fireplace or having a bonfire. The plus to wood ash is that, unlike the DE, it won't kill off all the good microbes that actually *help* your chickens live a healthier life.

      For more on why we don't suggest the use of DE, please look under the "Deep Litter" tab at the top of the page. It is listed in the bullet points.


  4. Forgot to say I do have wood ash and I did dust with it. I don't see any lice or mites. The Vet said they didn't have any lice or mites either.
    The DE was for internal 'worming' doesn't work....

  5. Ah - well, hopefully the soap will make a big difference and clear out those worms! Once they don't have such a heavy worm load and are clean of lice and mites, they should be much healthier and not as prone to illness.

    Let us know what happens!

  6. Do you rough chop pumpkin seeds prior to feeding it? I was told it had to be chopped.... honestly I feed them both ways (unchopped and chopped) and it was all consumed. Maybe chopped would act better/quicker if my chickens truely had worms?
    Thx, Emily.

    1. Emily, This is Leigh - I do rough chop pumpkin seeds prior to feeding them, but not everybody does. I figure they may be easier for the birds to digest that way, but I don't have proof that is the case.

  7. Hi, in this article can I ask what does FF stand for and also can you use any kind of dishsoap? I have a worm thing going on and don't want to use chemicals. Thank you so much please help any advice will be welcomed :)

    1. FF stands for fermented feed (see the tab near the top of the blog just under the picture of the red barn.
      As for the dish soap, Dawn (the blue kind that is NOT super concentrated) has been proven to help. I don't know what's in all the other kinds, so I can't tell you that they would be safe of effective for this use.
      Hope this helps -

    2. i am going to give the soap a try for worming. I was wondering if instead of add to their drinking water could i
      add it to their FF?

    3. I would think the dish soap could possibly prevent proper fermentation in the feed and negate the benefits of the feed. I don't know this for sure, but personally I'd put the soap in the water.


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