Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Natural Chicken Dewormer

Earlier this summer we lost a laying hen to gape worm. By the time we figured out what was wrong with her based on the symptoms, it was to late to treat her. 

About Gape Worm- How to Recognize the Signs
Gape worm is a worm that most chickens carry at any given time. Occasionally it will take over a weaker chicken and can cause death, as it sis in the case of our hen. Gape worms lodge themselves in the throat of the chicken and cause them to walk around with gaping mouths as they gasp for air. (hence the name) The gaping mouth of the chicken is the first sign, following by making hoarse rasping noises, stopping egg laying, lethargy, stretching out the neck and shaking the head back and forth in an attempt to dislodge the worms, and finally heaving the body forward to literally attempt a self-Heimlich maneuver. The chicken eventually dies of asphyxiation as the worms multiply and block the breathing passage.

You can see Meg "panting" in this picture with a gaping mouth, the first sign of gape worms lodged in the throat.

What to do about it
After doing more research we realized that other hens in or flock were showing early symptoms of gape worm as well, and we needed to act to keep from losing more hens. As it turns out, the gape worm can be easily treated with antibiotics. We didn't want to use antibiotics unless absolutely necessary for two reasons: 1) you can't eat any of the eggs for two weeks while they have the antibiotics in their system and 2) the whole reason we have our own chickens is to avoid unwanted and unnatural substances such as antibiotics and growth hormones in our food. On the other hand, we didn't want to lose our whole flock to the worms. We started looking for a natural remedy to use to deworm the chickens. After reading about a few different natural dewormers for chickens online, we decided to put our own concoction to the test. The recipe is simple and uses ingredients that you probably already have around the kitchen. 
Our Natural Chicken Dewormer Recipe
We made a single serving of grits (I know this is a southern thing, but you can substitute oatmeal as well. This part is just to give them a base of something they like to eat so they will gobble it down). Then we mixed in a teaspoon of Cayenne pepper and a tablespoon of minced garlic. We fed this mix to our chickens once a week until the threat had passed, and we continue to give it to them about once a month to avoid problems in the future. Not only did all of the symptoms disappear immediately, but they have shown no signs of infection since!

 I thought at first that the chickens wouldn't eat the awful smelling concoction, but I set the bowl out and ran back in to grab my phone to take a picture. By the time I got back outside, they had pecked it clean! Cayenne pepper and garlic goes in, and gape worms come out :)

Natural Chicken Dewormer Recipe
1 serving oatmeal or grits
1 tsp. cayenne pepper
1 tbsp. minced garlic

Serve once weekly or as needed.

So simple! I hope that you will be able to combat gape worm (and types of other worms) in your flock naturally!