If you are keeping chickens or other poultry, you really do need to learn about worms and worming. Ectoparasites are found on the outside of your poultry - for example, lice and mites but Endoparasites are found on the inside of your birds body and are refered to as Helminths in the veterinary world which is a term used to cover a wide range of internal parasites or 'worms'.
Nematodes are the group of worms that we are mainly concerned about in poultry. These are listed below. The links take you to more information about the particular worm.
Many health problems that your birds have can be related to worms of some sort and it is important to worm your birds regularly as well as manage houses and runs correctly. Keep litter in poultry houses fresh and always ensure it is dry. Do not feed corn / scratch feeds in the litter if there are droppings in it and rest land periodically to prevent a build up of worms. If grass is kept short, this allows the sunlight to kill worm eggs.
Prevention is always easier than cure so follow good husbandry techniques and worm regularly according to the manufacturer's instructions. Worms can cause all sorts of damage to the digestive system of your birds which can sometimes lead to death. Products that are used to treat worms are not that cheap however it will certainly cost you in the long run with increased feed costs, less eggs and sick or unhealthy birds if you don't worm them regularly.
If you treat birds once with a product (most advertise that they kill 100% of worms) this will kill 100% of worms but you do need an ongoing treatment plan. The eggs will hatch and repeat treatment is required to continue to reduce egg numbers, ideally to be most effective, you need to kill the worms before they are mature enough to lay their eggs. The life cycle of growing worms depends on the type of worm but varies between 2 and 8 weeks so if you have an infestation you want to get on top of quickly, to get the best effect, treatment should be repeated within this period.
There are a number of different wormers available - some are not licenced for poultry but vets can prescribe these under what is known as their 'clinical judgement'.
Flubenvet - Is currently the only licensed in feed wormer for Chickens, Turkeys, Geese and Pheasants that can be mixed with your poultry feed in the UK. The 60g pack is available to buy online, the Amazon Marketplace usually has a number of sellers that are competing for the best price.
Solubenol - A water soluble wormer used for the treatment of worm infestations caused by large roundworm, caecal worm and capillaria worms. This is often used commercially so will sometimes be in stock at your vets.
Ivermectin - An anti-parasite medication, effective against most worms (not tapeworm), mites and some lice including scaly leg mite and northern fowl mite. Ivermectin pour-on / drops is applied to the skin. Unlicensed for use in poultry so should only be purchased and used at the advice of your vet.
Panacur - A wormer that is commonly used for cats and dogs but is a broad spectrum wormer that some vets may prescribe for poultry. Unlicensed for use in poultry and only available on prescription from your vet.
What natural products are there?
Herbal products -may- only reduce worm numbers and may not be as effective as using a chemical wormer. The approach I have taken with my own birds is to use herbal / organic products on a monthly basis but still use chemical wormers (Flubenvet) every 6 months routinely and would use Flubenvet if my birds had a suspected or confirmed worm problem.
Verm-X or Worm-R, both of which are suitable for use in Organic production.
Other products that can be given regularly to help reduce worms:
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV), Diatom (Diatomacious Earth) and fresh crushed Garlic usually given in water.
These are believed to make the gut an unpleasant place for worms. Before wormers were invented, garlic cloves crushed into water was often the remedy given in the old poultry books.
It depends on the infection pressure on your birds (see how often I should worm my birds below) and the product you choose, if you choose a chemical wormer and are worming as a preventative measure, many poultry keepers will worm their birds before their birds go into moult around September and 6 months later in the spring. Worm eggs need greater than 10 degrees to mature so worms will increase in the spring (this is often refered to as the 'spring rise' in commercial flocks).
How often should I worm my birds?
It very much depends on how your birds are kept and managed as to how many worms they will get. It also depends on the approach you take. Many herbal products (such as Verm-X or Natural Worm R) are given regularly (monthly for example) but chemical wormers such as Flubenvet can be given less frequently (6 monthly for example). Some people use diatomacious earth (such as diatom) to worm their birds which needs to be given with their food continuously. Ultimately you should follow the instructions on the packet of the wormer you choose.
None of us want to use chemical wormers for worming chickens unless it is really necessary, however worms can cause serious health problems in poultry and if a flock has a bad infestation, it can take a number of treatments to reduce worms to an acceptable level (Flubenvet kills all worms and eggs but birds become re-infected from their environment by ingesting eggs on the floor and via indirect hosts such as worms and snails). Some people will get a worm count done by post (see below) to see whether their birds need worming, others will worm routinely with Flubenvet regardless. Most poultry keepers worm at least twice a year. The real answer to how often you should worm is dependent on a number of factors, the most important being the 'infection pressure'. Birds kept in dirty conditions or on the same piece of ground (e.g. a run at the bottom of the garden) will have a higher infection pressure than birds that are moved around to fresh pasture regularly or where there is mud.
Flubenvet used at the manufacturer's recommended dose does not require egg withdrawal. Beware, other products that might be recommended by a Vet under their 'clinical judgement' (Ivermectin is a common one since it is usually kept in stock for cattle) may require egg withdrawal (the time which is recommended by your Vet). There is therefore no manufacturers recommended withdrawal period since they have not been tested on birds producing eggs for human consumption. Technically, it is in breach of the veterinary medicines regulations and NOAH code of practice by supporting, or encouraging the use of a product on a non-target species when there is a licensed alternative but it does happen.
Yes, whilst serious infestation is less likely, even birds kept in cages can soon pick up worms.
The signs and symptoms are listed under each particular type of worm. By far the best way to find out is by sending off for a 'worm egg count'. You don't have to go to your vet to get this done any more, it can be done by submitting some fresh droppings from as many of your birds as possible to a poultry veterinary laboratory service such as that offered by Chickenvet. They post a kit to you with everything you need to collect and send off the sample and then the results are sent to you after they have examined the samples under the microscope.