If you don’t want to use a chemical wormer on your hens or would like the reassurance that a herbal product is working, then the Westgate Labs Worm Egg Count Kit for Chickens could be the answer!
Keeping chickens on the same ground can cause a build-up of worm eggs. There are three types of worm that are commonly encountered in our flocks: Roundworms (Ascaridia galli), Hairworms (Capillaria) and Caecal worms (Hetarakis gallinarum). These all affect the intestines, but the first two, roundworms and hairworms, cause the most damage to the hens’ gut, causing health problems, even mortality.
Caecal worms often don’t cause damage, but they usually carry another parasite called Histomonas, the cause of Blackhead, which can also cause mortality, especially with Turkeys.
A break from the old routine
Many backyard chicken keepers, including me, routinely wormed their chickens every 6 months. This was the recommendation in poultry books and provided by worming medications manufacturers to ensure chickens weren’t carrying too many worms.
This approach isn’t recommended anymore because of the build-up of drug-resistant worms. In a nutshell, some worms will survive the worming treatment and produce further ‘drug-resistant worms’, eventually making the wormers we have ineffective.
A better approach, which minimises the medication we give to our chickens, is to test chickens with a faecal egg count (also called a worm egg count) before reaching for the chemical wormer.
One of the other benefits of testing with a worm egg count kit regularly is that you can also try a more holistic approach to keeping your chickens free from worms without worrying about whether it’s working.
If you like the sound of this, then read the sections in my Worming Guide on Good Husbandry: Preventing Worms. This discusses natural approaches to worming chickens that have been working for me since 2015.
The key to whatever approach you take or whatever natural products you use is to get feedback by getting a faecal egg count, so you know it’s working.
Worm egg count: Quick questions
A Worm Egg Count or Faecal Egg Count allows you to check for the presence of common worms in your hens. Faecal samples need to be sent off to a lab, and the number of eggs is counted in a pre-defined grid under a microscope.
Individual samples can be sent off, or you can mix a sample to test a flock of hens.
If you take a hen to your vet and they suspect worms might cause the problem, they may send faecal samples away to a lab for testing.
The costs of a worm egg count used to be upwards of £50. However, now, a worm egg count kit for chickens is available to purchase online for around £15, which opens up a whole new opportunity for cost-effective testing for backyard chicken keepers at home.
Westgate Labs worm count kit
These worm egg count kits for chickens are produced by Westgate Laboratories (who are based in Northumberland).
They can be purchased online and contain everything you need to collect and send off a faecal sample from your chickens for testing.
The kit can be used on a single chicken, or you can mix samples from a flock of up to 20 birds.
If your flock doesn’t carry worms, then, of course, you don’t have to worm them using a chemical wormer such as Flubenvet.
What does a worm count show?
Tapeworm eggs will not be seen in a worm count because of the way they are expelled. A tell-tale sign of tapeworm will be the shedding of tapeworm segments in droppings (you can see a picture on our tapeworm page), but if you see anything unusual with a dropping, then it can be included in the sample when you send it off to the lab to be tested.
Gapeworms are found in the trachea (windpipe), so they will not be detected in the worm count. You may see chickens ‘gaping’, which looks as though they are gasping for breath or gurgling, which can sound like a respiratory problem. They are not so common in chickens. The main culprits are Roundworm and Hairworm.
Worm eggs can be identified in the lab by examining faecal samples under a microscope. This is called a ‘worm egg count’ because the number of eggs in a sample are counted in a grid, and the results returned, counted as ‘eggs per gram’ (e.p.g) in the sample.
Worm Egg Count
Using a worm count kit is relatively straightforward. There are gloves, a collection bag for samples and a pre-paid envelope. The worm count takes place in a lab under a microscope, and the result is returned by email advising you of the number of eggs and whether you need to worm your chickens.
Using the worm count kit
I used the worm count kit to test my flock of free-range hens for the presence of worms. There are clear instructions with the kit, and it didn’t take me very long to collect the droppings samples, mix them in the bag provided and then add them to the sample box for sending off.
There is a label to place on your sample box and a voucher to complete your contact details.
What happens to the sample you send off?
I guess you’re wondering what happens to the sample you send to Westgate Labs? Well, I was wondering too, so I asked them to send me some photos of my sample travelling through the different processes.
Once the sample arrives at the lab, it is processed on the same day, and the results are sent out immediately by email or telephone call, so you know whether or not you need to worm your chickens.
I was pleased to see no eggs in my samples, so I didn’t have to use a wormer such as Flubenvet on my hens.
I find the whole worm egg count kit process very easy, taking just 10 minutes to complete. The results usually come back the next day after posting, so you should see the results quickly.
I can highly recommend you take the ‘testing before worming’ approach. Firstly, it saves indiscriminate worming and combats drug resistance (which is especially true when there are very few licensed products on the market to use). Secondly, it opens up an opportunity to take a more natural approach. We can prevent worms with good husbandry and use natural products like Verm-X, knowing that we can verify our hens are worm-free.
Monitoring the results of this test will allow you to avoid frequent and repeated use of a wormer, which will prevent the build-up of drug resistance in your chickens.
The Westgate Labs Worm Testing Kits are available to buy online here.