Control and care of intestinal worms

The question of parasitic worms in our hens is an issue that intrigues many urban chicken keepers, and rightly so. Our free-range hens absorb a large quantity of insects and are exposed to these parasites every day.

Regarding treatments, there are several opinions, philosophies and approaches. Moreover, depending on your knowledge of medicine, articles on parasites could be more difficult to demystify.

Most of us will simply want to have basic notions such as :

  • How do our chickens catch worms?
  • How do we recognize them?
  • How to control and care for our hens that have worms by consulting your veterinarian.

In this article, I will try to give you some basics about the vast world of intestinal parasites. My goal is to provide you with enough information so that you can understand the basic information about intestinal worms and better control your small flock safely.

One of the first questions that is asked very often is whether to treat preventively or only if there are symptoms.

This is a very good question and it is much more complicated than it sounds. Because there are different types of worms and intestinal parasites that can cause infections. It will be important to be able to recognize the most important ones and treat them properly without creating resistance. In this regard, your veterinarian will be able to prescribe the right type of deworming.

How do our hens get worms?

Directly means: Infected hens expel worm eggs in their droppings by the thousands. These worm eggs can survive for a year in the soil before another hen eats them by scratching the soil. These are caecal worms, the large, capillary worms that are often ingested directly by the hen.



Indirectly means: When a hen expels worms and worm eggs by the thousands through its droppings or sputum from the respiratory system, and these are ingested by insects such as earthworms, slugs, etc., it can cause a serious problem. If your chickens eat carrier or infested insects, the eggs are back in their system. How to recognize them? In droppings and often, experts say that if your eggs come out dirty from the cloaca of hens with droppings stains on the way out, they probably have worms.

Your chickens are weak, eat little, have diarrhea, seek their air…they could have worms.

For example, there is the CAPILLARIOSIS OF THE JABOT, hence the name “capillary” since it is a small worm as fine as hair that attaches itself to the mucous membrane of the jabot and causes lesions through which bacteria enter the body.

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Another type of worms are small worms like ascariasis vermicelli that infest the intestine and death occurs if the colony is too large, because it makes the intestines burst.

Among the symptoms, the hen will have diarrhea and sometimes foam or bubbles in the diarrhea.

Another type of worm is the SYNGAMOSIS it is a small worm that infects the respiratory tract and it is larvae that can pierce the mucous membranes and infect vital organs such as the heart and lungs. The animal will find it difficult to breathe and may raise its head as if looking for air and sometimes a characteristic hissing sound will be heard and the animal may die by suffocation. It is important to treat this parasite with an effective antiparasitic.

CESTODOSIS is a pathology caused by another type of worm called tapeworm which can be 2 to 5 cm long.

The hen can harbour thousands of small tapeworms from 2 to 5 cm long and this kind of small worm is visible in the droppings. There are short tapeworms of a few centimeters and much longer tapeworms up to 50 cm long. The hen loses weight and will have persistent diarrhea. It is also necessary to use a specific dewormer to stop these small worms.

There are many different types of worms, and there are many approaches to treating them, but in general, they involve the use of broad-spectrum dewormers.

Since many parasites come from the ingestion of insects and earthworms and the hen throws them out through her droppings, there will be many larvae and eggs that could be carried back by the insects and re ingested by the hens. It is very important to treat and disinfect the chicken houses and the run. Spreading lime is one of the proposed solutions and diatomaceous earth.

Because it is important to understand that even if a deworming destroys the internal parasites of the hen, there can be a return of parasites if the hen is in the presence of insects carrying larvae that allow to start again the cycle of infestation.

Sometimes small flat white clumps can be seen moving in the droppings. Veterinarians must often use dewormers approved for other types of animals and adjust the dose, because there are no hen-specific dewormers available to counter this type of worm.  The use of Nature Sorb is a good way to keep the floor clean and dry.



Coccidiosis is also a pathology caused by egg-shaped parasites called coccidia, with which hens are often afflicted. When coccidiosis affects our hens, it can lead to death quickly.  It is necessary to act quickly with an anti-parasite treatment: usually amprolium. Amprolium is an antiprotozoal agent. Coccidia are parasites that stick to the walls of the intestines. There are several species of coccidia and almost all of them affect the intestinal wall and cause bleeding. Adult hens develop resistance to coccidia, but young hens and chicks are very vulnerable to them. Chickens get them by eating oocytes that live in the feces, which are found in food, water and soil.  They can be spread by wild animals and other infected hens.  Infected chickens dehydrate quickly and often get diarrhea.

Good practice recommends washing feed and water bowls, disinfecting them and keeping them away from perches. Keep litter dry and the poultry house well ventilated. Remove droppings near feeders and waterers.

There are still about 30 types of parasites and it would be impossible to describe them all in this article. Nevertheless, here are a few basics since many of these parasites are deadly.


Strategies to better control worm infestations :

Observe the weight of your hens and weigh them regularly.

Observe droppings daily

If your chickens are still sick, treat with a dewormer, prescribed by your veterinarian.

Keep your grass clippings low, as direct sun exposure kills worm eggs.

Avoid raising your chickens on concrete. Use a portable “Peck and Play” type poultry house to move your chickens to clean, grassy ground.

Don’t let your chickens live on bare ground for more than a day or two in a row: such ground is quickly filled with bacteria and parasites that reproduce.

For the most frequently used products: Consult your veterinarian for laying hens for questions and dosage or receive a prescription.

A good control strategy is to treat our hens during the fall and 2-3 times a year. In the fall, the idea is that we want to prevent a build-up of worms in the barn quarters during the winter.  Indeed, if you reduce the amount of parasites before bringing your hens more confined inside the barn, there will be less risk of contamination inside the barn and the aviary.  Chickens with worms lose weight even if they eat normally.  It is difficult to notice this and hens can have different types of worms, which sometimes do not cause too many problems for the hens.  It is not always easy to detect them. Some are invisible to our eyes, some bigger ones can be easy to see, and others if you put the droppings in a glass of water.  Sometimes they are just worm eggs, and only a laboratory test can detect them.

As a preventive measure, I recommend 2 to 3 treatments per year if your chickens go outside. In addition, the use of natural products such as apple cider vinegar, Vermex, Parasitix (Key of the fields) crushed pumpkin seeds, every week will act as a preventive measure and will maintain a good digestive health.

Why deworm your chickens?

Since worms induce weight loss, slow down laying and even death, it is important to use dewormers in the right way and to do prevention at all times.  There are several guidelines on this subject.

The first is to deworm in a natural way and the second is to use a medical dewormer. In both cases, there are pros and cons obviously.

There are many pharmaceutical companies that have developed drugs to treat worms in general and studies have been done on broiler chickens that are eaten and not on hens that lay eggs.

As a precaution, most companies warn us not to consume eggs during the treatment period (withdrawal period), but in reality no studies have shown that eggs could have been affected by worm treatments.

Industries that produce eggs and have hens indoors are not at all concerned about the worm problem because their hens do not go outside.  However, in the near future, when the law requires producers to keep hens outdoors free, they too will have to be treated for worms.

Concerning the precaution of not eating the eggs during the treatment period it is actually only a safety precaution since there is no evidence that there are residues of the medication absorbed in the blood or in the eggs of our hens.

The truth is that for safety reasons, companies must protect themselves and prefer the path of prevention and safety by suggesting not to consume the eggs for 2-3 weeks. This is called withdrawal time.



The most popular and widely used products are products such as Fenbendazole, Ivermectin and Piperazine-Wazine and Hygromycin-B. They are all prescribed by a veterinarian who will be able to identify the strain of worms to be treated.


Let’s now talk about natural treatments that are very often suggested through certain blogs on hens, such as garlic cloves, apple cider vinegar, natural products such as nasturtium, products made from black walnut leaves, dandelion root, blessed thistle, licorice root contained in the bottles of Parasitix de la Clé des Champs. All these methods are certainly very good means of prevention and I strongly recommend them.  On the other hand, in case of major infestations, no study shows their real effectiveness.

Furthermore, we often hear that products from the squash and pumpkin family and in particular seeds that have the active ingredient Cucurbitacin could, at certain concentrations, counter infestations of certain types of worms. Once again, no study clearly confirms their effectiveness. But their use cannot harm the general health of our chickens.

The problem is that we do not know the concentrations to be given.  Moreover, no study has demonstrated their effectiveness on hens.

Indeed, some people claim to have never had a worm problem in their flock by giving pumpkin seeds to their hens! But is this a coincidence or a fact?

All hens that are free in our yards or free in the wild will have a certain amount of intestinal worms and can manage a certain amount without having serious consequences on their general health.

So having intestinal worms is quite common in all hens, but the important question is how much can they tolerate? Since there is no scientific evidence to suggest that Cucurbitacin is capable of reducing or destroying intestinal worms, we cannot completely rely on this type of natural product when we are in the presence of worm infestations. Learn more about it. 

On the other hand, nothing prevents us from providing them as a preventive measure.  Some chickens love pumpkin flesh or pumpkin puree and pumpkin seeds, but some don’t eat them.  Rich in phytosterols, the pumpkin seed is mainly used to fight against prostatic disorders in humans and generally promote urinary comfort for both men and women. This edible seed also proves to be a vermifuge against intestinal parasites. Its trace elements also make it possible to fight tiredness and menopausal disorders.

If you wish to do a more accurate test, bring a sample to your veterinarian. There are companies like Anivax in the United States that offer test kits with all accessories and specimens and instructions and results are emailed to you. The kit costs approximately $25.00 US.

If you ever notice that one of your chickens has worms, you will have to treat the whole flock because having intestinal worms is serious and should not be taken lightly.

Worms will have a negative effect on the general health of your chickens; it is also important to use the right products to avoid developing resistance. In addition to the essential action of deworming, it is essential to disinfect the hen house and the pen (grassy run or not) in order to reduce the proliferation of parasites. The litter is the first place on which it is necessary to be vigilant by changing it very regularly.

If your hens are infested, consult a veterinarian immediately to receive a prescription for a good deworming treatment.

Dried or live mealworms are an excellent supplement for your chickens and they love them!


The Chicken Health Handbook. Storey publisher Author:Gail Damerow

Dried or live mealworms are a great supplement for your chickens and they love them!


With the participation of Dre. Annie Daignault, veterinary expert in the care of hens for content verification and proofreading. 

Avec la participation de Dre. Annie Daignault, experte vétérinaire aux soins des poules pour la vérification des contenus et relecture du texte. 


This site and the book Chickens in my yard, contain information and recommendations on how to feed chickens and care for them in case of illness. I am neither an agronomist nor a veterinarian, and I do not claim to be a substitute for these professions or their recommendations. In this sense, all the information contained in this site, and more specifically the information on chicken diseases, is provided for information purposes only and should not be used for diagnosis or treatment. The information presented in this guide should in no way replace a genuine consultation with a veterinarian. Neither the publisher nor the author, and by extension the website of Poules en Ville, could be held responsible for possible allergies or reactions following the use of the recommended products or the realization of the recipes suggested in this book. The recipes and the various suggestions for natural treatments are offered for information purposes only and are not intended to be prescribed.

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