Ruffled feathers, closed eyes and a depressed appearance can be the first signal of the presence of parasites in a chicken flock. If you're raising chickens for fresh, organic eggs, chemical wormers available commercially may not be the first choice for parasite control. Using preventive methods and adding a few natural foods to your chicken's food or water can send parasites packing, keeping your flock on the road to all-natural health.
An Ounce of Prevention
Warm, damp areas cause worm eggs to thrive, increasing the risk that your chicken will peck up some worm eggs along with her food. Sprinkle lime over muddy areas; mix it into the soil with a rake or hoe. Remove any damp litter in the chicken house promptly and replace it with fresh, dry substrate. Keep grass mowed in areas the chickens frequent to allow UV rays from the sun to reach the soil and kill parasite eggs.
An Apple a Day
Apple cider vinegar lowers the pH in a chicken's intestinal tract, making it less hospitable for parasites and pathogens. Use only unfiltered raw apple cider vinegar, adding up to 5 tablespoons to a gallon of water. The acidity of the apple cider vinegar can cause corrosion and leach chemicals from metal containers, so use the solution in a plastic container. Offering the solution one week a month is sufficient, or you can offer the chicken a second water container with the vinegar solution to sip as desired.
Chickens taking dust baths in diatomaceous earth benefit from a reduced number of external parasites, but the substance can help internally as well. A 2011 study by the University of British Columbia showed that adding a teaspoon of DE per cup of food dramatically reduces fecal egg counts of several parasites, including roundworms, eimeria and cecal worms. As a bonus, chickens consuming diatomaceous earth in their diets weighed more than birds without DE in their diets, and produced larger eggs that contained more yolk and albumen.
Give Them Garlic Breath
Crushing a clove of garlic in a quart of water and serving to chickens is an old-time remedy for internal parasites. A 2013 study by the Animal Parasitic Diseases Laboratory showed compounds in garlic effectively reduced eimeria acervulina, a primary cause of coccidiosis. Adjust the amount of garlic in the water to your chickens' taste to ensure they are taking in enough fluids. You can also chop fresh cloves and offer them as free feed, or mix chopped garlic in with other greens. Chickens consuming large amounts of garlic may lay eggs with a slight difference in their taste that some people find undesirable.
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Effect of Diatomaceous Earth on Parasite Load, Egg Production, and Egg Quality of Free-range Organic Laying Hens
- Poultrykeeper.com: Worming Chickens and Other Poultry
- National Lime Association: Stuck in the Muck? Lime Dries Up Mud
- University of Florida: Intestinal Parasites in Backyard Chicken Flocks
- Backyard Poultry Magazine: The Benefits of Garlic for Poultry
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Improved Resistance to Eimeria Acervulina Infection in Chickens Due to Dietary Supplementation With Garlic Metabolites
- US National Library of Medicine National Institutes of Health: Efficacy of Allicin From Garlic Against Ascaridia Galli Infection in Chickens
- Alberta Agriculture and Rural Development: Coccidiosis in Chickens
- Poultrykeeper.com: Apple Cider Vinegar
- Texas Department of Transportation: Quick Rate Chart for Percentage Solutions
- badmanproduction/iStock/Getty Images