Chicken Worms a brief guide

Worms are usually associated with cattle, horses, cats and dogs but chickens get them as well. Poor old Mrs Chook above doesn't look too good - probably because her cartoon owner hasn't bothered to notice the old girl has lost a lot of weight, isn't hanging around her chicken friends anymore or eating anything. As for her droppings - they aren't looking any good either. Runny and watery means only one thing..WORMS.

Symptoms of a chicken with intestinal worms are as follows
  • watery runny droppings
  • loss of appetite
  • ceasing of egg laying
  • dehydration
  • going off alone
  • loss of balance (due to weakness from a heavy infestation)
  • dull comb,wattles and eyes
Not all of these symptoms occur but in the main most will be present. Sick chickens with worms if not treated can die. Birds need to be treated every three months. We use a product called Aviverm. This product has a witholding period for eggs/meat of ten days. Alternatively (if you don't like using artificial products) you could use garlic powder - one teaspoon mixed in the chicken's feed each day which will help keep the bird healthy but it is advisable to have a chicken worming product on hand as well.

Types of intestinal worms are:

Ascarids (Large Intestinal Roundworms)

One of the most common parasitic roundworms of poultry (Ascaridia galli) occurs in chickens and turkeys. Adult worms are about one and a half to three inches long and about the size of an ordinary pencil lead. Thus, they can be seen easily with the naked eye. Heavily infected birds may show droopiness, emaciation and diarrhea. The primary damage is reduced efficiency of feed utilization, but death has been observed in severe infections.

Cecal Worms

This parasite (Heterakis gallinae) is found in the ceca of chickens, turkeys and other birds. The worms are small, white and measure _ to ½ inch in length.This parasite apparently does not seriously affect the health of the bird. At least no marked symptoms or pathology can be blamed on its presence. Its main importance is that it has been incriminated as a vector of Histomonas meleagridis, the agent that causes blackhead. This protozoan parasite apparently is carried in the cecal worm egg and is transmitted from bird to bird through this egg.

Capillaria (Capillary or Thread Worms)

There are several species of Capillaria that occur in poultry. Capillaria annulataCapillaria contorta occur in the crop and esophagus. These may cause thickening and inflammation of the mucosa, and occasionally severe losses are sustained in turkeys and game birds. and In the lower intestinal tract there may be several different species but usually Capillaria obsignata is the most prevalent. The life cycle of this parasite is direct. The adult worms may be embedded in the lining of the intestine. The eggs are laid and passed in the droppings. Following embryonation that takes six to eight days, the eggs are infective to any other poultry that may eat them. The most severe damage occurs within two weeks of infection. The parasites frequently produce severe inflammation and sometimes cause hemorrhage. Erosion of the intestinal lining may be extensive and result in death. These parasites may become a severe problem in deep litter houses. Reduced growth, egg production and fertility may result from heavy infections.


Tapeworms or cestodes are flattened, ribbon-shaped worms composed of numerous segments or division. Tapeworms vary in size from very small to several inches in length. The head or anterior end is much smaller than the rest of the body. Since tapeworms may be very small, careful examination often is necessary to find them. A portion of the intestine may be opened and placed in water to assist in finding the tapeworms.

NOTE: AVIVERM IS ANTHELMINTIC WHICH PROVIDES SIMULTANEOUS TREATMENT OF IMMATURE AND ADULT STAGES OF THE THREE MOST IMPORTANT INTESTINAL WORMS (ASCARDIA spp.,CAPILLARIA spp., HETERAKIS spp.) in fowls turkeys and other birds (taken from the product information on Aviverm worming treatment) This product does not treat gapeworm

Chickens also can contract Gapeworm which is a worm that lives in the lungs and trachea. This is often fatal. Treatment with Ivomec (Ivermectin) is used however consult your veterinarian first for advice before using this product or you could be doing more harm to your birds than good.

Definition comes from Wikipedia

A gapeworm (Syngamus trachea) is a parasitic nematode worm infecting the tracheas of certain birds. The resulting disease, known as gape or the gapes, occurs when the worms clog and obstruct the airway. The worms are also known as red worms or forked worms due to their red color and the permanent procreative conjunction of males and females. Gapeworm is common in young, domesticated chickens and turkeys.
When the female gapeworm lays her eggs in the trachea of an infected bird, the eggs are coughed up, swallowed, then defecated. When birds consume the eggs found in the feces or an intermediate host such as earthworms, snails (Planorbarius corneus, Bithynia tentaculata, …), or slugs, they become infected with the parasite.
Ivermectin is a drug often used to control gapeworm infection in birds.

See also Prolapse in Hens

And here's the $85 lesson I learned the hard way below (this story appeared in Rural Living last year)........

Living in a rural area like Maungaturoto reality comes first. At least, most of the time it does. In the case of a chicken named for a song by Rod Stewart, reality and logic went out the proverbial window one late Sunday afternoon.
Two tearful kids and a very sick looking Maggie May doing her best to do the dramatic “I’m about to cark it” act had me, your faithful writer, doing something totally against the grain of most ‘practical’ small block farmers. Sick chickens usually only meet one fate – the chopping block. But in the case, dear reader, of this not so practical small farmer, this is how it went down:
5pm – Now, I admit, I should know better. Having a good basic knowledge of poultry and what afflicts them, it was all too obvious what was causing Maggie’s staggering and sudden weight loss. A very nasty dose of worms – but being soft hearted and wanting my kids to talk to me for the next twenty years or so (or at least while I fed and clothed them) I cave and call the Maungaturoto Vet Centre and explain I had “a very sick looking Black Australorp hen and that if I don’t do something, my kids will never talk to me ever again”.
5.15pm – I arrive at the back door of the Maungaturoto Vet Centre with a half dead chicken and two kids in tow. Kids are panicking, chicken could care less.
5.16pm – The “patient” is removed from box and promptly does a typical chicken deposit on the vet’s nice clean examination table. Deposit hastily removed and chicken weighed.
5.17pm to 5.30pm – A discussion of chicken’s less than ideal state leads to diagnosis of worm infestation. Vet gives chicken worm injection, hands me, your faithful writer a bottle of Aviderm and a bill for….$85 bucks. Breakdown $65 for the out of hours consultation (fair enough) $20 or so for the injection and $14.95 for the Aviderm.
5.31pm to some ghastly time in the wee hours of the next day – Elder of two kids who has sat up ailing chicken announces chicken is still alive and rapidly improving.
One year later – Maggie May is still alive. Still sneaking in and sitting on the clean washing whenever she gets the opportunity.
And the moral of this story, dear rural reader?
Like all animals, chickens suffer from worm infestations and if left unchecked, can lead to an unnecessary death of what could be a child’s favourite pet. Not to mention a frosty silence from the offspring involved for the ensuing decade at least.
Pets or not – poultry need to be wormed every three months with a suitable wormer in their water. As with most parasite control products these products have a withholding period for the consumption of eggs and/or meat of around ten days.
PS – Maggie May in true Rod Stewartesque fashion has since raised a brood (three roosters and one hen) but that’s another story dear rural reader – perhaps when my sanity has returned.


  1. I give mine (when I've got chooks) a big serving of minced garlic in their food, keeps them going for years :)

  2. Minced Garlic is really good. I feed either garlic powder or minced garlic to the chooks each day. I still worm them every three months as well - as a precaution that is. My horses and the cows get garlic as well. Really really good for them. We eat it as well.

  3. Glad I stumbled across this post. The symptoms are exactly like what one of our hens was experiencing. We are decidedly not rural; there is only one vet that treats chickens in our area, and she considers them "exotic" and therefore expensive! It cost me nearly $150 for a diagnosis of worms. And I have to admit, I was skeptical of the answer, even though the hen has rebounded after a dose of dewormer (it didn't help that the vet herself sounded really uncertain of the diagnosis). Your post is therefore very reassuring. Lesson learned--I'll be deworming my birds regularly from now on.

  4. Well beats coughing up 80 bucks at a small 'birds' clinic in the city to be told that your black bantam is maybe depressed, possibly bullied, and probably just pining for a rooster brother who has gone to live in the country. Two weeks of hand and force feeding! later, well here I am reading up about unlikely exotic diseases in my chook books and surfing the net and making a wild guess that gee whizz, it could be worms. Thank you so much Mad Bush Farmer.

  5. Hens can do all kinds of things guys but when it comes to worms..oh yes they soon show the signs they're infested. recommended they drive you nuts! Not to mention they can terrorise your kids and pets. Best stick to the girls. Feed minced garlic or garlic powder each day as well. Don't worry you won't get garlic eggs.LOL Glad this post has been able to help you folks. All the best from New Zealand

  6. Thank you sooooo much for sharing your story. I had no idea about the worms. I have been asking people for at least 6 months what was wrong with my chickens, I don't have money for the vet 'til May. So, what happens this time of year is out of my hands. I already put garlic in their food today and will sort them this evening, wormer for them tomorrow! Yeah! `Shelley

  7. Hi Shelley

    Glad this post of mine has helped you with your hens great! Good luck and I hope they recover okay for you. Keep up their worming and they will stay healthy.

    All the best!

  8. The longevity of this post in the Google listings for "chicken worms" just goes to show how important the Mad Bush Farm blog is to the agriculrtural industry of our fair land.

    That -- and chickens are cool.

  9. Do we give up eating the eggs while deworming?

  10. Never entered anything on a blog before, see previous entry..... so please bear with me.
    I spotted worms yesterday in my hens poo. It moved and freaked me out. I have read with interest the comments above and really appreciate advice.
    I have two rescue chicks who have supplied us with eggs regularly. One was recently traumatised when the over-exuberant neighbour's dog (7months old)got into our garden and plucked the more neurotic of the two. She has not laid since. They have, however, started eating the solitary egg. I stopped this my putting a couple of china eggs in the nest box and giving them milk to drink.
    Now we have this latest dilemma and my husband would gladly "cull" them.
    Is this all linked? They are both looking very healthy.
    By the way, it is Spring here in Norfolk, UK.
    Thank you for any advice, Margaret

  11. Hi Margaret

    Happy springtime. We're coming into Autumn here now in New Zealand.

    To answer your first question after administering wormer to your hens you can't eat their eggs for ten days. It's worth the wait.

    Worm your hens every three months with a worming product you can get from your vets.

    Also feed them minced garlic or garlic powder in their feed daily which will also help maintain the birds health and help to keep worms at bay.

    Take note chickens do not lay over winter. They tend to go off the lay during the colder months. Often you will find they moult just before winter so don't worry if you find balding chickens in Autumn.

    The hen could have possible internal injuries from the dog attack. We lost a hen last year after our dog attacked her. Sadly she had a prolapse due to the attack. If your hen is looking healthy and showing no signs of internal trauma then she should come back on the lay in due course. Patience is the key. Keep and eye on her though just in case the dog attack has damaged her ovaries and uterus. Egg laying could cause prolapse - but be positive and see how she goes.

    Egg Eating: To resolve that feed shell grit every day. Hens need the calcium. Allow them a couple of hours out of their enclosure if you are able so they can have fresh grass and sunshine it also helps to keep them healthy.

    Also note that as hens get older they lay less eggs. Hens start at 9 months laying eggs and by the time the are 18 months they have reached their peak. However I had a 14 year old hen here that until her death laid one egg every day except in winter. She was a brown shaver. Lovely old girl.

    See how you get on. Good luck!

    Take care

    I hope that helps you

  12. Just wondering if you vaccinate your chickens at all?

  13. I haven't vaccinated my hens in the past. It also depends on which country you're in. We don't get many serious diseases in New Zealand for poultry. The main thing is to ensure the chickens are allowed to free range where possible and their housing is kept cleaned out on a regular basis which will prevent build up of disease.

  14. SOOO helpful.. I have 1 hen that I incubated back in November and her "siblings" are all fine but about a week ago she started falling around and looking so skinny.. Just isolated her with fresh water with de-wormer and chick food b/c she is having trouble eating whole corn or anything else she has to "break". My uncle was just about to take her to the "chopping block" this morning until my husband brought some meds in for her so I hope I'm not too late! :(

  15. Hi April

    I hope your hen recovers. Sometimes it can be too late but I'll cross my fingers!

  16. So glad I found this - my favorite Rhode island Red got sick pretty suddenly over 2 days. she got weak, quit eating, and is distressed. its hot here so she is breathing through her beak as well. I have no vets for chickens here and was looking for possible issues on line and none of the diseases I found had symptoms that matched hers. Till I found yours! and she finally pooped in front of me and there they were - nasty little worms! I wormed everyone using a wormer called Wazine a few months ago, but maybe it wasnt very effective? Anyhow, she is quite dramatic and really looks on deaths door. I hope the wormer works in time....I really hate to lose her - she always comes running when she sees me and she keeps up a running conversation with you too! She isn't talking to me now, so I know she doesn't feel good poor girl...She really was 'normal' 2 days ago, and then my hubby fed everyone for 2 days so I didnt see her till last night and could tell right off she wasn't right.

    thanks again for your post on the worms!

  17. Hi Amy your hen could have gapeworm. If you can take her to your local vet and get her injected with Ivomec. The may help save her.

    If her comb is really dull and she is not improving sadly you may find your pet may pass on.

    Gapeworm can come on suddenly. I'll keep my fingers crossed for your little hen.

    Best of luck!


  18. thank you for your help.....i went to check on her a little bit ago and she died with me with her.....I'm really bummed. I don't think it was gape worm - i think this was stress breathing. she wasn't gasping or arching her neck and she never caughed any. I gave her Ivomec...its what we use on the goats and llamas, so I have it on hand and have used with the chickens before Maybe it was just too late. I did notice right before she died her nose was runny too - clear liquid. It wasn't runny yesterday and I put her on antibiotic yesterday, but i guess it could be respiratory. no one else has any issues. she was about 8 years old.....such a good little hen. the most personable one of the bunch for sure. I will miss her. Im going to worm everyone else again just to be on the safe side.

    I got a real kick out of your article on taking the hen to the vet with the kids in tow - that is so something I would do too! we have a menagerie here and I care about them all....its hard to loose one.

    thanks again!

  19. Hi Amy

    It could have pneumonia possibly. Sometimes chickens can get things like that without warning. So sorry you lost her.

    LOL yes Maggie was quite a trick. Sadly she was attacked by our rather insane dog and we had to have her put down. *sad face* She is very much missed.

    I hope you find another chicken friend to fill the gap.

  20. We thought our hen "duck" was egg bound and after some reading decided to give her a hot soak. So I heated some water to about 105f and poorer it into a large stainless steel bowl, set duck in there and layed a Rowell over her. She gave up no fight, I think she rather enjoyed it! But then the smell... Woooweee it was bad! After the suggested 20min plus five for good measure we removed her and she was far more perky than she was but after a bit returned to her best box and the bowl was a disgusting whitish clump of who knows what, plus some very thin little white worms. It's been 3 days since the first bath, she's still alive and I did the hot bath once again...exact same outcome! White clump looks like poop, some tiny white worms. The feed store will have wormer tomorrow! This happened suddenly, at least it seems to have! We recently had a hen die, these are young girls btw, just started laying a month ago. Anyway the hen who died was gargling one minute then had a violent struggle and died right there in fromm of my husbands eyes! Then another who seemed to have intestines hanging out- maybe a half inch until one of her friend pulled it then there was a foot! This is all so devastating to us! We have been doing this for a few years and love the pets/eggs. Could all of our losses be due to worms????Erika.

  21. Hi Erika most likely your losses are due to worms. I'm glad your duck is okay. So sorry you've lost some of your hens!

    The intestines coming out of your hen's cloaca (bottom) that is called a prolapse. Sadly it's fatal. There are a number of reasons for prolapse. It may have been from the hen having a fright or some other cause. I have written a post about Prolapse in Hens in this blog.

    Use the wormer and also if you can treat your birds with ivomec but check with your veterinarian first regarding the right dosage for the Ivomec.

    Good luck let me know how you get on.

  22. Duck is a chicken, our kids named her duck when she wAs a day old chick because she looked like a little yellow duckling. She is a Buff Orpington. I hope she will be ok, the kids would be devastated if she died. She does not want to eat or drink so this wormer may be a challenge! Should I be worming my 2 dogs as well, can they spread to each other? Do you know what type of worms my girls have- skinny white and teeny tiny.

  23. LOL love the name Erika! I hope she is okay I'd worm the dogs any way do them at the same time you worm your chicken. And keep it done every three months. Sounds like intestinal worms from what you've described. Always consult with a vet with treatments.Dogs it's usually a product called Drontal by Bayer that's used to treat dogs as least here in New Zealand. You'll need to work out their weight. Best thing to do is have a calender and mark off every three months with a date that you'll worm everything at the same time. Hope that helps. Let me know how you've got on and sorry for the very late reply!

  24. Hello,

    I would love some advise. We have 20 day old chicks. About three days ago one was walking funny when we woke in the morning. It's balance was really off. When I returned that evening, she could no longer stand or use her legs. She is eating and drinking when I set her next to each. I took her to the vet yesterday and they thought it might be mericks disease. She is still alert and fine except for her legs. Could any of these parasites that your talking about be her problem and if so can I deworm a baby? Thanks so much for your help. P.S. I found two little white worms on the ground outside where the chicks are. They were moving along.

  25. From what I've researched you can deworm chicks however it would be advisable to consult with your vet. If you worm one chick then you should worm all of the flock. Hygiene is important if the chicks are being kept confined. Isolate any sick birds from the others.

    You can vaccinate for Marek's Disease I would advise that you take this measure as soon as possible just in case the vet you consulted is right. I wouldn't discount what they have advised. Marek's disease occurs in Chicks from around one month old onwards and is fatal. It can wipe out over 80% of your flock if measures aren't taken and quickly

    Check the Poultry Site Copy/Paste the link below

    Also check to see if there is a Poultry club in your area. They should be able to offer you really good support and practical advice about keeping poultry.

    I hope that helps and all the best with your sick chick I hope it pulls through


  26. When we had a weak chick (the other was strong) I got some mealworms at the pet shop for it. It bounced right back and didn't have any more problems.

  27. Shows you what a bit of protein can do!


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