Deworming chickens

Asked January 7, 2014, 1:36 PM EST

Is there a way to deworm chickens without using harmful chemicals?

Lincoln County Wisconsin

2 Responses

Some helpful strategies to decrease parasites in the environment include moving the birds often to fresh pasture or paddocks, keeping the birds in dry areas, and keeping the litter in the house as dry as possible. Try to limit contact with wild birds as they may be infected. Ingestion of worms and insects from freshly plowed ground may result in infection. There are a few products that can be added to conventional poultry feed to control internal parasites. These drugs can NOT be used in organic poultry production. There are no materials that can be used to treat a worm infestation, especially in egg layers, but food-grade diatomaceous earth can be added to the feed to control minor infestations of Capillaria and Heterakis worms. Diatomaceous earth consists of fossilized remains of diatoms which are a type of hard-shelled algae. Food-grade diatomaceous earth is different from the pool-grade used for swimming pool filters. Only food-grade diatomaceous earth should be used for worm control. Examples of diatomaceous earth products:

  • Barn Fresh® (OMRI-listed)
  • Perma-Guard (OMRI-listed)
  • Red Lake Earth® (OMRI-listed)
There is interest in garlic as a treatment against roundworms, but research using the active ingredient in garlic (allicin) failed to demonstrate any effect on intestinal worm populations. If worm loads are found to be high, there are some things that can be done to reduce their levels. For inside the poultry house, 60 lb of salt for each 1,000 square feet of floor can be used and left for two days. For outside pastures, rotate pastures and leave vacant for at least eight months. Once a year the birds should be removed from the run, and the ground covered with quicklime at a rate of 100 lb per 1,000 square feet. After three weeks, the whole run should be dug over to ensure that the worm eggs are killed. Keep pastures cut close so that sunlight can kill parasite eggs on the surface. Keep pastures well-drained, as moist soil promotes the infectiveness of the worm eggs. Current research programs include biological control measures. Worms have a portion of their life-cycle outside of the host. The free-living or pre-parasitic stages exist on pasture and are thus potential targets. Biological controls in the future could include fungi, bacteria, viruses and predacious nematodes.

See the eXtension article on the different types of intestinal worms -

Thank you for your speedy response.