For most backyard flock owners, we don’t recommend worming on a regular schedule without first having your flock tested for worms. The test involves a fecal sample, which can be done by a local vet. It will tell you whether or not your chickens have a problem with worms, and if so, how severe the problem is and what the treatment should be.
Because chickens are susceptible to a variety of different worms, and because the medications used to treat these differs, it’s important to identify the type of worm that you’re trying to treat for before trying to treat it.
By practicing good flock management, you can keep your flock as strong and healthy as possible, and this will allow your chickens to develop a natural resistance toward worms. Using wormers regularly short-circuits their ability to build this natural resistance and makes your flock more dependent on the continued use of wormers.
What are the keys to good flock management? First of all, hygiene. Clean the chicken’s waterers, feeders, coop and other equipment regularly. Provide a supply of fresh, clean drinking water at all times. Keep feed out of contact with the ground. Keep bedding clean and fresh or use the deep bedding method. Second, use a good quality feed that’s appropriate for your flock. Third, provide adequate shelter against rain, wind and predators. Fourth, choose breeds that are well-adapted to your environment, climate and management style. And fifth, if possible, move your flock to new ground regularly.
To multiply, worms rely on being ingested (eaten) by the chickens as part of their reproductive cycle. If you move your chickens daily to new ground, such as you can do easily if you house them in a chicken tractor or portable coop or pen, it can go a long way toward preventing a worm problem.
If your flock has had a history of worms, you may want to schedule a regular fecal sample 2 to 4 times per year. Treat worms when necessary, then follow up with another fecal sample to make sure the treatment was effective. But also, take a close look at your flock management, as discussed above and make any adjustments necessary. With worms, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.”
We’ll discuss the types of worms that can affect chickens and treatments for them in a separate article.