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Natural Pumpkin, Garlic & Nasturtium Chicken Wormer


Worming chickens twice a year with a chemical wormer (that likely requires a period of egg 'withdrawal' during which you shouldn't eat the eggs) is NOT necessary.

I have never wormed my chickens with any kind of commercial wormer.

I also have never had any trouble with worms or internal parasites in my flock, and have actually had our vet take fecal samples and no sign of worms have ever been found.


While many so-called poultry experts recommend "proactive" worming twice a year, but I don't believe in administering any medications unless absolutely necessary.


Wazine, a "popular'  commercial wormer actually says right on the back of the bottle "Do not use in chickens producing eggs for human consumption."  

Not for 2 weeks....or 30 days....but never ever. Other commonly used chemical wormers such as Ivermectin are NOT approved for use in poultry, and some, like Piperazine only treat a specific type of internal parasites.

As a result, I'm understandably very hesitant to use anything on my chickens with a label like this so instead I rely on holistic preventatives.


Worming Chickens Naturally



To protect my chickens from parasite overload, I add a few things to my flock's diet that are believed by many to be natural wormers for chickens and other animals.

They act by paralyzing the parasites inside the host animal's body.

They are then flushed from the body naturally. These 'natural worming' plants include:
  • Dill
  • Carrots
  • Chicory
  • Cucumber
  • Dill
  • Garlic
  • Hyssop
  • Mint
  • Nasturtium
  • Plantain
  • Pumpkin 
  • Squash
  • Watermelon

Used in conjunction with above plants, these natural diuretics/flushes then work to flush any worms out of the host's body:

  • Molasses
  • Plain yogurt
  • Dandelion greens

All of these 'treat's can help to combat worms and keep internal parasite loads under control.

And because all are perfectly healthy and natural, there's no withdrawal period during which you can't eat the eggs your chickens lay.

On a fairly regular basis, I like to chop up whatever I happen to have on hand depending on the season, and then mix everything into a bit of warm oatmeal.

My chickens love it!


SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS OF A WORM INFESTATION


Generally healthy chickens with strong immune systems can generally handle a moderate worm load.

Most backyard (and commercial) flocks likely encounter worms at some point in their life because of the environment they live in and the amount of time they spend poking around in the dirt.

It only becomes a problem when the body can't manage the worms and they get out of control.

Signs your chickens might have worms include:
  • Visible proof of worms in their droppings which may be foamy or extremely watery
  • Dirty feathers around the vent
  • Worms in the chicken's eggs
  • Pale yolks in the eggs
  • Decreased egg production
  • Weight loss
  • Increased feed consumption
  • Fatigue and lack of energy
  • Pale comb and wattles
  • Ruffled feathers and overall disheveled appearance

If you suspect a worm overload, the best thing to do is to take a fecal sample to your vet. Dog/cat vets or your extension service or university poultry science department should be able to test the sample for worms. 

If you DO get confirmation of worms, it's best to follow your vet's recommendations as to treatment. 

These holistic remedies are best used as preventives to PREVENT an overload and aren't necessarily strong enough to TREAT an infestation.

So back to the natural route....



PUMPKINS & OTHER SQUASH \ MELONS


There are varying opinions on this subject and not much study has been done, but raw pumpkin seeds are thought to be a natural wormer, not only for chickens and ducks, but for sheep and goats as well.

Twice a year, spring and fall, it is suggested that you feed your girls raw pumpkin seeds (ground or whole) free-choice for a week. Which is perfect to coincide with disposing of your Halloween pumpkin.

Ask your neighbors for theirs too!



The pumpkin seeds (as well as the seeds of other members of the cucurbitaceae family such as winter, summer, zucchini and crookneck squash, gourds, cucumbers, cantaloupe and watermelon) are coated with a substance called cucurbitacin that paralyzes the worms.

The larger fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of cucurbitacin, while the smaller cucumber contains far less.

PUMPKIN SOUP

Since pumpkins are plentiful and inexpensive in the fall, that is what I use for my fall worming.

You can merely cut a fresh pumpkin in half and feed it to your chickens, or I like to pour some water into the pumpkin half - the ducks really love that! - or fill the halves with some chicken feed to get hesitant flock members to give it a taste.

But I take it one step further and make them a Pumpkin Soup. 

In a food processor, I grind up the seeds and pulp, then I drizzle in some yogurt, add molasses and garlic - and then pour it into the pumpkin half.

Both the molasses and yogurt will work to cause a bit of diarrhea and help flush the paralyzed worms out of the chickens' systems.

In moderation, both are extremely beneficial when combating internal parasites.

Pumpkin Soup 
(serves 8-10 hens)

One entire bulb crushed fresh garlic
Dandelion greens
2 cups raw oatmeal
One shredded carrot
8 Tablespoons raw pumpkin seeds
1 Tablespoon black strap molasses
Pumpkin pulp in the fall from two small pumpkins (or one can of pumpkin puree)

Blend all the ingredients in your food processor and add enough plain unflavored yogurt to achieve a 'soupy' consistency.

Then pour some soup into each pumpkin half (or a bowl if you are using the puree), garnish it with shredded carrot and serve it up ! The girls love it !  

And when they're done, they will eat the bowl too!

GARLIC


I also add garlic powder to my chickens' daily feed mix every day.

Every couple of weeks year round I mince up a whole bulb, mixed with some chopped fresh mint, and feed it to the chickens free-choice and they seem to love it.

Garlic, especially in conjunction with mint is a wonderful year-round natural wormer.


NASTURTIUM


Nasturtium is a wonderful addition to any garden. 

It is not only pretty and easy to grow, it repels insects, the chickens love to eat the leaves and blossoms, and it also acts as a natural wormer, as well as a laying stimulant, antiseptic and antibiotic. 

The chickens can (and will) eat the nasturtium leaves, flowers and seeds.

I plant some nasturtium in my garden each spring and am thinking of planting around the perimeter of the run next year for the chickens to eat at will.


Although there isn't too much information or scientific evidence out there to prove or disprove the ability of these holistic preventatives to combat intestinal worms, there have been a few studies done that point to their effectiveness.

Regardless, the girls love the pumpkin soup and all the other treats, which are nutritious if nothing else.

Additionally, pumpkins contain antioxidants, as well as high levels of Vitamin A, both of which strengthen immune systems and help the chickens better combat illness.


The beta carotene in the pumpkins contributes to vibrant orange egg yolks as well as bright orange bills and feet on our ducks.

Another substance in the pumpkin, phytosterol, is thought to lower cholesterol, so I believe it probably makes our eggs lower in cholesterol as well.

Bottom line, the pumpkin and garlic, as well as other types of squash and melons and the nasturtium, are nutritious, so I figure there's no harm....and besides, we've never had any problem with any kind of intestinal worms - so I'm a believer.


Here's a great article on the same subject written by herbalist Dawn Combs for Hobby Farm magazine.

(Important to Note: While natural preventives might be effective to PREVENT, if you have a vet-confirmed case of a parasite overload, I would recommend treating it with a commercial product. There is an all-natural worming product called Backyard Chicken Zyfend that is available HERE.)

References:
The Complete Herbal Handbook for Farm and Stable by Juliette de Bairacli Levy, 1952

The Apha Practical Guide to Natural Medicines

Rybaltovskii OV. 1966. On the discovery of cucurbitin—a component of pumpkin seed with anthelmintic action. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 35:487–8
Plotnikov AA et. al. 1972. Clinical trial or cucurbin (a preparation from pumpkin seeds) in cestadiasis. Med Parazitol (Mosk) 41(4): 407-411.

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