When I first started with the chickens and pigeons, I was de-worming them but I was not religious about it. I would have individual chickens or pigeons lose weight, get droopy and ultimately die, sometimes with an additional respiratory problem . I did all kinds of things to try to save them. I thought the problem was coccidiosis because I saw some blood in the droppings. Often I seemed to be able to cure one part of the condition, but just when the bird seemed to want to start eating again, it seemed that the digestive system had been so badly compromised that the food would overwhelm the chicken’s system and it would quickly die.
I went back to the books and found that some of the intestinal worms can catastrophically damage the chickens’ intestines. I then concluded that my neighbors who raise game cocks were very correct. They worm their chickens on a very strict schedule. I started deworming with either ivermec, fenbendazole, or piperazine. I deworm at least once a month, or if I see bloody droppings, or have a bird that seems to be underweight.
Since I have been doing this, I have many less sick birds. I pick up my birds a lot. If someone seems a little light, I give them an individual dose of dewormer to make sure they are clear.
The direction I am hoping to progress in is learning how to control internal parasites naturally. I note that the McMurray hatchery advertises something called Wormguard Plus with Flax. This product apparently contains multiple types of lactic acid bacteria, enterococcus faecium, and whole flax seeds for the essential fatty acids 3 & 6. According to the catalog blurb, the product is 100% organic, and rids birds of internal parasites without use of poisons. Of note is the claim that parasites can not develop an immunity to the product as they do to worming chemicals. I haven’t tried the Wormguard yet. At $20.45 for 2 lbs, used at a rate of 1 1/4 cups per 50 lbs. of feed, it seems a little pricey. I do feed flax seed to my horses to help them metabolize sugars at the cellular level, so I may start adding flax seed to the chicken rations also, and look for other sources of the bacteria. The concept of properly nourished animals, with adequate sources of Copper, being able to shed internal parasites was also discussed in an article by Pat Coleby in a recent Acres magazine. Animals deficient in copper, often as a result of grazing on pastures fertilized with high phosphate fertilizers, are also subject to Crohn’s disease, an inflammatory condition of the intestine which reduces the ability of the animal to absorb nutrition.
I am always looking for natural remedies. We learned in our permaculture course in Australia that papaya seeds are a natural dewormer. Papayas are also and excellent supplement to the chickens’ diet. I was away for a year in Australia taking care of my dad. While I was away, my papaya planting program did not go forward. Since I have come back, I have been planting seedlings from our own plants or organic seeds collected from organic papayas. It is my aim to have an over-abundance, a veritable embarrassment of riches of papayas. My horses are also avid papaya consumers, even Michigan-raised Sygnet caught on very quickly that papayas are good.