Sunday, July 12, 2009

Keeping Chickens Healthy with Herbs: Deworming and Parasite Prevention

Backyard chickens are becoming extremely popular. And 'free-range' sounds all the more natural and healthy. Unfortunately, I have learned the hard way that free range chickens are also more susceptible to parasites from wild bird droppings. Using herbs only it appears I have almost won out the battle against parasites.

I woke up up 4th of July morning to find dropping with roundworms! Yuck! I suppose I should have guessed at this possibility as I was noticing that the earlobes and eggs from my grey Araucana Meenie were fading from a pretty baby blue to an off white over a period of about 2 weeks. She also had loose stools that I thought were related to poor health from all the rainy weather we have been having. For some reason I did not make the connection though. Two of my herbal friend's with more chicken experience suggested a chemical wormer for the birds, being wary of treatment with herbs only, but I was very encouraged by this article that I found about naturally worming chickens. I felt like I should try with herbs first, and given that it was a holiday, and the following day was a Sunday, my options were limited as to what I could purchase. I remembered from my herbal training as well as from Juliette Levy's Farm and Stable Handbook that garlic was the number one choice for treatment of chickens with round worms. So I immediately stockpiled a batch. I had been giving them garlic on occasion previously, but they really didn't seem to eat it so I had been sticking to apple, eggs, various weeds and watermelon as extra treats for them. No more. From now on garlic will be a staple.

I am on day nine of treating all the birds for worms and at this point today I am very encouraged that the results are good. I have not seen any more worms since the first day, then two days ago my husband said he saw the Araucana still had loose stools, today I was so excited to see she had a normal formed stool. This is very encouraging and I hope that we can avoid the chemical de-wormer all together. The following is what I have been doing to help the birds:

Day 1: Made a strong garlic tea with 6 cloves of crushed garlic and 1/2 cup of boiling water. Cooled the tea and fed each of the 5 birds about 3 droppers full of tea. Repeated this process again once that day. Mixed about 1/4 cup of this strained tea with one gallon of water and replaced regular water with this solution.

Days 2- 8 (present): Made a cold infusion of crushed garlic in 1/2 cup of water. Again I mixed about 1/4 cup of this strained tea with one gallon of water and replaced regular water with this solution. I made sure that the chickens did not have access to any other rain water during this time. Next was the Chicken egg salad! It is getting a little tiresome to make but the chickens love it. I hard boil their eggs chop up 2 or 2 of them with the shell left on, plus minced garlic, chopped onion and elderberry leaves. Onion and Elderberry leaves were two other anti-parasitic herbs suggested in Juliette Levy's book. She had a number of other suggestions a few of which included adding bramble leaves, wormwood, rue, and hyssop as available. The chickens seem to not mind the garlic anymore now that it is mixed in with eggs. My other two mature hens, the gold Buff Orpington "Buffy" and the Rhode Island Red "Fifi" both laid two eggs the day after they had their first egg salad.

Ongoing: I plan to keep up the above treatment for the next 6 days or so. Then I am going to switch to just adding minced or powdered garlic to the feed on an ongoing basis. I am considering to continue treatment with the Arucana, however to be extra cautious. I will probably give her droppers full of garlic tea for a few days for an extra week or so, and then monitor her stools to see if they stay normal and formed.

I am very interested to see if anyone has any positive outcomes for prevention and treatment of parasites in chickens with herbs only. Please leave a comment if you have anything to share.

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