Learn to De-Worm

It's that time of year when the hens slow down their egg-laying proclivities - the less light available during the day, the more they slow down. Commercial farmers get around this by using timed, artificial lights to keep the production high, but the drawback is this method also shortens the lifespan of the hen. Not something I'm interested in doing, as most of our hens are pets. [There, I said it, I admit it. If it wasn't blatantly obvious, I love our squawky, fussy little fuzzybutts.] Thankfully, our girls are still laying enough eggs to sell through the co-op and to individuals, which in turn buys their organic feed (and a bit more to make up for those slacker geese).

Fall or Winter is also a good time to de-worm. The problem with the usual deworming method is that it requires you to destroy any eggs laid during the deworming process. Pretty intense chemicals are used. On one hand, you KNOW that the girls are going to emerge from the process "clean as a whistle" when using these chemicals. On the other hand, I wonder if such heavy-duty chemicals are really necessary every year, unless there's a major infestation*. So this year, I'm trying out Verm-X and pumpkin seed smoothies.

You can read more about Verm-X at their site. Basically, Verm-X is an herb/spice combination that is supposed to have deworming properties. You can get it in liquid form, or feed pellets. One challenge, however: the girls drink and forage in so many places that I can't guarantee they're ingesting enough (or any) of the formula. Tried soaking bread scraps in the liquid Verm-X as an alternative suggested by their site, but the girls wouldn't touch the stuff - it has that potent a scent! After chatting on Twitter with a couple other hen-addled folks, came up with a solution: pre-soak scratch grains in Verm-X. This gives the Verm-X time to "off-gas" some its scent, making it more approachable. The girls are now eating the grains.

I also took home a bunch of free pumpkins from the garden nursery a few weeks ago -- one person's old Fall decorations are another person's home canning project -- of which the pumpkin seeds can be used as a dewormer. Grind fresh seeds in a food processor with some unsweetened bio-active yogurt, and serve. This recipe is what the girls REALLY love. Figure I'll make this smoothie recipe for the remainder of the six-week de-worming process (the Verm-X will run out before then), and see how it goes.

Supposedly back in "ye olde days", those who worked with animals on farms were also encouraged by country doctors to do a regular de-worming regimen (and of course, I can't find the links where I first read this). There are plenty of herbal parasite cleanse methods available to humans over-the-counter. It's been three years of owning animals, so I'm thinking it wouldn't hurt if I were to do one as well. And thankfully, I don't need to worry about throwing out my own eggs.

*NOTE: [start legalese] Be sure to talk to your vet or doctor (whichever is appropriate) before undertaking any parasite cleanse. This blog article is provided for information purposes only. [end legalese]


  1. hi neighbor . . . i'd heard about the pumpkin seed/wormer relationship several years ago and have done this every year since. i got a bunch of pumpkins this year, mine weren't free, though (mope). i've been breaking a new one open for the hens every week. they eat it right down to the skin.

    so, say it isn't so, do i really need to grind the seeds for them to get the de-worming benefit? (mope again) . . . t

  2. @casinada... wild-eyed guess here: if your birds are big enough to chow down whole seeds, and have a strong enough gullet to grind the seeds down, then perhaps it's not a problem? As you know, we have some small birds here, so some grinding is necessary.

  3. I guess I've been dewormed. I love pumpkin seeds!

  4. I have to admit that I have never de-wormed my chickens. They're all n good health and I can't see a reason to fool with it. I've had most of this flock for 2 years now. What am I risking?

  5. @yarnmaven: check out this article, http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/vm015 . It talks about how backyard flocks can get parasites, and what one can do. Glad your girls are healthy!

    @Chris: lol!

  6. I'm so glad your girls like the smoothies! Mine gobble them up. And you are right - there really is no need to grind up the seeds. The seeds will be ground as they leave the crop. But you must admit - they do love their smoothies a little smooth :)

  7. PS - We've never chemically wormed our chickens either. They are healthy and happy. And demand their pumpkin smooties each fall!


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