Chickenzoo and Yoko have the ACV covered. I'd just add to use the organic unfiltered, not the usual kind, as it still contains the bacteria that made it and more 'good stuff'.
Edited by threehorses - 8/28/09 at 7:19pm
ACV 'tunes up' the acidity of the gut to be friendly to beneficial bacteria, unfriendly to pathogenic bacteria as well as the harmful forms of yeast. If it's unfiltered, it still has a little pre-biotic in it - the bits that the good bacteria like to eat, and thus thrive and multiply.
As for worming, I'm going to tell you my program and why I recommend it. It's one opinion among many.
I personally am not a huge fan of 'chemicals', am more a fan of natural treatments. However, I am a pragmatist in that I realize that while I'd love to only use natural products, sometimes it's not the best method.
I've tried a lot of things - just using food grade DE, just using chemical wormings - using neither. After years of experimenting I've found that the best method for me (and thus one I recommend is a combination.
First, you have to understand a little bit about how to determine whether or not your flock has worms as we wouldn't worm if we didn't feel it was necessary.
Many people rely on visual inspection of their flocks' droppings; if they don't see worms, they think "my flock hasn't worms". However, it's the nature of the parasite to stay inside the bird (where it is fed and safe) and spread by shedding ova instead of leaving on it's own. There are exceptions, the tapeworm being one - it sheds segments or sometimes leaves completely, each segment being infective.
But it's in the parasite's best interests to stay IN the bird and never be seen in the droppings.
When we find worms in the droppings, we can be relatively certain that at least that bird (and thus the flock) has a true moderate to heavy infestation.
The most effective manner of determining whether or not our flock has worms is through a "fecal egg count" which can be done by a vet tech at your veterinary clinic. One takes fresh droppings to the vet and asks specifically for the "fecal egg count". The vet tech puts the feces in a special solution that makes the eggs float, topping the solution with a glass slide. The eggs will float to the top, the tech removing the slide and (after covering) examines in a microscope for eggs. From the number and type of eggs, the tech can generalize about the load and type of parasites within that bird. Doing that twice a year can *possibly* replace a worming program completely if the FEC's are negative.
Alternately, one can worm several times a year with one product or another for worms. Many people do this and it's an effective way of keeping parasites down.
Other people try to control worms with purely natural methods (which can be effective when combined with FEC's - but only when combined with FEC's).
My method of handling parasite control is a hybrid method: worm initially with a narrow-spectrum but gentle wormer, follow up in a month with a stronger broad spectrum wormer, then worm twice annually with a broad spectrum wormer with natural methods inbetween to control parasite populations.
The first worming my poultry get will always be Wazine 17 (piperazine 17% liquid solution). Wazine's method of action is to paralyze and expel adult parasites - mainly adult large roundworms in chickens. The adult large roundworm is one of the most prevalent worm in the barnyard.
I also worm with Wazine 17 if the bird meets any of the following criterion:
- The bird has not been wormed in over 6 months with a broad spectrum wormer (fenbendazole, ivermectin, levamisole, albendazole, eprinomectin, cydectin) or over 4 months with piperazine
- The bird is thin or has diarrhea
- The bird or the flock has shed any parasites in their droppings
- The bird is under four months of age (then I only use piperazine unless instructed by a vet)
- The bird has an unknown worming history
Wazine is effective, but it's meant to be repeated as it doesn't kill larva or other species of worms. You'd think that would be a bad aspect, but if you don't know for certain the parasite load of the bird, starting with a broad-spectrum wormer can shock the bird's systems as all the dying parasites leave (adult and larva, sometimes even parasites in the lung and airways), or the worms clog the digestive tract. So I always use Wazine as my conservative yet effective first wormer.
Then instead of repeating with Wazine (which would just kill more adult rounds) I follow up with a broad-spectrum wormer which allows me to kill what few adults survived the first Wazine treatment, as well as all over parasites killed by the broad-spectrum wormer. Instead of having to repeat this treatment over and over, I effectively temporarily halt the cycle of larva-to-adult transformation.
Then I worm with the broad spectrum wormer twice annually (rather than more often as is traditionally done on worming schedules).
In between wormings, I use natural methods in hopes of controlling the population of parasites available to be picked up by my chickens. The natural methods are NOT proven to expel or completely repel parasites. However practical experience has shown by many that they can play a vital role in reducing numbers. Some examples are:
Diatomaceous earth (aka "DE") - food grade only - used at less than 2% of total food weight stirred well into the feed, or used under bedding, in the dirt, and in dust baths (always stirred in well). This ground up fossil is sharp edged and is said to nick and dehydrate parasites. The sharpness is why you use food grade, never pond or garden grade which is less finely ground.
VermX - a self-proclaimed 'worm repellent' made mostly of herbal ingredients. It's to be used 3 consecutive days every month. There is as of yet no studies showing its effectiveness; studies are pending in the US. It's not designed to treat an infestation or illness.
Cayenne pepper and other seeds, etc - Cayenne pepper used daily in the feed has had people claiming reduction in parasite loads. Some people swear by ground pumpkin seeds. Again - if there's any chance of an infestation, I still want to remove the infestation and THEN use these natural methods in between to hopefully help prevent further infestations.
Apple Cider vinegar - used occassionally in the water at a rate of 1 tablespoon per gallon of water, organic acv helps keep the digestive tract healthier, which helps reduce negative effects by parasites.
Why worm at all? Because parasites often cling to the digestive tract (or airways), causing inflammation. People think it's the parasites 'eating' the birds' feed that makes the bird lose nutrients. However, more often it's the inflammation of the intestinal lining that causes a loss of nutrients as this makes it less likely that nutrients will pass through the intestinal lining to the blood supply. As with anything, chronic inflammation leads to lowered immune systems, greater susceptibility to disease and infection, and greater susceptibility to neoplasias and cancers. Every place where a parasite attaches to the digestive tract will later become scar tissue - and nutrients don't pass through scar tissue.
Broad spectrum wormers: my favorite two broad spectrum wormers are fenbendazole (SafeGuard brand cattle/horse/livestock paste 10%, or SafeGuard brand liquid goat wormer 10%) or 5% pour-on ivermectin cattle wormer (generic is fine and way less expensive than ivomec brand).
Fenbendazole and ivermectin both get a good number of larvae and adults of many species of worms. Ivermectin also will kill external parasites such as blood-taking mites and lice. Fenbendazole does not, but may have action against some tapeworms which ivermectin does not. That's why I feel rotation is a good bet with these two medicines.
Hygeine and environment are also your best-friends when it comes to keeping parasites at managable levels. First of all, when considering how to reduce parasites, think "dry". Dry bedding and dry footing are more unfriendly to parasites, their ova, and bacteria. When setting up my poultry areas, I always choose compressed/dried horse-stall type pine (only) shavings over hay/straw. Choose course and draining sand over top soil or clay. Also, positioning your chicken run so that sunshine hits it for an hour a day at least (but so your chickens have plenty of access to shade and cool) also helps to dry the grounds, disallowing parasites, ova, and bacteria from being able to survive as long.
Also, keeping feeders where the feed won't spill onto dirt helps. Keeping babies off of adult grounds until they're at least four months old help the younger, more vulnerable birds from being taken down by parasites.
Reduce the opportunity for the parasites and their ova to survive or become ripe for infection outside of the bird, and you reduce the number of parasites your bird will take up yearly.
I hope my methods (and reasoning) will help you to find a parasite elimination process for your own flock. Please let me know if you ever have any questions and I'll be glad to help.