Chicken Feed and medications


In the Brooder
Mar 3, 2018
Hello, I saw so many people on a thread talking about medicated feed. Probiotics. Deworming. Electrolytes.
Do we need to deworm? If so when? When do I need medicated feed? I assume I only need electrolytes when a chicken is sick, do I take him/her to a vet of is there a this I 1st follow? O, and probiotics.... really? When and for what? Thank you all so much for the tips and help understanding these questions better. We are loving out 7 babies so much.

Lady of McCamley

Free Ranging
11 Years
Mar 19, 2011
NW Oregon
Hi Jae, :welcome

You ask some really good questions which honestly have answers that depend on your flock and environment and chicken philosophy.

As I like each chicken keeper to find their own answers, I will give you general information that should help you figure out what you wish to do. Remember, others will also have different experiences and opinions.

Medicated Feed
Medicated feed refers to Amprolium based feed which is used to slow the growth of the protozoa coccidia which grows in most soil. There are many strains of coccidia, and generally your area has several, or more, that are common. Coccidia become a problem for young chicks (and older birds too) if they cannot develop an immunity to the coccidia quickly enough due to the strength of the strain, the stress on the chick, or overgrowth due to environment change.

When that happens, the protozoa flourish in the intestines. literally burrowing into the walls, causing damage and blood loss. Sick chicks look huddled, fluffed, and depressed. Very sick chicks will have bloody diarrhea. Chicks can die within hours of a heavy infestation, which has been brewing for weeks or days. (I think the incubation is about 2 weeks form oocyst to adult protozoa).

The medicated feed does not kill the protozoa but slows their growth down by starving them from vitamin B (Amprolium's job). This allows the chick to mature enough so that its gut flora keep the coccidia in natural balance, unless there is an overgrowth due to wet warm weather, untidy coop conditions, or immune suppression in the bird.

If you have an acute (active) outbreak of coccidia, called coccidiosis, you need to give all birds a higher dose of Amprolium which is found in Corid, for about a week to 10 days.

Some never worm their flocks. Others need to do so seasonally. What you use and how you use it depends on your chicken philosophy as well.

From an animal science perspective, worms (helminths to use the technical term), are ever present in the soil and environment. Wild birds and animals bring them in. Arguably (from a vet science perspective), all chickens have some worm load in their intestines. It is only when the worm load becomes excessive due to environmental or health conditions (overcrowding, untidy litter, environmental factors, other illness), that help is needed.

You don't have to see worms in the feces to have a worm problem. Often the birds simply look run down and laying is poor. Heavy worm overload can cause severe anemia and even death.

In my opinion, herbals can help keep heavy loads at bay IF you keep litter clean by either regular shoveling out the runs or rotating your chicken fields. The worm cycle includes a latent phase in the gut wherein the adult worm lays eggs which the chicken passes into the environment with their poo. Depending on the worm type, an intermediary host may pick up the worm and incubate it to larvae stage or the egg is directly consumed by the next bird. The most common types of chicken worms are direct cycle. Adult worm lays eggs in the gut which is flushed out with the poo into the environment and picked up by the next bird, or the same bird again. Hence, you can see the importance of rotating your field or litter to keep the environment clean from worm load in the soil.

Many fabulous claims are sometimes made for herbals, but the science is just not there for actual killing of worms or their egg cases as they are very resilient. From my research and personal experience (and the experience of my organic farming relatives too), herbals (garlic, wormwood, cayenne pepper, pumpkin seeds) flush live, active worms out of the gut which can then be picked up by the next bird. They do not address the eggs in the intestines nor on the ground. They can help keep a mild to moderate load down in otherwise healthy birds....again IF you rotate litter or field.

For those in cold weather areas, sub-freezing temperatures do a lot to eradicate the worm eggs in the soil. For those in warmer, moist and moderate climates, the eggs are active year round.

So you can see worm load will depend on the number of birds, the years active on the soil, the amount of ground for the flock, and how often the ground is turned over in relation to the general climate.

For worm overloads, fecal float testing will confirm the type of worm as different drugs are effective for different worms. The FDA has made it difficult to get drugs now for laying hens due to concerns about drugs in the human food chain. However fenbendazole has been recently re-approved for layers in a very expensive water-based form (Aquasol). Many chicken keepers choose to use the less expensive goat medicine (Safeguard) at dosages for chickens.

An egg pull time is recommended to avoid drug residue in the eggs. Often not so much for the concern for drug safety but to ensure any eggs tested are free from residue. Many of the wormers used in chickens are also used in humans. Obviously, some humans could be more sensitive to some drug residues.

Some feel it is evil to give meds to chickens due to drug concerns. Some feel over medicating is harmful for the bird and simply builds resistance in the worms (which happens). Some believe it is important to cut down on the worm loads in their birds (and soil) and worm with drugs seasonally, usually in the spring and fall, before they have a major infestation. It is easier to keep worm loads down altogether than to lower them after a heavy outbreak (all those worm eggs built up in the soil).

If you worm, depending upon the type, usually you worm then worm again in 10 to 30 days to kill the next hatching generation. It is best to rotate wormers to avoid worm resistance.

If the flock is just for your use only, and you never share or sell eggs, you have freedom to use the common worm meds that are "off label" for chickens....the goat and horse wormers. If you sell eggs, many feel it is wise to stay on label and use only FDA approved meds for laying hens.

Probiotics are "seeds" (or colony starters) for the "happy" bacteria that keep our guts digesting well and eliminating harmful bacteria and toxins. The "happy" bacteria also keep yeast, coccidia, and worms loads down in the gut.

A healthy gut is often thought of as the first line of defense for the immune system.

Many feel it is helpful and healthy to offer some yogurt or other fermented products to their chickens, even fermenting their feeds, to help keep "happy" bacteria thriving in their flocks. A lot of name brand chicken feeds include probiotics in their feed formulas (read the label).

Apple Cider Vinegar is also commonly offered as it works with the probiotics. If used, it needs to be the "raw" unprocessed, non pasturized kind, with the "mother" (which is the pre-biotic product of apple cider). ACV, raw with mother, helps feed the "happy" bacteria in the gut. It also helps acidify the gut. Chickens guts should be more acidic to help keep the "happy" bacteria growing and keep bad bacteria and yeast and worms at bay (but it does NOT kill or eliminate worms in itself).

Some feel their chickens get enough probiotics foraging in the range. Many farmers allow their chickens to follow the cattle. The cow pies literally are a cornucopia of probiotics and predigested feed for the birds. My son-in-law swears by it.

For those with smaller field (back yards), it may be helpful to supply some probiotics either in the feed, by fermenting the feed, or providing supplement.

It is a matter of personal choice whether or not you offer probiotics. If offering it seems to perk the flock up, it likely is a good idea. How you help your birds do that will depend upon your field and environment.

Electrolytes generally come in the "Chick Saver" formulas. They are a mixture of sugar, vitamins, and minerals. Shipped chicks are often stressed by travel, and the hatcheries will provide electrolyte/energy packets in the shipping carton. Many owners find shipped chicks do better if on a few days of electrolytes.

If a chicken is feeling poorly, a few days of electrolytes can help perk them up and give you some time to figure out what may be stressing the animal.

Some owners give electrolytes in hot weather to help their birds become less stressed from the heat.

Many never offer electrolytes and feel they do fine.

So you can see what you give and when depends a lot on your circumstances and flock needs as well as personal philosophy.

If you have lots of rich forage in the field or yard, with clean water sources, and killing freezing winters, you may find little need to use additives.

If you have heavy flock numbers or limited fields (yard space), or your environment tends to worm and coccidia overgrowth, you may find that you need more additives to keep your flocks optimum.

That is a general overview, I hope it was helpful :D

Enjoy your new flock. Ask questions when you come across specific needs.


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