Chickens might eat them, but they usually only come out at night.
They can carry some type of worms (tape worms I think) as the intermediate host, but so do most of the flies, beetles, and other bugs chickens might be inclined to eat. They have been suspected in transmission of some viruses (such as Marek's), but I think this is more because they walk around, and in and out of buildings/coops ect.
Marek's is spread by feather dander and is pretty much everywhere there are backyard chickens. Protect your flock from Marek's by vaccinating, and keeping your young birds away from older possible carriers and contaminated areas, not by killing off the native insect population.
I don't consider them a pest, unless I see one in my vegetable garden, then it just gets tossed over the fence. They serve a purpose- they eat dead and decaying vegetation.
Thanks for some info. I have seen these beetles all of my life. Now that I have chickens, it has become a concern. I have not seen any in the coop, yet. I am doing reading on deep litter and this beetle came across in the article as being a concern. I am currently using deep litter since the beginning of July and now that we had our first rain I am doing research on deep litter maintenance. Any thoughts on deep litter? What is the reason to keep it stirred.? Thanks
Darkling beetles are the adults of mealworms...
to the best of my knowledge the only vector for Marek's Disease is an infected chicken...we can't give it to them if we get Chicken Pox and they can't give it to us.