Like most other animals, chickens can suffer from parasitic worms. These are endoparasites that live inside your bird’s body, and are collectively called Helminths by vets.
Does my chicken have worms?
The three types of parasitic worms that your chickens are most likely to contract are:
- Roundworms. There are a number of different roundworms, with the large roundworm being the most common. They live anywhere in the bird’s digestive system, and can sometimes be spotted in your chickens’ droppings.
- Gapeworms. These nasty parasites attach themselves to the trachea of the chicken, hooking on without moving.
- Tapeworms. These attach themselves to the lining of the intestine and can get really long and unpleasant. They are less common, but will more significantly affect the bird.
It’s not always straightforward to tell if your chicken has worms, but symptoms may include a paler comb, decreased egg production, diarrhoea and increased appetite without weight gain. A chicken who has been infected with gapeworm will stretch their neck and gasp for air. Sometimes you won’t spot an infection until it’s really serious and possibly untreatable.
To worm or not to worm
Many chicken keepers therefore choose to worm their chickens regularly to prevent them getting infected, usually once in spring and once in autumn. This is normally done using Flubenvet, a poultry specific wormer you can get at the vets that will kill both the worms and their eggs. Make sure you get a worming treatment that is suitable for chickens, and check if you should be discarding the chicken’s eggs while she is being treated. Always worm all chickens at the same time.
Other chicken keepers think it’s better to only treat chickens that have a confirmed infection. This is partly because some wormers are only effective on particular parasites, and will be pointless if your chickens have a different type of worm. Some also think it’s unnecessary to stress the system by giving the birds treatment for an issue they might not have. Additionally, it can be pricey to worm a whole flock twice a year.
If you don’t want to treat your chickens without a diagnosis, but suspect they might have worms, you can get their droppings tested for presence of eggs. Ask your vet if they will do it for you, or you can send the droppings off to a laboratory in pre-made kits.
Whether you decide to treat only confirmed worm cases or worm preventatively, it’s always best to do everything you can to make sure your chickens don’t contract parasites.
One of the best things to do is to regularly move their coop and run to a new patch. This will stop serious outbreaks, as it stops the life-cycle of the worms. Worm eggs are expelled in the droppings from infected birds, and survive on the ground for a surprisingly long time before they are picked up by foraging chickens. This is called a direct life-cycle, as the worm doesn’t need a host animal to get to your hens. Worms that have an indirect life-cycle on the other hand let their eggs first be ingested by for example earthworms, slugs or centipedes, where they lay dormant until the host is eaten by one of your chickens. The larvae hatch inside your hens, and the cycle repeats.
To prevent an unbreakable chain of worm infestations, it’s therefore important to regularly move your chickens. This is made easy by portable chicken coops like the Eglu Cube or the Eglu Go UP.
Another useful thing is to keep the grass mowed as the ultraviolet light from the sun can kill off potential worm eggs in your chickens’ droppings. Clean the run every week and scoop up droppings and wet bedding. If one of your chickens is infected it’ll be very difficult to get rid of all worm eggs from the ground, but every little helps!
Finally, many chicken keepers swear by the mineral supplement Verm-X. It’s a herbal formulation that works to create an environment in the gut that is able to eradicate and expel any intestinal challenges. This can be given as a supplement to your flock regularly to help their immune system stay on top.
This entry was posted in Chickens on September 18th, 2020 by linnearask
There are five hamster species commonly kept as pets. They are all similar in their requirements, but with one or two important differences between species.
The most familiar is the Golden, or Syrian hamster, which is also the largest of the five. The others are all in the group known as Dwarf hamsters – Campbell’s, Roborovski, Chinese and Winter White.
Looking After a Golden Hamster
An estimated 75% of pet hamsters are Syrians, largely because they have been popular for many years, and are therefore widely available. This species is 15–18 cm (6–7 inches) long, and is relatively slow moving (compared to the much nippier Dwarf species). This makes them easy to handle, and that’s one of the keys to their popularity. A nervous owner will find handling very easy (i.e. the hamster isn’t going to run up your sleeve or make a bolt for the door before you can stop it!)
The Golden is a loner, and that means its owner will be its only companion – which is great for forming owner–pet bonds. The hamster will usually live for 2 to 2 ½ years, and can be hand-tamed from a very early age, so you will usually have a long and satisfying friendship with these little bundles of fun.
There are a different types of Golden hamster. One of the most popular is the long-haired ‘Teddy Bear’. There are also different colour varieties, with mixtures of gold, brown, russet, yellow, grey, black and white.
IDEAL FOR: first time hamster owners looking for a single, easy-going pet that’s easy to handle.
Looking After a Chinese Hamster
The Chinese – also known as the Striped, Grey or Rat-tailed – is the least common of the hamsters in the pet trade, although its popularity is growing all the time. There’s a lot to love in these little characters – they are very gentle, and once hand-tamed they will love their daily human interaction.
This species grows to a length of between 10 and 13 cm (4–5 inches) inches and, and is dark grey with a darker stripe running down the back. It has a long tail, by hamster standards, hence the ‘Rat-tailed’ tag. It tends to live a little longer than the Golden hamster, with a lifespan of 2 ½ to 3 years, and like the Golden it likes to live alone. This makes it bond very readily with a human companion.
IDEAL FOR: first time owners, or owners looking for something a little less common than the Golden, but with a similar personality.
Looking After a Roborovski Hamster
This is a lively little pet, and likes to live with at least one other fellow Roborovski – in a same-sex pair or small group. Single animals will do just fine, though, as long as they get lots of human company and handling. They are 10 cm (4 inches) long, and are endlessly curious about the world around them. When handling, you need to be alert, as these are fast movers.
Roborovskis are long-lived, by hamster standards, generally lasting between 3 and 3 ½ years. Being keen climbers and explorers, they will need a cage large enough to accommodate their endless expeditions, so space is sometimes an issue for would-be owners. They also have a rather strong smell, so they need cleaning out very regularly.
IDEAL FOR: owners who want to keep more than one hamster at a time, and have space for a larger cage.
Looking After a Winter White Hamster
This species is also called the Siberian, due to its wonderful colour change during the winter. It is grey-brown for much of the year, with a handsome black stripe down its back. In winter the fur becomes white, but the black stripe remains.
This little character reaches just over 10cm (4 inches) in length, and can live alone very happily, making it a good pet for someone who has lots of time to handle and bond with their pet, and who isn’t nervous handling a fast-moving, small animal. Winter Whites only live 1 ½ to 2 years, and this makes them less popular than some of the other species.
IDEAL FOR: hamster lovers looking for a change from the commoner species, and who can’t wait to see that wonderful change to wintry white!
Looking After a Campbell’s Hamster
This is another short-lived hamster, with a lifespan of 1 ½ to 2 years. They are usually kept in same-sex pairs or groups, but can thrive as singletons as long as they get lots of handling and attention from their owner. Their small size makes them tricky to handle, being both swift and fragile, so they are not suitable for young or nervous owners.
IDEAL FOR: owners who want to keep a group of hamsters together in a larger cage.
This entry was posted in Hamsters on September 18th, 2020 by linnearask