Worms, Worming and Confusion!
This page has taken me the longest to develop.
There is much to cover and trying not to end up sounding like A-Level Biology,but to keep it simple and clear.
I have not placed it with my other articles in "Helpful Articles" because I believe this is a topic crucial in keeping poultry.
I have broken this down into some bite-sized categories which I hope helps.
1) What are parasites?~ names, photos (where possible), their habitats, growth rates and life cycles, symptoms and poultry issues surrounding parasites.
2) Ground/routine management ~ this is the most fundamental part of having a healthy flock, I can not emphasise this enough!!! How can you help your flock, what regime is best?
3) Chemical Intervention ~ There is a place for the use of chemicals when required, I hope to help you understand the best and most effective use and importantly - WHEN!
I will complete this section over the next few weeks/months! ( during 2014)
January 2014 Whilst I am still developing this page, I felt the need to express some very clear points that seem to be very confused in the 'backyard poultry' world. I am meeting an increasing number of well meaning poultry keepers who misunderstand certain products in the marketplace:-
Natural "Herbal" Supplements
There are several products in the marketplace that market themselves as an 'alternative' to the pharmaceutical approach to parasites. It is very important that you understand HOW these products support such a claim.
Firstly, they are NOT licenced wormers in terms of a vet prescribing them. NOR WILL THEY ERADICATE AN INFESTATION.
So what do they do?
If you see beyond initial 'marketing' and study what they do, then you will start to understand. As most people lack time to go to such lengths, here is a quick summary in very simple terms.
I will go into further detail once I have completed this page!
These herbal products are PART of a holistic management programme for your poultry.
What does that mean?
They work in association with a correct management structure. No hen is designed to be kept penned up, they have legs - they are designed for moving around (hence the legs)- ALOT.
Although they would naturally have a 'terratory' this would be of a reasonable size of ground including woods, open areas etc... a mixed habitat, that is not poached, exhausted or too heavily stocked.
I have yet to see 20 wild birds stacked up permanently in a small area of poached ground scratching about all their lives. Nature finds a balance within itself, and part of that 'nature' is parasitical control.
Rest and rotation of your ground is the biggest key in the holistic system, not just a quick rest either - but at least 12 weeks of 'rest'. Fresh pens on rested ground each time you move your hens will create part of a natural system to prevent the build-up of parasites in your hen. Mainly because you are managing the ground, not allowing poaching or a mess to build up which increases parasites that can be injested (eaten) by the hen.
This is logical when you consider a hen standing and pecking through her own poo everyday is far more likely to start having issues than one whose access is frequently to fresh ground. Add to her own poo, rat mess, wild birds, bacteria and fungal build-ups on such an environment... that's pretty disgusting!
If your system is 'ideal' and meets the above criteria of correctly rested, rotated and managed ground, then these products are 'helpful' (but just as helpful is simple Apple Cider Vinegar!)
Here is where these herbal supplements may HELP. Help is the key word, they are HELPFUL to the intestinal system of the bird to deter parasites from taking over, they will not remove an infestation of any parasites, nor stop an infestation on negative conditions (housing that does not meet the above 'ideal' criteria). This is put in very very simple terms here. YOU WILL NEED TO PERFORM REGULAR FEC's WHEN ADOPTING THIS SYSTEM.
These sorts of products given without the FEC's and the above management routine are basically a waste of your own money. Used correctly, they can be a part of a routine of management, so please PLEASE educate yourself on their best use before hens die as a result of not understanding how things work, and therefore what the product actually does that you are giving to your hen.
What is an FEC? .... you are now asking yourself...
... It is a simple Egg Count done from the chicken poo on a regular basis- it will screen for the level of most (not all) parasites in the hen. This is WHY you must do this frequently, to check everything is OK, if there are high levels then you MUST act with FLUBENVET. Flubenvet is the only licenced poultry wormer on the market.
So, if you are wanting to go down the holistic route - have you go the space? AND the time? Have you got the Egg Count Kits... and patience to do this?... what about the expense of analysis?
My best suggestion is that you discuss with your vet, and think yourself about your set-up, be honest, the life of your poultry is at stake here.
Quick Summary on the Herbal Products
Great idea, anything that aids the hen to manage in ideal conditions is always welcomed.
You WILL need as near to ideal conditions which involves greater use of more space.
Management of the ground is key - long rest periods and plenty of fresh, rested ground to make frequent moves to. Egg Counts needs to be done regularly to monitor the hens progress.
Sick, stressed, old or injured hens will be far more prone to parasites and other issues - consider your set-up for the well being (ncluding parasites) of your hens.
Stocking density - be realistic, don't get buying fever and create a flock plague.