Gastrointestinal worms may lodge in the intestines of chickens with all the negative consequences this entails. The symptoms of a worm infestation depend on the type of worm involved. There are usually chronic symptoms: sometimes diarrhoea (often in small quantities), emaciation and/or a slowdown in growth may occur. The hens may also ‘dry out’: their comb then becomes small and they stop producing eggs. In the case of continuing, serious infestation the comb and wattles may become pale and the animal becomes exhausted. Worm infestation is generally more serious in young chickens than in older ones.

Not all types of worms are equally harmful and treatment for worms is therefore not always required. The main types of worms in chickens are the large roundworm, the small roundworm and the hairworm. Besides these the large and the small tapeworm are also important. Below is an overview of all these worms, listing their main characteristics.

Types: Length Thickness Harmful Intermediate host
Large roundworm 40-50 2-3 + None
Small roundworm 10 1 None
Hairworm 10-30 0,1 ++ None
Large Tapeworm 50-150 + Beetles
Small tapeworm 4 +++ Slugs and snails

The prepatent period – the timespan between the chicken becoming infected and the excretion of eggs – is around 35 days for the large roundworm, 24 to 30 days for the small roundworm, 20 to 26 days for the hairworm, 21 days for the large tapeworm and 14 to 21 days for the small tapeworm.

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