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How to control worm infestation in your layers

By Dr Watson Messo Odwako

Greetings Dr Messo,

My layers are slowly reducing egg production, they are becoming thin and I have started to notice bloody feacal droppings with what looked like worms. What could be the problem? Help me please. Distressed farmer.

Dear farmer, from your description I think this is a clear case of worm infestation. There are several species of worms frequently seen in adult chickens of laying phase grouped into three categories, a) Round worms (Ascaridia), b) Hair worms (Capillaria) and c) Tape worms (Cestodes). These worms in adult form measure between 4-150 mm in length. They are known to invade the intestinal linings of chickens where they cause damage leading to bleeding, infection, loss of body condition through wasting and in severe cases may result into death. In heavy infestation, the adult worms can completely block the lumen of the gut and restrict digestion and absorption of nutrients needed for maintenance and production, leading to drop in egg production and emaciation. 

Round worms

These belong to scientific group called Ascaridia, they are physically round and affect chickens, turkeys, ducks and goose, they are mainly found in the upper small intestinal lumen and measure between 60-100mm long. These worms are common in young birds below 3 months and in slow growing birds like commercial layers and Kienyeji breed. Their eggs are deposited in the litter where they can be destroyed by temperatures above 34 degrees Celsius, direct sunlight and dryness. Keeping your litter dry always, will help in controlling infection. These worms can be easily identified by sacrificing weak, non-producing birds and checking the upper intestines for their presence. They are treated using 7.5 per cent Levamisole as single dose and repeating after 7 days, with the help of your veterinarian.

Hair worms

The most common ones belong to Capillaria species, they are tiny and resemble hairs, measuring between 7-18 mm long. They like residing in the intestines, crop and esophagus (Throat) of chickens. They develop in earthworms but can attack chickens directly. They equally cause intestinal damage resulting into diarrhoea, wasting and poor growth rates. They can be identified through microscopic examination. Concreting floor of the chicken house goes along way in managing spread of infection as earthworm population is reduced. Affected birds can be treated using Fenbendazole medication after confirmation by your attending vet.

Tape worms

These worms are rare but most damaging when they occur. They complete their development stages through snails, flies, beetles and earthworms. They cause bloody diarrhoea, paralysis, growth depression, enteritis and ultimately death. They can measure up to 15 cm long and very easy to identify in the gut of a dead chicken. Control of infestation include fly control, concreting of floors, litter management to minimise wetting and in case there is clinical case treat using Flubendazole after a vet visit.

Bio-security

Minimise unnecessary visits, keep foot bath refreshed all the time and the litter dry throughout the cycle. Concreting floors will go along way in managing incidences of infection by disrupting their life cycle and stopping any further maturation of the larval stages. Treat your birds every 8 weeks with appropriate medication and rotate the de-wormers based on the advice of your vet. Any significant drops in weights and egg production must be thoroughly investigated to rule out worm infestation.

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