Every cocker worth his rooster knows that the worst enemies of chickens in the run are internal parasites. There are two types that commonly affect our game fowls:  helminths or parasitic worms (which are known as roundworm, capillary worm, cecal worm, tapeworm, eye worm, gape worm and proventricular worm), and protozoa, which are single-celled organisms that can be found in almost all chicken farms anywhere in the world; the most common of these protozoan parasites are the coccidian parasites.

This four-part article will discuss the species, infestation symptoms, treatment and prevention of the aforementioned internal parasites.

Parasitic Worm Infection

There are two ways chickens can become infected by worms – directly and indirectly. Direct infection happens when the fowls forage or go around the chicken run and eat the worm’s eggs from infected feces or pasture. Indirect infection, on the other hand, is when the fowl eats another creature already infected with the parasite (slug, snail, earthworm, cockroach, beetle, grasshopper, etc.), which are called intermediate hosts.

The known varieties that affect game fowls are roundworm, tapeworm, cecal worm, gapeworm, threadworm, eyeworm and proventricular worm.

Roundworms, also called nematodes, are commonly found in all local chicken runs. Species of large roundworms affecting game fowls include large roundworms, which are about 2mm thick, and can grow to as long as 4-1/2 inches. Sometimes they can migrate up a hen’s reproductive tract and get included in a developing egg. (Imagine breaking an egg and finding a large roundworm inside. Yuck!) It poses no threat to humans, though.

You will know that your chickens have contracted roundworms of the large or small variety if the following symptoms are present: loss of appetite, dull comb, wattles and eyes, watery droppings, dehydration and loss of balance, and decreased egg laying in hens.

The small species of small roundworms are capillary worms or threadworms, and cecal worms.

Capillary worms  live in the crop, esophagus and proventriculus of the bird. Symptoms are very much like those of roundworms – weight loss, emaciated look, unthriftiness, and reduced egg laying in hens – and are treated the same way.

Cecal worms are extremely common and they thrive on overcrowded bird enclosures. Once cecal worm larvae are inside the chicken, they hatch in the upper intestine and move to the ceca. They do not normally affect  the chicken but cecal worms can carry blackhead parasites, which are fatal for turkeys but only rarely cause diseases in chicken, affecting mainly the cecum and liver.

Tapeworms or cestodes, on the other hand, can be very small (invisible to the naked eye) to 12 inches long and they require an intermediate host. They are made up of multiple flat segments that are shed in groups of two or three on a daily basis.

Symptoms include diarrhea (bloody diarrhea at times), weight loss, and reduced egg production in hens. Severe infestations can be fatal.

Eye Worms are found mainly in tropical countries. Eye worms have an indirect life cycle – they need an intermediate host (cockroach) to spread. The eye worm deposits its eggs on the surface of the bird’s eye from where it is passed down through the tear ducts, swallowed, and voided through the feces.

Symptoms of eye worm infection include scratching at the eyes, redness, swelling, drainage, and cloudy discoloration of the eye. These symptoms, if left untreated, could eventually cause blindness.

Proventricular worms. Not too many cockers have heard of proventricular worms. As the name suggests, proventricular worms are roundworms that are found in the mucous membrane of the game fowl’s crop and ventriculus and cause mainly inapparent infection, meaning there is infection but there are no recognizable signs or symptoms. Infection is on exposure to the intermediate hosts, which include crustaceans, cockroaches and grasshoppers, by the oral route.

Symptoms of proventricular worm infection are diarrhea, anemia, and emaciation (thinness). Treatment is not usually required for this infection.

Gape worms are tiny worms that reside in the game fowl’s respiratory system. Severe infestation will lead to a gasping condition called “the gapes” wherein the affected bird will have to gape its mouth just to take in air. Head-shaking, neck-stretching, and hissing when opening its mouth are the symptoms of gape worm infestation. Severe infection can kill a game fowl – early signs include lethargy, an unkempt look, and sudden loss of weight.

It is good to be familiar with the different kinds of parasitic worms that affect game fowls, and infestation symptoms that should be looked out for; it is even better if you know the WHEN and HOW of treatment and prevention.

Well, you can read all about it in the second part of this article. Only here on The Sabong Chronicles.

Jump to Part 2.

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