One of a chicken’s absolute favourite activities is scratching at the ground with their food in search of tasty morsels of food which they’ll gobble up as soon as they find them.
They like to scratch at loose surfaces such as leaf litter, compost heaps and freshly dug soil, all of which are the perfect hiding places for juicy worms.
It’s not just worms which chickens find when they’re scratching, they’ll also unearth insects, seeds, slugs, snails, larvae and vegetation, all of which are on a chickens menu.
When it comes to living worms such as earthworms, it is ok for chickens to eat the worms they find as they forage and they will enjoy eating them. It is, however, important to be aware that worms can be a host to a parasite called gapeworm which can be dangerous if a chicken ingests it.
Read on to find out more about the kinds of worms chickens can and can’t eat along with how they find worms and how to make sure your chickens are safeguarded against gapeworm.
How Chickens Find Worms
Wild birds have various ways of finding worms, from the blackbird who listens to the ground to the robin who waits for the gardener to do some digging.
With chickens, it’s just a case of scratching the earth or at a loose surface such as leaf litter with their feet and if they’re lucky enough they’ll find it a worm which they will quickly eat.
Chickens feet are very strong and can easily turn over the top surface of loose soil to unearth worms which may be close to the surface.
A chicken has more chance of finding worms when the soil is damp because the worms will be closer to the surface. If the soil is very dry, there’s much less chance of a chicken finding any worms because they’ll travel deeper down to the damp soil below.
If you’ve been digging your garden your chickens will love to scratch in any soil which has been recently dug over and is more likely to contain worms.
Worms come in all shapes and sizes and the chicken will eat as many as they can find, depending on the weather conditions and the time of year.
If chickens are free-range they are much more likely to find worms as they forage than chickens who are kept in a run.
If you’re chickens have access to natural food such as worms, slugs and snails, it’s extra important to make sure they’re protected against parasites, which I’ll cover next.
How to Prevent Chickens From Getting Gapeworm From Earth Worms
The gapeworm is a parasite which lives inside a host such as a worm, slug or snail, the worm will lay dormant and in wait for the host to be eaten by another animal such as a chicken.
The gapeworm attaches itself inside the throat of the bird and can prevent it from breathing and in some cases, the outcome can be fatal.
Although it’s not very common, chickens are at a higher risk if they eat live foods as they forage.
Although the benefits of allowing chickens free-range time far outweigh the potential threat of gapeworm, its important to make sure they’re protected from worms and parasites.
The best way to keep them protected is by making sure the chickens receive a regular worming treatment to protect them not only from gapeworms but from other internal parasites too.
Which is the Best Chicken Wormer?
The best wormer to make sure chickens are fully protected is one called Flubenvet, which can be bought in various forms, but the best way to make sure the chickens get their dose is to use food pellets containing a Flubenvet additive.
We use Marriages Layers Pellets with a Flubenvet additive, which you can buy from Amazon in either 5kg or 20kg sacks depending on the size of your flock, click the link below to see the product on Amazon:
How to use Layers Pellets With Flubenvet
Using the pellets is easy, all you need to do is replace your chickens’ normal feed with the worming pellets for seven days every six months.
Once the seven days is complete, you just go back to feeding the chickens their normal feed and they’ll be protected.
Providing the chicken is eating the feed, they should get a full dose over the week. Our chickens don’t seem to notice the difference, but it’s worth keeping an eye on them feeding just to make sure they’re all eating it.
If your chickens are used to layers mash then, you can add a bit of water to the pellets to make a mash and make the feed easier to eat.
It’s important to make sure you only give layer feed to adult birds who are over 18 weeks old and not to chicks,
The Flubenvet pellets don’t have a very long shelf life so buy the smallest sack if you only have a small flock because you will need to buy a new batch for the next six-monthly treatment.
We ask our chicken keeping friends and neighbours if they want to take the rest of the sack to save wasting it.
Should you Feed Worms to Chickens?
Worms are a good source of protein for chickens and a tasty treat for them to find as they graze, but they shouldn’t be an exclusive diet.
A good complete chicken feed provides chickens with a balanced diet with all the nutrients they need to stay healthy. So, anything they find themselves is a bonus and an addition to their normal diet.
But because it’s not always easy to know what they’re eating when they’re free-range and especially during the winter months when live food is more scarce then it’s important they get their normal feed too.
This doesn’t mean you can’t through your chickens a worm or two as they find them in the garden.
Some chicken keepers will even breed live worms to treat their chickens personally, I like them to find their own because it gives them more variety and foraging keeps them busy and happy.
Other than worms, we compiled a list of food your chicken can eat.
Are There Any Worms Which a Chicken Can’t Eat?
It’s difficult to know what type of worms which chickens find when they graze, but there shouldn’t be any live worms which they find that they can’t eat.
A chicken will even take on a slow worm if it comes across one and will peck at it to break it up.
Worms which chickens shouldn’t eat are dead dried mealworms, because they are often animals and other potentially dangerous feed which shouldn’t get into the human food chain.
Because of this, it’s actually illegal to feed chickens with dried mealworms in many countries and including the UK.
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