As anyone who has watched nature shows knows, there’s a lot of organisms out there that we don’t think about or see. Some creep us out, like bed mites, and the creatures that live on our eye lashes, and those parasites found in Amazon rivers that find their way into your urinary tract. Eww.

Farm animals also have critters living in and on them. Some are necessary, like beneficial bacteria in their intestines, and some can kill. Worms and larvae can decimate a flock and fell your goats. There are chemicals that you can spray and dust and feed that will protect your animals.

Some farmers worm on a regular basis. When I managed a horse farm, we were on a rigorous schedule of various products. My dogs are on monthly heartworm pills. (When I was growing up, my dog died of heartworm. I’m grateful for the products now available!)

But, since these chemicals are strong enough to destroy the parasites, they also have the potential to harm the host, so, for my small backyard menagerie, I have a different approach.

The coop runs and paddock are on virgin turf. The last time they were used for farm animals was probably around 1890. It was unlikely that the soil harbored parasites. But, every time I bring in a new animal, or visit a friend’s farm and then wear the same clothes in my backyard (I should disinfect, but don’t, it all seems so benign at the time), I run the risk of introducing harmful pathogens and parasites.

My first line of defense is that I’m fanatical about keeping my coop runs and paddock clean. There’s no manure build-up to host eggs and larvae. I provide the flock with food-grade diatomaceous earth (see the blog archives for more about this.)

Instead of worming as a preventative measure, I take fecal samples to the vet. The vet tech looks at it under a microscope and lets me know if there are any parasites, which ones they are, and what I should use to get rid of them. The goat fecal cost $25, which is worth it. Yesterday, it came back negative, so I don’t have to spend anything on medicines.

I’ve had the chicken manure tested, too. All healthy so far.

Have you thought through a preventative health schedule for your animals? That old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure,” still rings true.

(I decided to spare you the photos of round worms, bot fly larvae and chicken gape worms. Do a google image search if you’re curious!)


  1. Hi Terry! I have been researching the “worm dilemma”..I found a very good product on the internet called Verm-X..all natural..but I cannot afford it with the 35 birds I have! I found a recipe for a garlic wormer so I am going to try that and see how it works….Garlic eggs anyone? Have you heard anything about garlic? I have the recipe if you are interested….POURING rain here…Moved a VERY unhappy llama this morning to higher ground..looked like an old wet wool coat! Have a great week! Donna

    • Hi Donna-I’ve seen Verm-x but haven’t used it. Any of my readers want to comment?
      I’d worry that you’d have garlic eggs. Go with the DE. In my experience, it works.
      It seems that it “never rains but it pours” in California. Poor llama. What do you give a llama for treats? I imagine a soggy llama would have a soggy llama smell….

      • Hi Terry! You are right!!!! Pasco (the llama) smelled dreadful..Like a cheap old wool coat! Goodies? He is so fussy..He will not touch anything from your hand if I have even touched another animal. If I feed a carrot to the horses and then take one to him..he will not touch it! He is so “above it all”! He loves oranges and grapefruits and when they are a little too ripe for us I throw them out for him and they entertain him for hours. My new thing is I put apples in the horses water bucket. Boy..does that keep them busy! I see you have a bit of a thaw! We are drying out from all the rain! I will try the DE…Thank you! Donna

  2. A very timely post – just picked up my wormer for the hens today. In England we can buy layer’s pellets that have a wormer already in them, made by a company called `Marriage’s’ – so much easier than mixing the powder in and you’re sure that every hen gets the same dose. I give it to them instead of their normal pellets for a week every six months and they don’t seem to notice.
    Verm-X isn’t really powerful enough to get rid of persistent worms like tapeworms and gapeworms but can act as a preventative so it’s best to worm your animals with a medicinal product first and then switch to Verm-x. Verm-X itself is composed mainly of the active ingredient in garlic so I imagine is less effort than mixing up your own!

    • We don’t have “marriages” here. We do have chick starter that contains coccidiostats, but no other feed combined with wormers/etc. for backyard hens that I know of. Interesting! (I’m not talking about feeds with sub-therapeutic levels of antibiotics – that’s a whole other story.)

  3. DE has the crystalline structure that slices up the worms in the intestinal tract. It’s like teensy razor blades, so some people have concerns about the delicate chicken innards withstanding that over time. For production hens that aren’t allowed to live more than a couple years, maybe it’s less of a concern. What about pet hens?

    • Hylla – there are two types of DE. The type used by farmers of crops is from the sea, and you are right, the edges are far too sharp for animals. But, there’s also a food-grade DE that you can special order at your feed store. It is from lake DE that will kill external lice, but not harm the hens. It can also be ingested and kill off internal organisms.

        • I don’t have a set schedule or use measured amounts. I put some in the chickens’ favorite dust bathing areas and in the nesting boxes. You’re a real farmer, and for a professional operation, I’d go to others with similar set-ups. Are you a member of APPPA? (American Pastured Poultry Producers.) They have a listserve just for commercial farmers. I’m a membe and love their newsletter – but I don’t qualify to join that listserve. I bet there’s really good advice for you there.

          • Thank you, Terry. We are sustainable at GreenString, which is a bit beyond organic. I’ll check them out online and get more info. Again, thanks!

  4. You have sunshine today! What a blessing! We also have some here on the West Coast- sure lifts the spirits!

    Thanks for the info on the wormers and the DE. Our run was empty for 9 mos, then scraped clean before we brought in the new chicks, should I have them (the manure) checked now at 10 mos?

    • I think it’s a good idea. I like knowing exactly what is and isn’t lurking. It puts my mind to ease. However, it’s what you can afford to do, too.

  5. I use “Worm Guard plus Broad Spectrum for Poultry” from The Holistic Horse company. It contains DE, flax seed and more. It’s all natural and I just mix 1 1/4 cups into 50 pounds of organic layer feed and it seems to be working great. Prior to using it, I had some hens with small amounts of blood in their stool periodically and now that doesn’t happen anymore.

    I love this company– I order flax seed and some other things for myself there too!


    • Thank you for this post…I too ordered some Worm Guard and then noticed they had the same thing for llamas so I ordered some it that too! Will let you know how that works! Donna