Those lovely peeps at Verm-X sent me some samples to give out at my chicken keeping courses, along with a lot of fascinating literature. Now, in my early days of chicken keeping I had dabbled with Verm-X but I was steered towards using Flubenvet as a wormer for my flock. In fact, Flubenvet, at time of writing, is the only licensed poultry wormer in the UK, so it is pretty much the number one choice by vets. Verm-X on the other hand, is herbal based and a decade ago (phew – have I really been keeping chickens that long?!) pet owners like myself tended to prefer veterinary licensed products.
Wow, opinions certainly change! Fast forward to 2017, and people are looking at drug free alternatives in all walks of life.
Worming my flock had traditionally been like a guessing game. I could ask one vet how often I should worm and it would be a different answer to another. In the end I would worm 2 or 3 times a year as a precaution, and maybe an extra dose if I had an ailing bird (just in case). This is known as blanket worming, and was a common practice for horse owners when I was younger. We would buy a wormer around every 8 weeks, but we had the luxury of a few different types, so we would alternate them to prevent worm resistance. With poultry in the UK, we are limited to Flubenvet at present, although I know some have used Panacur, but note that this isn’t licensed for use in birds.
Nowadays, horse owners are encouraged not to blanket worm anymore but invest in sending off a faecal sample to a lab for a worm count. This tells the owner what type of worms are present, if any, so the owner has the benefit of choosing the correct wormer for the job, or maybe doesn’t have to worm at all. Furthermore, worm counts are also available for hens! Verm-X went one better and sent me a special pack of pellets and a worm test kit to trial.
We seem to be very comfortable using wormers these days. I think we need to remember that these are essentially chemicals that are designed to kill internal parasites, and are therefore mainly taken internally. Whilst I think they have a valid place in the treatment of worm infested animals, I am less comfortable about using them routinely as a preventative, and blindly, as I have done in the past. Personally, I have never had worms but I don’t think I would want to go on a worming programme to stay worm free!
Verm-X has a different approach to keeping hens worm free. Its more a herbal supplement to keep your hens RESISTANT to internal parasites. This sounds quite appealing to me, especially as we are in an age where a lot of our food, and livestock have been open to over medication. A lot of the people who attend my chicken keeping courses are also very interested in growing, and rearing organically, so Verm-X does tick a lot of boxes.
The question is, does it work? I thought I would do a little test trial with my flock of 7 chickens and 2 ducks over a period of just under 3 months.
First I wormed all my birds with Flubenvet to ensure that there are no worms present in my flock. This involves feeding them with wormer medicated pellets for 7 consecutive days. A few weeks later, I gathered my first poo sample to send to Westgate Labs, to ensure they are ‘clear.’ Although you can test each bird’s poo individually, its not going to be cost effective, unless you are concerned about a particular hen. I went round collecting droppings from various areas of the coops and run and did the following to produce the sample…
Westgate Labs have teamed up with Verm-X by producing a special pack of pellets and a worm count kit, and this may be something you might want to try as buying the worm kit separately is £9.50.
A few days later, I got the results by email (you can opt to receive your results by phone, fax or text).
<50 epg means less than 50 eggs per gram, meaning no trace of worm eggs were found. A good result, although the website says its a common one (its to be hoped!). I am hoping to stay worm free now till my next worm count using Verm-X as a supplement every month. The pellets themselves are tiny but they do smell strongly herbal. The ducks are not as accurate when they are eating so they inadvertently gobbled up Verm-X along with their normal pellets. The hens were more picky, so I ended up crushing their pellets into a powder with a mortar and pestle and mixing it with a variety of ‘wet’ treats (chopped grapes and tomatoes) so it would stick. This was divided up into several portions so everyone had a fair chance of eating this concoction. Following the instructions, I did this for 3 consecutive days, to which the hens were quite disappointed when their grapes stopped coming!
I did 3 treatments of Verm-X for the flock between July and October before submitting another poo test. Again, another positive result…
Although my trial is not conclusive and I could be just lucky, being able to keep tabs on my birds’ health like this does give me peace of mind as I do not have a particularly large garden. Having smaller areas with a lot of birds can increase the risk of worm burden unless managed correctly, so I am personally happy that my methods work! It also highlights how much over worming we do without realising it, therefore introducing more unnecessary chemicals into our livestock, and inevitably into the food chain. While Flubenvet does have its uses should the results in my future worm counts change, I think it would be good practise to resort to wormers as a treatment rather than a routine measure.