This past week I wormed my chicken flock with black walnut tincture. Here’s why. A few days before I saw what was undoubtedly a round worm in a fresh chicken dropping. Since there was no mistaking what I was looking at, I knew I was going to have to treat the flock. But, I was unsure how I wanted to go about this. We try to do everything as naturally as possible on our farm.
I have never subscribed to the practice of treating for things unless I have reason to believe an animal is sick, or is showing symptoms. Seeing the worm alarmed me because I realized that more than one chicken was probably carrying worms. I didn’t want to use a product that required a lengthy egg withdrawal time. What would that product be doing to the chickens? I searched for alternative methods and came upon black walnut tincture for worming chickens.
This was not a new idea to me, but I had not used it for chickens before. I had plenty of tincture made up because I used it to treat our larger livestock. We have plenty of black walnut trees on our property and I use the raw nuts to make a rich, brown dye for yarn. Making the tincture is another way to make use of the nuts. Black walnut tincture for worming chickens seemed like the best course of action. If it didn’t work, I could still resort to using the store products. Intestinal worms in chickens are not transmittable to humans.
Symptoms of Worms in Chickens
If you don’t actually see the roundworms in the feces, how would you know your chicken is dealing with intestinal tract worms? A pale comb, lethargy, weakness, and diarrhea are some common signals that a worm problem might exist. In many cases, it’s not a matter of does your chicken have worms. Worms are in the environment, and insects are often an intermediate host for the larvae. The problem begins when the worm load builds to a level that causes illness. Stress can be a precursor to a worm overload. So, even though I saw a worm in the feces, clear as day, it doesn’t mean my chickens were sick. In fact, I was surprised to see the worm. Never the less, I didn’t want to let the issue become a problem. I had never wormed my flock for roundworms before, but now I would.
Symptoms of Worms in Livestock
Livestock can exhibit diarrhea, anemia, rough unkempt coat, weight loss and sudden death. With barber pole worm, Haemonchus contortus, a condition called bottle jaw, or swelling of the lower jaw is seen. Worms can cause dehydration and weakness too.
Being aware of the signs and symptoms of worm infestation is necessary when raising livestock.
Natural or Not?
Making the decision on whether or not to use a natural remedy, for your farm animals, is a personal choice. Although I prefer to stay with natural cures, there are times when it’s in the best interest of your animal to use a medication. If an animal or bird is already sickly from a parasite infestation, you may not be able to save it with natural means. This is not something I feel is cut and dry. You need to make a decision based on what you observe. Often, when a person brings home new animals they don’t realize that worms are the cause of the animal not thriving. When the diagnosis is made, it is often too late.
Using Natural Remedies – Good Idea or Bad?
Also, not all natural remedies will be effective against all types of infestation. Some natural substances will make the gut less hospitable to parasites. But if an overload of parasites is already present, it may not do the trick at all. Proceed with caution and use close management of the animal during recovery. Seek a veterinarian’s advice and get fecal samples tested sooner rather than later. It might be too late, if you wait.
There are products on the market and available at farm supply stores that people have used for many years. Even though I prefer to keep things natural, I will not tell you that you shouldn’t use them. I will tell you to read the label precautions carefully, and follow the instructions for dosing. With over the counter medications for worming chickens, the eggs will have to be thrown away for at least 17 days after treatment begins. This is called the withdrawal time. The medication given to the chickens in their drinking water is known to travel to the eggs. The medication is not deemed safe for human use. This is one reason I prefer to use a natural remedy and natural preventatives.
Products you might find on the shelf at your farm supply store are Wazzine, Corid and Ivermectin. The active ingredient in Wazzine is piperazine. Other active ingredients in worming medications for tapeworms would be levamisole or fenbendazole (Safe-Guard). For Coccidiosis, Amprolium is often used, and is commonly found under the trade name, Corid.
Dosage and Treatment
Do your research and read the package directions carefully. The species you are treating and the weight of the animal are two considerations that are relevant to dosing. When a poultry flock is being treated for intestinal parasites the common recommendation is to treat two times per year.
Usually the suggested time frame for treating to control worms is spring and fall. However, the recommendations also state to avoid treating while the birds are stressed. The medication itself can be stress inducing. Instead of fall, when chickens are typically molting, I would do a mid summer application of the medication. This way the chicken isn’t dealing with a medication and molt at the same time. If it seems complicated, it’s because a good bit of management has to be used when treating or preventing parasites.
You can see from the above information that it would be very important to know what parasite overload you are treating before administering a commercial wormer to your flock or livestock. If you cannot make a certain diagnosis based on symptoms, you may be better off having a fecal test run by a veterinarian before treatment begins.
The best case scenario is getting your herds and flocks healthy, and then, through natural methods, keep them healthy. Good management includes regular coop cleaning for poultry and a pasture rotation plan for ruminants.
Going With Natural Treatments Such as Black Walnut Tincture
Many people prefer to treat parasitic worms using a natural anthelmintic like black walnut tincture. If you start your chickens and livestock on natural preventatives early, you may be able to avoid using a commercial medications.
When you use a natural worming method such as black walnut tincture for worming chickens, there is no egg withdrawal time. Black walnut tincture is an anthelmintic. This compound helps the body expel worms. Humans can also use black walnut tincture to rid the body of parasitic worms. There is some discussion of commercial worming medications leading to resistant strains of parasites. Black walnut tincture will not cause resistant strains of parasites. It works by making the intestinal tract of the bird or animal, inhospitable to parasites.
Making Black Walnut Tincture
If you have a black walnut tree nearby, you are ready to make the natural tincture. If not you can ask around to see if anyone in your area has this tree. Most of the time people are happy to part with the large round walnuts. They are encased in a green hull. The squirrels love to hoard these for winter eating. The nut meat from a black walnut is harder to extract than the more common English walnut. Tactics such as running over the nuts with a car are often heard when discussing this practice! If you can’t find the black walnuts locally, some sellers offer small amounts via mail order. I sell small priority boxes full via my Etsy shop, when available.
In addition to being a natural anthelmintic, black walnut tincture is an astringent, aids digestion and can lower blood pressure. (Please do your own research as I am not a trained herbalist or medical doctor.)
Gather 10 to 12 ripe, green black walnuts
1 quart of vodka, (preferably over 50 proof)
1 quart jar with a lid (I like these plastic lids for making herbal tinctures in mason jars)
smaller brown bottles or other bottles to store the tincture later. Don’t forget to label!
Working with black walnuts will stain your hands and clothing so wear gloves and protect your clothing and work surface. Break off the outer hull. If the nuts are fresh it won’t take much pressure to break open the hull. Lightly tap with a hammer if needed.
Place the hulls in the quart jar. Pour vodka into the jar until nearly full. You do want to leave some room to gently shake the mixture every day or so.
After 6 to 8 weeks the tincture is ready to strain and bottle. Squeeze or press as much of the tincture out of the hulls as possible. Remember to wear gloves to protect your hands from stains. Discard the hulls in the trash. Adding these to compost isn’t recommended. The juglans contained in black walnut can be a growth inhibitor and that is not something you want to add to your compost.
Label and date the bottles of black walnut tincture. It will last for years.
Dosing Chickens with Black Walnut Tincture
I used 2 cc per gallon of water each day. Dose was repeated for five days in a row, then waited 2 weeks and repeated the dose for another 5 days. I did not see any further worms in my chicken’s droppings but I am being watchful.
Since my water buckets for the sheep and goats are bigger than the chicken water bowls, I used two teaspoons of tincture per 5 gallons of water. Same repeat as above.
When you are finished making sure your flocks and herds are healthy, treat yourself to a slice of delicious