Gapeworm symptoms in chickens include gasping and coughing…
However, this does not always mean that your bird is infected.
Your chickens might also be making funny rasping noises, gasping for breath, and shaking their head.
Gapeworm is very common in pheasants but also turkey, chickens, and guinea fowl. Gapeworms can cause huge damage to both turkeys and pheasants.
As earlier stated, Gaping “Gasping for breath” still remains the biggest sign of gape worm. Neck stretching and shaking of head are also common signs.
To confirm, hold your birds gurgling can be heard which is “tracheal rattle”. Most times, gasping for breath is often mistaken for respiratory problem. If a heavy infestation occurs, death by suffocation will occur.
Gapeworm infestation can occur indirectly by intermediate hosts such as snails or earthworms, or directly eating eggs that have been coughed up or swallowed by infested birds.
Gapeworm Symptoms in Chickens, Turkeys and Pheasants
The symptoms of Syngamus trachea are coined from its Latin name (trachea=throat) and its common name, gapeworm. The first sign is a bird that is gaping (breathing with its mouth), usually with its neck extended upward as it gasps for breath, often making hissing sound as a result of the parasite.
- Other symptoms:Fast head-shaking (trying to clear its throat), weakness, coughing emaciation, grunting as a result of difficult breathing.
When badly affected, young birds conditions worsen quickly and will die. Adult birds tend to show lesser signs that are obvious, and some may show no signs at all.
- Causes of death:starvation/dehydration, suffocation.
- Necropsy (Post-morterm):long, bright-red worms, shaped like a Y, 5mm-20mm long, clumped in the trachea.
- Treatment:Flubenol, the best powdered worming product (available online), or Aviverm (for large birds), a specialist liquid bird wormer (available online, from vet clinics, and pet stores).
- Ongoing treatment:Gapeworms are sneaky parasites that are hardy too, and will remain alive in the soil for more than 4 years, infecting and reinfecting a flock.
They are really dangerous to young birds, so rotation of pens is important. Better yet, if you can, quarantine all young birds from adults as a good preventative measure. Control of fly (slug and fly populations) and rotatory hoeing of soil can also prevent reinfection.
- Other Names: Red worms, Gapes, Forked worms, Y worms or spelt with a gap Gape Worm.
- Symptoms:Yawning, Gasping (gaping), respiratory/gurgling distress, loss of appetite, head shaking, and eventually coughing and choking.
- Area affected:Lungs, bronchi and Trachea (windpipe).
- Causes: Environment
- Transmission: Through intermediate hosts such as snails or earthworms and directly by birds picking up eggs that have been coughed up, or passed out into faeces.
- Post Mortem showing blood-red gapeworm in the trachea
- Diagnosis: Laboratory identification of eggs in faeces, worms found in trachea (see photo) by postmortem, some / all of the symptoms above.
- Prevention:A good worming strategy, rotating grazing areas, avoiding contact with ground where wild pheasants have been.
- Prepatent Period (the time it takes from being laid as a worm egg to being a mature worm of egg laying age):18 to 20 days.
- Risk to Human Health:None known
Now that you know gapeworm symptoms in chickens, lets move on to treatment and history
Natural Treatment for Gapeworm in Chickens | Treating Birds With Worms
Getting your bird medicated water if fine, but making them drink it is another problem
To cure, kindly use a recommended Flubenvet 1% 60g which is licensed for treating gapeworm. For heavy infestations ( ‘eggs per gram of faeces’ or “high epg” determined by laboratory worm count) usually on high stocking density or heavily used ground, it is usually necessary to worm again a little before the prepatent period (the time it takes from being laid as a worm egg to being a mature worm of egg laying age) to reduce high infection levels. Rotating the pasture actually helps to break this cycle.
You can also use a dilution of Aviverm for large birds ($17-$18 for a 50ml bottle) diluted in your bird’s drinking water. Weigh your bird using a scale, then work out a dose and add it to drinking water.
In chicken farming, or backyard chickens keeping, its important you use Flubenol or Aviverm as they contain the levamisol (a chemical); which when consumed will kill adult worms. Ivermectin-based products will not kill adult gapeworms.
Note: Treat all of your birds, not just a particular one showing symptoms. If your chicken is not drinking water with the Aviverm or Flubenvet in it, you can mix some of the diluted water with wet kitten food which they will eat. Aviverm can be used in a second dose 24 hours later in a serious case.
A few weeks after, your birds looking weak, zombielike and gapped a lot will begin doing better, will be back to their former happy state (free from gasping) and will be happy to gobble down their feed in a matter of minutes.
History of these Worms in Windpipe
Young birds up to 8 weeks of age have an higher chance of contacting gapeworms.
Gapeworms normally live in the windpipe (trachea) but are also found in the lung and bronchi.
Commonly, The eggs picked up directly or indirectly hatch into a larvae that then penetrates the intestine walls and move to bronchi and lungs.
Once there, they go through a Laval moult, before traveling up to the trachea. Females and males gapeworms attach to one another once they arrive there.
This process takes about 7 days to complete. Fully grown, they are “ Y-Shaped and differ in size between 1 and 2cm. Their blood color is “red”, or what I love to call “blood-red”
Gapeworms lay eggs that get swallowed and passed out in the faeces or coughed up on the ground.
“It’s a parasite that lives in the flesh of the bird’s throat and causes consistent gasping and wheezing”
A lot of people who want a natural treatment for gapeworm in chickens often make the mistake of giving the birds antibiotic (because they mistake it for a respiratory infection). This will not help in any way if the bird is truly infected with gapeworm and the condition will only worsen.
Remember, M and F gapeworm spend their entire lives joined to one another, embedded in your bird throat. They feed off your bird, creating eggs that pass through the bird or are coughed out so the next generation can be eaten by snails, earthworms, slugs, and flies.
Gapeworms become most deadly when they completely block the throat of an affected bird, stopping water, feed, and eventually air from passing through and eventually leading to death. Every type of poultry can be affected including game birds and water fowl, especially pheasants.
We hope your gapeworm symptoms in chickens helped you treat your chickens a whole lot better.