We’ve been keeping chickens for quite a few years now, and have never had any issues with them having internal parasites, even though we don’t use commercial chemical wormers. I suspect one reason is that we always grow (and have a large number of volunteer) squash, pumpkin, melon, and gourds in the garden, and feed the extras to the chickens on a regular basis – there always seem to be more than we can consume.
It turns out that squash, melons, pumpkins, gourds, etc. are all Cucurbita (a genus in the gourd family of Cucurbitaceae), and that the seeds of vegetables from this family are coated with a substance (cucurbitacin), that’s a natural dewormer. The substance paralyzes the worms, and some sources recommend feeding these seeds to chickens free choice for a week at least twice yearly as a natural dewormer.
We take a more relaxed approach with our chickens, and simply feed them the excess from the garden throughout the year. In the summer, there are always excess zucchini, canteloupe, and watermelon that they love. And we grow, cure, and store (see Winter Squash: Harvesting, Curing, and Storing) lots of winter squash, so in late winter/early spring, there are always a few starting to go bad that go to the chickens.
We also grow gourds and pumpkins for fall decorations, so once winter rolls around, there are many of them left. We simply cut the vegetable in half, place the halves cut side up in the chicken pasture, and the chickens go crazy eating both the flesh and seeds. Since the seeds are a natural dewormer, there’s no withdrawal time (as there is with chemical dewormers) needed before eggs from the chickens can be consumed.
Pumpkins and gourds are plentiful this time of year, so even if you haven’t grown your own, it’s a great time to consider stocking up, curing, and storing some to feed your chickens. After Halloween, many stands selling gourds and pumpkins can’t wait to get rid of them.
The seeds of the larger members of the family have higher levels of the substance, so that’s something to consider when selecting varieties for use or storage. Commonly found members of the family include pumpkin, winter squash, zucchini, watermelon, cantaloupe, gourds, cucumbers, and honeydew.
Farmers have been using them this way for hundreds of years to help keep their chickens healthy, the chickens love them, and they’re a nutritious and entertaining treat. This is one easy way to keep your chickens healthy and happy!