Plant a Natural Wormer Garden for your Chickens

Tuesday, March 28, 2017


Even healthy flocks likely are carrying a certain amount of internal parasites. The parasites are found in the ground, in earthworms and in infected wild birds and mice that expel them in their feces. Your chickens naturally come in contact them as they scratch in the dirt and eat bugs and worms. But a chicken in good condition with a strong immune system can handle a normal load and will be able to flush worms out of their systems without negative effects. I believe in lots of preventives to keep my chickens healthy, and protecting them from worms is a major concern. 


Call it folklore or call it an old wives’ tale, but the plants in the Cucurbitaceae family (which includes squash, gourds, and melons) have long been used in the rearing of all different types of livestock to prevent internal parasites and worms. Studies have been done that show that there is a coating on the seeds that works to paralyze the worms, thereby allowing the host body to expel them. Several other plants also work in conjunction with the Cucurbitaceaes to rid the body of worms, including dandelion, garlic, and nasturtium. 

Naysayers refuse to think that something this simple and basic could work; however, I am a believer. While I am but a study of one, I can say I have never used commercial wormer of any kind on my flock. Yet I have had fecal tests done by my vet and no evidence of worms has ever been found (remember that only an unhealthy excess worm load will begin to be excreted in large amounts in the feces). I credit this in part to feeding my chickens a year-round diet full of cucumbers, watermelon, zucchini, pumpkins, and cantaloupe.


The larger fruits and vegetables contain higher levels of cucurbitacin, while the smaller contain far less, but all of them help. Planting a garden full of these plants can only be a win—even if they don’t work as wormers for you, they are all nutritious, and your chickens will love them. Lots of the members of the Cucurbitaceae family are also popular in human diets, so be sure to plant extras for your family to enjoy as well. These plants are reputed to help keep the worm load in your chickens’ systems at a reduced level.

While they may not keep your chickens completely parasite free, they should reduce the load, allowing your chickens to naturally flush the parasites that do remain. Even if you are a nonbeliever in the natural wormer theory, these crops are still all highly nutritious and flock favorites at my house.


 are easy to grow. They benefit from some compost added to the soil, and will even grow well right in a compost pile if you throw some seeds out with your kitchen scraps! My mom has been growing compost cantaloupe for years—unintentionally at first, but then intentionally once she realized how easy and maintenance free it is. Cantaloupes are water-laden, so they make for a great hydrating treat in the summer. Cut a melon in half and give your chickens a real treat. They will eat the seeds, pulp, flesh, and even the rind. Cantaloupes, honeydew, and watermelons are all favorites around my coop. 

PLANTING TIPS: Plant seeds in hills to allow for good drainage outside in full sun after the last frost date. Add compost to the soil and mulch in cooler climates.

HARDINESS: Cantaloupes are tender annuals. They grow best in Zones 4 through 11.

HARVESTING TIPS:Pick when the stem dries out and begins to crack. You’ll also notice the rind has turned yellowish tan. 


 is another easy vegetable to grow. It benefits from being allowed to climb up a wall or cage, which will also save you valuable garden space. Cucumbers are one of my flocks’ favorite treats. I usually slice the cucumber for them, but you can halve them lengthwise or even hang a cucumber in your run for your chickens to peck at as it swings. They will have no trouble eating the soft rind to get to the flesh and seeds. They seem to particularly enjoy the seeds, but the entire vegetable is edible. Cucumber is very high in water content, so it makes an especially beneficial summer treat.

PLANTING TIPS: Plant outside after the last frost date in full sun in well-draining sandy soil with compost mixed in. Cucumbers are sensitive to the cold, so plant seeds indoors to give them an earlier start. Mulch in cooler climates and keep plants well watered when they are young.

HARDINESS: Cucumber is a tender annual. It grows best in Zones 4 through 11.

HARVESTING TIPS: Pick most cucumbers when the skin is deep green and firm. Depending on the variety, cucumbers are ripe when they reach 4 to 10 inches long. 


 is a colorful addition to any garden. With its insect-repellent properties, it helps keep bugs out of the garden, but it also has some wonderful benefits for chickens. Some say it is a laying stimulant, though I plant it due to its reputation of being a natural wormer. Nasturtium grows abundantly once it gets started, so you will have plenty of vibrant blossoms to feed to your chickens throughout the summer. My flock loves to eat nasturtium flowers and leaves fresh from the garden. I’m not a big fan of nasturtium. It has a very peppery taste. But some people seem to really enjoy the leaves as salad garnish.

PLANTING TIPS: Start from seeds indoors or out, transplanting indoor seedlings carefully. Nasturtium likes full sun and rich, well-drained soil.

HARDINESS: An annual in most of the country, Nasturtium may overwinter in Zones 9 and 10.

HARVESTING TIPS: Harvest flowers in full bloom, along with the leaves. Feed fresh or dry them for later use.

Other plants with purported worming properties include pumpkins, garlic and dandelions greens.

This information was excerpted from my book Gardening with Chickens: Plans and Plants for you and your Hens. Available from Amazon.com or where ever books are sold.

Voyageur Press, November 2016

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