Protecting Your Game Birds From Worms: Guest blog from Keepers Choice

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One of the most difficult times of the year is fast approaching for those who rear game birds, with birds going out to wood very soon – if they have not already. Without this time being difficult enough, it harnesses good conditions for parasitic worms to enter pheasants and partridges.

These worms can have detrimental impact on bird’s health, as well as their ability to successfully breed. Therefore, it is strongly advised to use a wormer. Flubenvet, from Elanco Animal Health, is the recommended option from Keepers Choice; and the team at Elanco have worked with us to give you some key information on the importance of using a wormer.   

What is Flubenvet?

Flubenvet is a pre-mix powder that is added to our feed with the other feed ingredients. It is a preventative treatment that has the ease and convenience of uniform feed intake. At Keepers Choice, we use the 5% premix at 1.2Kg per tonne of feed.

The product, which is a wormer, is approved for use in pheasants and partridges – as well as layer hens, breeder hens, broilers, geese, and turkeys. It kills all life stages of all the main poultry worm species; including immature life stages and eggs!

It is important to remember that there is a seven-day withdrawal period when using Flubenvet in feed for pheasants and partridge.

Here at Keepers Choice – our customer service team are able to are able to issue prescriptions for infeed Flubenvet free of charge!

The Hidden Threat

Parasites in game birds are common and potentially fatal – and can be difficult to identify. According to Elanco, unchecked, worm burdens can cause the deaths of up to 19% of released pheasants in the UK (almost one in five).

Issues aside from death that parasitic worms may cause include –

  • Poor body weight and enteritis
  • Poor hatchability and a major cause of chick mortality
  • Poor ‘fitness’ for the sport
  • Respiratory infections (gapes)

All of the above can lead do death, or at the very least poor shooting.

As mentioned, the rate at which worms are present in game birds across the country is surprisingly high. Studies we obtained via Elanco found that all estates across the country are infected with worms, with young birds being particularly susceptible. Young pheasants are also susceptible to gapeworms infections (Syngamus Trachea) which causes serious disease and high mortality.

The hidden threat from gapeworms is huge, with the worm’s rapid lifecycle increasing the dangers. Once a bird ingests an infective egg, larva or earthworms containing larva can:

  • be found in the lungs in just 4-6 hours having burrowed through the gut wall and into the blood stream – potentially causing lung damage.
  • be found in the windpipe after seven days, having developed into adults, causing the bird to ‘gape’ or ‘snick’.

Unfortunately, gapeworms are not the only parasitic species that are cause significant damage to your birds and your profit…

Worm Species

We have touched upon gapeworms – arguably the most common and the most dangerous to both pheasants and partridge. Other important game bird parasitic worm species to consider are:

  • Large roundworms (Ascaridia Galli) – they live in the small intestine and can be up to two inches long; in heavy infestations these worms may be visible in fresh droppings
  • Hairworms (Capillaria spp) – these are much smaller and are barely visible to the naked eye, yet they can cause significant commercial damage, even in moderate infestations
  • Caecal worms (Hetarakis Gallinarum) – these are smaller worms which inhabit the lower end of the gut. They can transmit blackhead (a serious disease of chickens and turkeys causing diarrhoea, egg drop and sudden death).

It is also important to consider the pre-patent period for each of these worm species. The pre-patent period is the time between ingestion of parasitic egg or larva and the appearance of a mature adult. You can find pre-patent periods for each worm here.

How Does it Work?

Flubenvet’s active ingredient, flubendazole, simultaneously enters the worm through the mouth and skin or cuticle. It acts by binding to tubulin, the dimeric sub-unit protein of the microtubules. Flubendazole inhibits microtubular assembly in absorptive cells and causes an irreversible lytic degeneration of the cell, killing the parasite. Larval growth in developing worm eggs is also inhibited. Immature, fast-developing worms are particularly sensitive to flubendazole’s mode of action.

Diagnostics & Prevention

Diagnosis of parasitic burdens can be achieved by carrying out either faecal worm egg counts or by performing post-mortem examinations (neither method is 100% accurate: infections can be missed with either technique). This is especially true of low level/sub-clinical infections.

Unfortunately, Internal parasite damage can be hard to detect, but it still causes major economic damage. Poultry worms can be responsible for inefficient growth, lack of uniformity, increased production costs and needlessly high feed costs.

Indications that your flock may have worms include –

  • Higher mortality rates
  • Clear variations in the size of the flock
  • Poor growth
  • Pale heads
  • Anemia
  • Reduced laying rates
  • Reduced egg weights
  • Reduced hatchability

It is almost impossible to completely prevent parasitic worms, however there are certain good practices that can help, these include:

  • Limiting stock density
  • Paddock rotation where available
  • Good drainage of land
  • Removal of heavily contaminated soil around houses before new birds arrive
  • Keeping the environment dry (with special attention to areas around drinkers and feeders)
  • Good hygiene and biosecurity measures  

Tips on Worming from Flubenvet/Elanco

  • Remember that it isn’t just ‘gapes’ that can infect your birds (caecal worms, large roundworms and hairworms can also cause problems).
  • On heavily infected premises, treat with Flubenvet every three weeks to control infection and to prevent the shedding of eggs
  • Treat the birds just before or immediately after moving to reduce the risk of carrying infection to the new environment
  • Using an in feed worming product helps to ensure that water lines remain clean and birds receive the correct dosage of active ingredient.



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