Are pumpkin seeds a natural chicken de-wormer?
There are plenty of blog articles and Facebook posts recommending pumpkin seeds as a natural de-wormer for chickens. But do they really work?
The simple answer is probably not.
Do not treat worms in chickens with pumpkin seeds, use a chicken-safe de-wormer like Kilverm.
But as a healthy treat for chickens that may possibly have the added bonus of some preventative effects against worms, pumpkin seeds are great!
Do you want to learn more? We go into the science below.
What do we know about pumpkin seeds as a de-wormer?
There are scientific studies that have shown pumpkin seeds to kill worms. But this doesn’t mean that feeding pumpkin seeds to chickens will kill intestinal parasites. Let’s look at the studies more closely.
What type of pumpkin seed is used?
Most studies testing pumpkin seed as a de-wormer don’t use whole pumpkin seeds or even pumpkin seed meal. Instead a pumpkin seed extract is made using water or chemicals like ethanol, methanol or benzene.
An extract like this contains a much greater concentration of the compounds in pumpkin seeds thought to affect worms. Chickens would have to eat an awful lot of whole seeds or seed meal to consume a similar amount of the compounds.
Also some of the chemicals used to make the extract, such as ethanol, may also be toxic to worms and contribute to the results.
Plus, different varieties of pumpkin have different proportions of cucurbitacin and cucurbutin, the compounds believed to affect worms, in their seeds.
Many of the studies that show pumpkin seed to kill worms are done in a laboratory.
Obviously, a petri dish containing worms and pumpkin seed is a really different environment to a chicken’s digestive tract, which is full of enzymes and chemicals, different foodstuffs and microbes.
And again, these studies use pumpkin seed extracts.
Further, the majority of worms used in laboratory tests are different species to those that infect chickens. Some are earthworms, while others are parasitic worms but not of the species commonly found in chickens.
Tests of pumpkin seed de-wormers on animals
Pumpkin seed de-worming properties have been tested on animals as well as in laboratories.
Some studies of sheep and goats have found pumpkin seed to reduce worm loads, and other studies have found that they do not. Some scientists have concluded that pumpkin seed may be an effective preventative, but not a treatment for worm problems in livestock.
However, many of the worm species in the studies do not infect chickens and only one of the studies that found pumpkin seeds to be effective against worms used a seed meal instead of an extract.
Tests of pumpkin seed de-wormers on chickens and birds
A study of ostriches fed pumpkin seed meal found a reduction in egg-shedding, suggesting some effectiveness against avian parasites.
In chickens, a study using an ethanol-based pumpkin seed extract was effective against roundworm. But another study using pumpkin seed meal showed only “moderate” effectiveness against some roundworm and tapeworm species and “marginal” effectiveness against caecal worms, when compared to a conventional de-wormer.
We didn't find any studies looking at pumpkin seed and its effect on the other worm species affecting chickens, such as threadworm.
Should you feed pumpkin seeds to chickens? And will it de-worm them?
Pumpkin seeds are not a de-wormer for chickens.
But should you feed pumpkin seeds to chickens? Absolutely! Just don't rely on them to worm your chooks!
Pumpkin seeds are a great treat for chickens. They are rich in phosphorus and magnesium. They have a fair amount of protein and chickens love them! Although don't over do it, as pumpkin seeds are also high in fat and fibre, which aren't so great for chickens.
But don't rely on pumpkin seeds to stop your chickens getting worms. The studies suggest that while pumpkin seeds or extracts might have a small preventative effect, they are not enough to actually de-worm chickens or stop the need for de-wormers.
It's not worth the risk when your chickens' health is on the line. For a chicken-safe de-wormer, use Kilverm, and keep the pumpkin seeds for treats instead!
We recommend de-worming chickens twice a year, in spring and autumn. This is particularly important for free-range flocks and chickens that are exposed to contact with wild birds and rodents.
For more about worms in chickens, visit the blog.
Happy chicken keeping!
Rachael at Dine a Chook