One of the most common parasitic roundworms of poultry (Ascaridia galli) occurs in chickens and turkeys. Adult worms are about one and a half to three inches long and about the size of an ordinary pencil lead. Thus, they can be seen easily with the naked eye. Heavily infected birds may show droopiness, emaciation and diarrhoea. The primary damage is reduced efficiency of feed utilization, but death has been observed in severe infections.
Chickens of three to four months of age show resistance to infection. Specimens of this parasite are found occasionally in eggs. The worm apparently wanders from the intestine up the oviduct and is included in the egg contents as the egg in being formed.
The life history of this parasite is simple and direct. Females lay thick heavy-shelled eggs in the intestine that pass in the feces. A small embryo develops in the egg but does not hatch immediately. The larvae in the egg reaches infective stage within two to three weeks. Embryonated eggs are very hardy and under laboratory conditions may live for two years. Under ordinary conditions, however, few probably live more than one year. Disinfectants and other cleaning agents do not kill eggs under farm conditions. Birds become infected by eating eggs that have reached the infective stage.
Available drugs remove only the adult parasite. The immature form probably produces the most severe damage. The treatment of choice is piperazine. Many forms of piperazine are produced, and all are effective if administered properly. Piperazine is only effective for treating this parasite. It has no effect on other internal parasites of fowl. Follow the manufacturer’s instructions carefully.
The parasite can be controlled by strict sanitation. If the birds are confined, clean the house thoroughly and completely before a new group is brought in. Segregate birds by age groups, with particular care applied to sanitation of young birds. If birds are on range, use a clean range for each group of birds.