pumpkin seeds are a “natural dewormer” in chickens. I am always open to and interested in things that will help me keep my flock healthy, but am not one inclined to accept claims blindly that seem too good to be true. After researching the topic extensively and consulting with several poultry veterinarians on the subject, I have found no evidence that pumpkin or pumpkin seeds act as a general dewormer in chickens. Let’s look at the seed of truth that lies within this commonly parroted claim and learn what makes the claim false.
to Dr. Mike Petrik, DVM, MsC, aka: The Chicken Vet, “(m)ost worm medications have no claim for laying hens. As such, they won’t tell you how long not to eat the eggs after treatment like many antibiotics do. The reason is simple….the research has not been done. It literally costs millions of dollars to get label claims on medications verified to the satisfaction of licensing bodies. Because modern egg farms have essentially no worm infections, it is not cost effective to get the claim on the drug in question.” That statement is also true of alternative/natural/herbal remedies, including the ingestion of pumpkin seeds. The research simply has not been done to prove the effectiveness of pumpkin seeds as either a preventative worming measure or treatment option in chickens.
There is, however, some literature on the use of pumpkin seeds as
dewormers in test tubes, horses and, to a limited degree, in humans. Let’s
take a look at some of that literature to get a better understanding of what
the pumpkin seeds claims and conclusions in those instances.
others include: autumn squash, summer squash, and butternut squash. “[R]esearchers have shown that an ingredient in curcurbita seeds- an unusual amino acid called curcurbitin found only in certain species- kills worms in the test tube. In adequate doses this substance is also believed to paralyze worms in a person’s intestines, enabling the body to flush them out. Tapeworms and roundworms in particular are susceptible. Getting a high enough concentration of the herb to expel worms can be challenging, however, partly because the concentration of curcurbitin varies widely among Curcurbita plants. The concentration of curcurbitin in Curcurbitapepo (pumpkin) can range as much as five percent. Such variations may explain why some investigators have declared the herb ineffective for intestinal worms; there may not have been enough curcurbitin in their samples, or possibly in the variety they were testing. In fact, no one seems quite sure how many curcurbita seeds (or how much curcurbitin) it takes to vanquish worms.These unknowns make it difficult to endorse or dismiss this traditional remedy. Studies on the effectiveness and safety of this substance are conflicting, or there are not enough studies to draw a conclusion.”1
TheHorse.com essentially echoes the findings of the Pierce publication cited above. This article reviews possible strategies for reducing the risk of parasite transmission in horses. One of the conclusions reached
is as follows: “Pumpkin seeds have been used as an herbal remedy for treating parasite infections in horses because the seeds contain the amino acid cucurbitin, which many herbalists consider to be a natural anthelmintic. However, the efficacy of organic/herbal dewormers has never been demonstrated in formal, controlled studies.” 2
of the argument “I feed my chickens pumpkin seeds and they have never had worms
therefore, pumpkin seeds are an effective, natural dewormer.” That proposition is
flawed and unsupported by any evidence. My healthy flock has never had problems
with worms either and I do not routinely feed them pumpkin seeds. Those are both
coincidences, not evidence of anything. All chickens that forage outside carry some load of worms. Earthworms transmit roundworms and what backyard chicken doesn’t love a nice earthworm? Healthy chickens can manage a normal worm load. The important question is how worm overloads should be addressed. Dr. Petrik offers some insight on that subject in this article.
curcurbitin is capable of deworming or reducing the worm load in chickens,
I will not rely on pumpkin seeds as a preventative measure or as a treatment
option for worm infestations in my flock should it ever be necessary.
studies of curcurbitin use in chickens.
If birds are suspected of having a worm overload, a droppings sample should be brought to a veterinarian for a fecal float test to determine whether there is a worm infestation and if so, which type of worms are plaguing the bird. The test is relatively inexpensive and all vets perform them for dogs, etc. If the test is positive for a worm overload/infestation, discuss the treatment options with your vet.
The next time you hear/read/see the claim that pumpkins or pumpkin seeds are a dewormer ask for the following information:
2. How much ‘pumpkin’ per day per chicken?
3. How long should the ‘pumpkin’ be fed to the birds to have the claimed effect?
Nobody will have these answers for you because there aren’t any known. You would want a physician to have all of these answers before prescribing a medication to you, why should a treatment for chickens be any different? It shouldn’t be. Feeding chickens suffering from a worm infestation pumpkin because somebody claims they are a natural dewormer is a disservice to the birds.
My chickens love pumpkins,
so whether or not there are any digestive tract benefits, they will be treated with
this nutritious snack because they enjoy it. Here
is my recipe for Peeps’ Pumpkin Pie; I hope you try it and
that your flock enjoys it as much as mine does!
1/2 cup of any Omega 3 feed supplement
cube trays or plastic containers and thaw for a nutritious, boredom-buster any time of the year!