Ivomectin Use for Poultry and Worm Burden

Posted by Susan Lenz on

I will preface this article by saying although I am not a veterinarian, I have done some research and consulted trained veterinarians before writing this piece along with being a rare breed poultry breeder for over 25 years. Feel free to do your own research to make your own executive choices on this controversial subject.

Many customers come in asking for Ivermectin as they have been advised to use this product by a friend, relative or poultry breeder. What many do not understand is that the product is not labelled for poultry use and therefore not researched as to the required dosages, effect on birds (some say it causes infertility in flocks) and long term issues in birds (i have seen "burnt skin" from overdose, long term infertility etc) and the big question is what you and your family are consuming through egg production as it has not been labelled as safe for poultry.

I know there is a lot of confusion about using Ivermectin for chickens and that’s because it would be used off-label, meaning that, although it is often referred to by poultry owners an effective when treating chickens it was not developed for them. There is no scientific data about how it might affect them differently than mammals, the best route of administration and withdrawal periods for eating eggs or meat. The important thing to note here, is that due to no actual scientific research being carried out for poultry use, there are no guidelines for egg consumption when using ivomectin in poultry.

Now, my personal option on this is that due to these companies being a multi billion dollar companies, the fact no scientific research being carried out on poultry use would indicate that there is a very good reason that it hasnt been done. If these companies could make additional money from a product, most would spend the money and label accordingly IF IT WAS SUITABLE FOR THAT PURPOSE.  I relate this to being no different to Glyphosate and what we have learnt from that.

I have spoken to many veterinarians about correct dosages for chickens and when I mentioned 3 drops for a standard sized bird, was told that was too much. They could not give me the correct dosage because it would be used off label, but pointed me in the right direction to make the calculation myself. They also gave me some info about how it works.

What is Ivermectin?

Ivermectin (Noromectin) is a broad spectrum anti-parasitic used to eradicate internal and external parasites in livestock, typically cattle and pigs. It can be administered via injection, orally or topically, is available in different strengths (i.e. 1mg, 5mg or 10mg) and dosages.

Piperazine, which is only used on roundworms, paralyses the worms so they are expelled live from the chicken. Ivermectin, which can be used for internal worms, lice and mites (including scaley leg mite) kills them inside the body. In the process of dying they go through a period of hyperactivity and mass together in a ball. The downside of this is that if you use a lot of Ivermectin there may be complications when they are expelled.

Gape Worms can be coughed up and potentially aspirated and intestinal worms will have to be excreted en masse. Ivermectin works, but you must be careful about not overdosing your birds, which can create a mass die-off of worms. You’d think that would be our aim, but chickens often live with internal parasites with no issues. It’s when there is a heavy infestation that it becomes problematic. We stock Avitrol plus that is available for treating 6 types of worms including gapeworm.

Dosage Calculations & Treatment

Ivermectin Pour On, which is applied topically on the skin, has a universal recommended dosage of 200 micrograms/kilo. There are 1000 micrograms in 1 milligram and 5000 micrograms in 1 millilitre of liquid. 5000 mcgm divided by 200 mcgm = .04ml. Therefore the dosage would be .04 ml/kilo. One drop from a standard eyedropper = .05. So if your bird weighs 2 kilos the dosage would be just less than 2 drops! Believe me, it’s not always easy to be accurate and not use too much.

From my calculations, many people are giving too much and at too high a strength.

The dosages are based on 5mg of Ivermectin/1 ml solution. If you are using 10mg/1 ml you would have to reduce the amount used from 1-2 drops to 1 drop maximum. It is important to use a medication the way it was intended to be given – so don’t apply Ivermectin injectable or oral, topically (on skin).

The easiest way to treat them is to go out to your coop at night wearing a head lamp. You can either treat birds while they are sleeping on the roost bars or gently lift them off. Spread the feathers on their neck or between their shoulder blades and apply the drops directly on their skin.

It’s important to repeat with a second treatment in 7-10 days to make sure you have killed any larvae that have hatched subsequent to the first one.

I see lots of folks offering advice about the use of Ivermectin in chickens on Facebook groups. Since Ivermectin is off-label, and untested, on chickens there are no consistent guidelines on a withdrawal period for eating eggs or meat.

You might not know that Ivermectin is used orally in people to treat roundworms, scabies and lice and has been called the wonder drug for its ability to treat River Blindness and other debilitating diseases in developing countries. The amount that a chicken absorbs in 1-2 drops is very small and probably poses a minimal risk. I was advised that if used, you could choose to eat your own eggs or poultry at your own risk, but should withdraw those for sale to the public. Again, there is no ‘safe’ period that has been studied and therfore using ivomectin on poultry comes with your own risk.

I would suggest that you not use Ivermectin until birds are fully developed and not more than twice a year. It’s good practice to rotate medications so that parasites don’t develop a tolerance to them. If you just want to treat for roundworms (which are carried by wild birds and earthworms), then you can use Piperazine. We also offer Levamisole, Big L and Kilverm that treat for three common worms and you do not need to withold your eggs while using these products. See our range of worming products here

There are no drugs made for tapeworm in chickens. If you are treating that species you will need to find an off-label medication that is targeted toward them. Typically people opt for a product developed for cats. Speak to your vet about the most appropriate product to be used in chickens.

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