Gapeworm is a parasitic infection caused by thin, red worms that reside in the trachea (windpipe) and lungs of infected birds, and feed on blood. Also called Syngamus trachea, this disease is commonly found in turkeys. However, it can also found in chickens, especially the younger ones because they have smaller trachea. After a chicken accidentally ingests a larva, it will migrate through its gastrointestinal system and will produce and lay eggs in the trachea. If the eggs will be swallowed instead of coughing out, they pass through the feces, thus affecting the environment. The prepatent period (reproduction) of the eggs usually takes 17 to 20 days. If your chickens are stretching their necks while gaping (gasping) for air, they are likely to be infected with this disease. Other symptoms include coughing, excessive panting, hissing, and swelling of the throat and trachea, and pneumonia. Chickens showing these signs can be treated through deworming. Nevertheless, healthy chickens are likely to cope without treatment.
How To Prevent or Cure Gapeworm in Chickens
To help prevent gapeworm, treat the soil to eliminate slugs, snails, and earthworms that might be carrying the larvae. To help reduce the residual infection, you may want to till (plow) the soil inside the coop at the end of the growing season. If your chickens are in a confined area, rotating them will also help. Also, sanitize the area regularly, and make sure everyone has sufficient space.