One internal parasite that affects poultry is tapeworm.  Tapeworms are flattened, segmented, ribbon-like worms.  Tapeworms are caused when the bird ingests eggs found mostly in slugs and snails, but also other insects.  Their are few clear symptoms for tapeworm, as they have minimal impact on the birds.   Tapeworms are less common than Roundworms, yet they remain prevalent in backyard and free-range flocks.   Control of tapeworms is still important for the general health of your flock, as the presence of a heavy infestation of tapeworms can reduce the birds' immunity to other diseases.


Who:  All birds including:

  • Chickens
  • Ducks
  • Geese
  • Turkeys
  • Game Birds
  • Pigeons

Where:  Worldwide. 

When:  Young birds are more susceptible, however adult birds can also be affected. 

Why:  Ingestion of viable eggs which can be found  in the droppings of other infected birds, or by intermediate hosts such as slugs, snails and  insects (less common). 


  • Consumption of viable tapeworm eggs in droppings or by consumption of an intermediate host.  
  • Ingested tapeworm eggs mature inside the bird's small intestine, and attach themselves to the lining of the intestine.  
  • Slugs, snails and insects become infected by eating eggs in the bird droppings. 


  • The tapeworm life cycle is approximately 6 weeks, however it can vary due to the length of time the immature tapeworms are in the intermediate host.    
  • Immature tapeworms grow to maturity inside the small intestine of the bird. 
  • Tapeworms are segmented flat worms.   The mature worm attaches itself to the lining of the small intestine.   As it grows, segments can break off and then pass out through the feces.   These segments contain eggs  which can then be consumed by birds or an intermediate host.  
  • Tapeworms vary in size (usually 1/6" to 12" long).   Smaller worms can be difficult to see with the naked eye.
  • Different varieties of tapeworms prefer different hosts.    Laboratory identification of the species of tapeworm present may aid in identifying the likely host, and therefore allowing for targeted elimination of the intermediate host via pesticide.   A table indicating different species of tapeworms and their known intermediate hosts is available on page 223 of "The Poultry Health Handbook" available in PDF form at the following link:   http://pubs.cas.psu.edu/PubTitle.asp?varTitle=handbook%2C

        Common Symptoms:

        Other Symptoms:


Medicinal Treatments: 

  • There are no medicinal treatments known to be reliably effective, though experimental treatments are being researched.   According to MerckManuals.com"Butynorate in combination with piperazine and phenothiazine as a feed additive or individual tablets has shown some efficay.   Other promising experimental drugs include chlorophene and niclosamide.  None is approved in the USA."
  • Complete elimination of tapeworms is often not realistic due to the lack of a conclusively effective treatment, however with proper care and housing they can be managed to the point where they will have no noticeable effect on the bird's health. 


Vaccine:  No

  • Clean coop regularly to minimize intermediate host populations.  
  • Control intermediate hosts via pesticides.  
  • Keep young birds separate from older birds.
  • Keep birds on wire mesh floors where exposure to droppings and intermediate hosts can be minimized.


Affects:  Small intestines

Clinical Diagnosis:  Observation of tapeworm segments in the droppings is the most sure indication.  Larger visible worms vary in length between 1/6" and 12" and have flat segmented bodies.  

Duration of symptoms:  Ongoing unless the intermediate hosts can be controlled, and the heads of the tapeworms can be removed from the intestinal wall.   Complete elimination of tapeworms is often not realistic (see Medicinal Treatments). 

Morbidity:  High

Mortality: Very low, except in severe infestation

Transmission to people:  None known







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A righteous man cares about his animal's health...

Proverbs 12:10a