We started our chicken journey over four years ago now, but it seems like we're constantly being reminded of how much we DON'T know about them…and this time it was pumpkin seeds to the rescue!
Our latest hard-learned lesson was a very important one though: be proactive by giving your flock regular check-ups at home. Whenever possible, don't wait until you have a big problem to recognize it. Take steps toward prevention instead.
So we're doing just that. We've known that chickens (like all animals) are susceptible to worms and various internal parasites, especially when they free range outside, but it's often difficult to find an effective preventative solution that doesn't involve toxic chemicals. Needless to say, we were excited to learn about pumpkin seeds and their apparent ability to prevent intestinal parasites in animals. And being that it's pumpkin season, we're jumping in with both feet.
How Pumpkin Seeds Help Prevent Parasites
According to a scientific assessment of pumpkin and its possible medicinal applications,
Pumpkin seeds can be a nutritional source of iron and potassium. Phytosterols (eg, beta-sitosterol, stigmasterol), antioxidant tocopherols, antihelminthic (anti-parasitic) cucurbitin, squalene, and cardioprotective fatty acids have been isolated from the seeds and seed oil. The presence of squash inhibitors (serine protease inhibitors) is thought to confer a protective effect to the plant against pests and pathogens.
The cucurbitin is the key to worm prevention — it's an amino acid found in Cucurbita seeds (plants in the pumpkin family). Cucurbitin causes degenerative changes in the reproductive organs of parasitic flatworms called flukes. It's thought to have the same effect on other intestinal parasites as well, creating an inhospitable environment that prevents overpopulation.
As the saying goes, everything in moderation. Going overboard on anything is never a good idea. The main goal here is to provide a natural supplement that serves two purposes: nutrition and worm prevention. Chickens should never eat a diet with too much pumpkin, too much grain, too much anything. So throw a pumpkin or squash to your flock every now and again, and revel in the satisfaction of reaching another level of health protection and disease prevention.
We also rotate through crushed cloves of garlic and apple cider vinegar in the flock's water to avoid overloading them on any one particular treatment while still achieving the same prophylactic effect. When it's not pumpkin season, we sometimes grab a butternut squash from the grocery store or a bag of unsalted raw pumpkin seeds (like these from Lucky Vitamin) instead.