What are Gapeworms?
excerpt from The
Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow
(This book is a
wonderful source of information and is well worth purchasing and having on
"The gapeworm buries its head in the lining of a bird's windpipe or
other part of the respiratory system, causing "the gapes" or
"gapes". Gapeworms get their name from the habit an infected bird has
of continually yawning or gasping for air. These worms, which are big enough to
be see without magnification, are also called "red worms" or
"forked worms" each blood-red female has a some what paler male
permanently attached, forming the letter Y.
Gapeworms can cause considerable losses in free-ranged flocks, particularly
those associated with adult turkeys. This parasite is especially serious in
young birds; older chickens become resistant.
An infected chicken coughs up worm eggs, swallows them and expels them in
droppings. The cycle is either direct or indirect, involving earthworms, slugs,
and snails. Eggs take up to 2 weeks to embryonate and may survive in soil for as
long as 4 1/2 years.
Symptoms of gapes are yawning, grunting, gasping, sneezing, coughing (sometimes
coughing up a detached worm), chocking, loss of energy, loss of appetite, weakness,
emaciation, closed eyes, head shaking frequent throwing of head forward with
mouth open to gasp for air, and convulsive shaking of the head( to dislodge
worms from the windpipe). Gapeworms multiply rapidly, eventually suffocating the
Infected small flocks are treated with either thiabendazole or levamisole.