If your chickens start acting ill, your mind might start racing with all the things that could be going wrong.
A very common killer in chickens is coccidiosis, and it’s fairly easy to identify and treat if you know how to catch it quickly.
Read on to learn everything you need to know about coccidiosis in chickens.
What Is Coccidiosis In Chickens?
According to the Merck Manual of Veterinary Medicine, “Coccidiosis is caused by protozoa of the phylum Apicomplexa, family Eimeriidae.”
To simplify it, coccidiosis is a parasite that attacks the intestines of poultry (and many other species as well).
Coccidiosis is passed from one chicken to another through infected droppings. And once the organism attaches itself to the intestinal lining it destroys the organs’ ability to absorb the nutrition the chicken needs in order to survive.
Coccidiosis moves fast and can kill a chicken but don’t worry, it would be quite rare for it to be passed to humans or other animals unless they are poultry.
All chickens carry strains of coccidiosis but not all will actually become infected. In fact, conditions have to be perfect for coccidiosis to survive and progress through its life-cycle.
The parasitic protozoa starts as a teeny tiny egg, and from the droppings of one chicken to another through digestion, it enters the intestine and starts wreaking havoc.
Coccidiosis Signs and Symptoms in Chickens
One of the first signs of coccidiosis is blood in your chickens’ droppings. However, don’t panic because chickens commonly have bloody poo from passing large eggs as well.
With that being said, you should keep a close watch for the following symptoms and act quickly:
- Huddling (cold)
- Pale combs and skin around eyes
- Loss of appetite
- No longer laying eggs
- Weight Loss
- Ruffled feathers
All of these symptoms can be indicative of other illnesses, and the only way you can be sure your chicken does have coccidiosis is to take a fecal sample to the vet for testing. Your vet will also prescribe treatment for you to begin immediately.
Treatment of Coccidiosis (Act Fast!)
Luckily, with the correct treatment, coccidiosis can be cured and your flock will be healthy once again!
The most commonly prescribed treatment is Amprolium (an over-the-counter medication), and all you have to do is add it to your chickens’ water. And yes, if one is infected, it’s a safe assumption that all your feathered friends need treatment.
If you have a chicken that refuses to eat or drink, Amprolium can be given by mouth…beak. But ask your vet about dosage instructions in this scenario.
You’ll treat your chickens for about 7 days and while doing so, you’ll need to clean house. Literally, clean the entire coop. Remove all droppings, and do a thorough deep-clean of the entire coop. Coccidia can survive for up to a year in soil and warm, humid, environments.
If you’re unsure that you’ve been able to remove all traces of the coccidia protozoa, consider giving your chickens Amprolium on a regular basis for a year (but always ask your vet first).
Coccidiosis can do a lot of damage to your chicken’s intestines, and if they contract the parasite often, they may experience long-term side-effects, including decreased egg production. Remember, a damaged digestive system does not absorb nutrients effectively.
Prevention is The Key
When it comes to chicken illnesses, diseases, and parasites, prevention is always the best way to combat whatever comes your way. It’s better to be preventative rather than dealing with the stress of being reactive to a problem once it shows up.
So, how do you prevent coccidiosis in chickens? Let’s dig into the details so you can keep your flock happy and healthy…and have plenty of eggs!
Practice Good Housekeeping
A clean coop is number one on this list because excessive dropping may promote the spread of disease in general. Keep it tidy and clean and your chickens will be happy, and the parasites not-so-much!
So Fresh So Clean…Water
Let’s face it, chickens poop is in their waterers all the time…sometimes to our bewilderment. You gotta wonder how they get it in there sometimes.
Infected droppings in drinking water means infected water. So change it regularly and clean waterers often. If your looking for a good waterer solution see our product suggestion below.
Provide Plenty of Elbow Room
Broiler chickens are often victims of coccidiosis due to the fact that they are often kept in large quantities in small spaces.
If your coop is overcrowded, coccidiosis may spread so fast you won’t even know what happened.
Medicated Chick Starter Feeds
When you bring new babies into the world, whether it’s from a hatchery or your own broody hen, feeding commercially medicated starter crumble will help them gain immunity to coccidiosis.
Vaccinate Your New Chicks
If you have the option to vaccinate your chicks against coccidiosis, you can save yourself some worry. Plus, they won’t need the medicated feed.
Quarantine New Birds
When bringing new chickens into your flock, keep them separate from the rest of your chickens for at least 30 days. Watch for symptoms, and once you’re sure it’s safe, you can introduce the new flock members.
Feed Chicken Feed in Feeders
Never throw crumble or food on bedding in coops because if there is coccidiosis present, your chickens can easily ingest it by accident.
If you can stay on top of prevention, you should have very little to worry about. But if your coop comes down with coccidiosis, as long as you act fast, you can kick it in the chicken butt and get back to normal before you know it.