Coccidiosis

By Mark Hobbs

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Coccidiosis is one of the major killers of young chicks. It is caused by the Eimeria protozoa, of which there are nine types. In its most basic life cycle, the Eimeria egg is pooped out by a chicken, become infective and are eaten again when chickens peck at the ground. The eggs are destroyed by high heat above 54 C or below freezing but become infective when warm (between 21 and 32 C) and moist. Most adult chickens carry the protozoa but have built up immunity.

Many Chick feeds are medicated with a Coccidiostat, normally ACS. This product works by allowing a trickle infection to occur, giving chicks time to develop immunity as they grow.

For those poultry keepers that wish to be Organic then medicated chick crumb is not acceptable. However, being organic does not stop medication being administered when it is required and for that, a coccidiocide can be used.  There are several on the market but avian veterinarian  advice should be sought.

Chicken health is a daily check. Know your flock, watch for abnormalities in body and behaviour. Act as soon as anything is suspected.

Symptoms and signs of Coccidiosis.

  • Hunched up and inactive, ruffled feathers.
  • Off colour or bloody droppings
  • Eating less
  • Drinking less.
  • Dehydration
  • Slow growth
  • severe diarrhoea
  • Numerous deaths
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Prevention is better than a cure. Good hygiene is good protection.

Here are some easy and common sense ways to protect young chickens from being infected.

  • Suspend or raise drinkers and feeders high enough to prevent contamination from faeces and bedding.
  • Ensure feeders and drinkers are cleaned as often as necessary of faeces and bedding.
  • Prevent build up of droppings around feeders and drinkers by moving them regularly.
  • Stop chicks roosting on top of feeders and drinkers.
  • Keep bedding dry and fresh, removing any packed and damp bedding and replacing with fresh.
  • Ensure brooder is ventilated well to eliminate moisture.
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