As a poultry owner, it’s fundamental that you are able to understand and identify common diseases. This can be an incredibly useful tool in order to prevent and treat any outbreaks that you and your flock may experience throughout their lifetime. Avian intestinal coccidiosis is known for being a very common protozoal gastrointestinal parasite that typically affects younger chickens. Clinical signs of coccidiosis include bloody or mucus-like diarrhea, along with anemia, dehydration, listlessness, stunted growth, ruffled feathers and even death. Coccidiosis has also been commonly associated with a decline in overall egg production.
Chickens are capable of carrying up to nine different variations of coccidia, which makes it all the more important to identify and understand that clinical disease are dependent entirely on which variation of coccidia are present among your flock and in what quantities. It’s important to note that the presence of a small number of coccidial oocysts or eggs may not allow for a diagnosis of the disease.
These subtleties, variations and differences can often be difficult for poultry owners who just simply wish to know if their flock carries coccidia. Along with the overall difficulty of physically controlling coccidiosis where older chickens can shed coccidial oocysts within their feces and infect younger chicks, things can soon become very complicated.
In this article, we will be taking a look on how to identify, treat and prevent the likes of coccidiosis in your flock.
Diagnosis of coccidiosis in your flock.
Cat and dog owners will no doubt be familiar with detecting coccidia and other forms of intestinal parasites simply with an annual visit to our local veterinarian. Nevertheless, because coccidia, much like many other forms of GI infectious diseases, are intermittently shed into the feces, a negative fecal test may not necessary mean the animal is not infected. It’s important to check for other signs and symptoms that may equal to coccidiosis, such as:
- Diarrhea, blood or mucous in droppings.
- Pale skin colour.
- Listlessness, lethargy.
- Loss of appetite.
- Weight loss in older chickens.
Young birds or chicks failing to grow or develop.
The progression of coccidiosis symptoms can typically be gradual or rapidly which can often result in death, especially in chicks or young birds. Due to the overall potential for a false negative with fecal tests along with the potential of coccidial transmission to the remainder of your flock, birds which present clinical signs of coccidiosis are often euthanized in order to complete a thorough post-mortem examination. This post-mortem examination can allow for appropriate treatment in order to protect the remainder of your flock.
Treatment of coccidiosis in your flock.
If one or more of your chickens have been euthanized and diagnosed with a form of coccidia, it’s important to know what you should do from here. If your chickens share the same environment, it’s recommended to treat the remainder of your chickens with Amprolium in their drinking water for up to three to five days. Remember to always read the dosage instructions carefully or seek advice from your local poultry specialised veterinarian.
It is important to remember that there is no anti-coccidial that is effective against all strains of coccidia which means that over time, coccidia has the ability to become drug resistant.
Prevention of coccidiosis in your flock.
Disease prevention is no doubt far more desirable than treatment. There is an abundance of relatively simple prevention methods that you should utilise in order to reduce coccidia in your flock’s environment.
Prevention measures can include:
Control the levels of moisture within your chicken’s watering system. Using nipple drinkers to reduce water spillage onto litter for example.
If possible, periodically relocate your chickens around your yard or property. Any area that has been consistently covered with manure will soon become loaded with parasites, viruses and bacteria, just like coccidia.
Include anticoccidials (medicated feed) into your flock’s diet in order to prevent clinical infection.