One of the most common illnesses that backyard chickens get is coccidiosis. It’s a silent killer, and if you aren’t careful, it could decimate a flock. To effectively treat coccidiosis, you need to start treatment right away. But what are the symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens? Today, you will learn everything you need to know about this infection and how to treat it.
What Is Coccidia?
Coccidiosis is a gastrointestinal disease caused by a parasitic protozoan. What is protozoan? Protozoa are single-celled organisms that latch themselves to the intestines of your chickens. The result is catastrophic if not caught in time.
How Do I Know If My Chickens Have Coccidiosis?
A chicken’s instinct is to hide its illnesses for as long as possible. They don’t show signs of weakness to prevent predators from picking them off. This tactic is excellent for self-preservation. But it makes it hard for owners to notice something wrong with their flock. And in parasitic infestations like this, a faster diagnosis is best. What are symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens? Here is a list of the most common symptoms in order of when you might notice them.
- Loss of appetite
- Ruffled and fluffed feathers
- Weight loss
- Bloody and watery diarrhea
- Pale comb and skin caused by anemia
- And stunted growth in young hens
If you notice any of these symptoms, one of your hens may have coccidiosis. And if one has it, it’s only a matter of time before your other hens catch it too.
How It’s Spread
So you have a hen that might have coccidiosis, and it has you scratching your head about how it happened. Figuring out how it’s spread could prevent future infections.
The most common way coccidiosis transmits is through other birds. If you have brought home new chickens within the last 30 days, your flock may have gotten it from them. We always recommend isolating new additions for at least 30 days. This is long enough to expose all diseases before they infect your entire flock.
Yet, isolating new hens may not always prevent infection. Coccidiosis can hitch a ride on your hands, clothes, and shoes. To avoid cross-contamination, you should tend to the existing flock before the isolated ones.
Another way coccidiosis spreads is by wildlife in the area. If there are many wild birds in your area, they could quickly spread this parasite to your flock.
Dirty Food And Water
The protozoa that cause coccidiosis love damp, warm areas. So, contaminated food and water dishes are a breeding ground for these organisms. If you aren’t cleaning the dishes daily, your chickens are at an increased risk of coccidiosis.
How Do You Treat Coccidia?
So, now that you know the symptoms of coccidiosis, let’s talk about treatment options. If you notice signs of coccidiosis, the first thing you should do is isolate the weakest hens. Then you will need to clean the coop and run well and start treating with medicine.
The best treatment for coccidiosis is a medicine called Amprolium. And the way this medication works is revolutionary. Scientists have figured out that protozoa need thiamine to reproduce. Amprolium blocks thiamine and, in turn, stops reproduction.
You can buy Amprolium over the counter at any feed store or online. Since it’s not an antibiotic, you don’t need a vet’s prescription to get it. And better yet, this medicine comes in either a liquid or powder that you mix into their water. So it’s easy to mix and give to your entire flock, which you will want to do. Since this parasite spreads so quickly, your whole flock likely has it without showing the symptoms.
Are Eggs And Meat Safe After Treatment?
According to the FDA, Amprolium is completely safe for laying hens and broilers. You don’t have to waste any eggs, and the meat is safe as well. So there aren’t any risks that come along with these medications.
We know what you’re thinking, this is great, but how long do I give it? Most chickens will need treatment for two weeks to get rid of coccidiosis completely. But the good news is that this medicine is added directly to the water, so you won’t have to treat each chicken individually. And there are two types of Amprolium you can get, with slightly different dosages.
For the 20% powder, you should add 1.5 teaspoons per gallon for the first 3-5 days. But for days 6-14, you should only add 1/3 teaspoon to a gallon of water. However, there is also a 9.6% liquid form. For the liquid, you will add two teaspoons per gallon for the first 3-5 days. And for days 6-14, you will drop it down to 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. As a word of caution, remember to change this water daily to prevent reinfection.
If your chickens have severe cases of coccidiosis, they might not be drinking well enough for this treatment to work. Instead, you should feed the first 3-5 days directly with a syringe while in isolation. To do this, you will mix the full dose of medicine with just a little bit of water; 2-3 teaspoons should be enough. This mixture is very concentrated and should be divided throughout the day. Every few hours, you should give your chicken a couple of drops until the syringe is gone. After these first few days, your chicken should feel much better, and you can start medicating the drinking water.
After Treatment Care
Once your hens have gone through the complete treatment, they will need a healthy dose of vitamins. Amprolium blocks thiamine, so you will need to give your chickens a healthy amount to make it up. A product like Rooster Booster Poultry Cell is excellent to boost your hen’s immunities and energy after going through coccidiosis. But don’t give it to your hens while medicating; otherwise, it will prevent it from working. These vitamins will have your hens replenished and ready for eggs in no time.
How Do You Control Coccidiosis In Chickens?
What are symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens is only one question you should ask. The bigger question is, how do you prevent your hens from getting this parasite ever again? Here are a few of the best ways to keep your hens healthy.
Most larger hatcheries vaccinate their day-old chicks before shipping them out. Some of them vaccinate against specific diseases, and a few even vaccinate for coccidiosis. Ask your provider what vaccinations the chicks have already. And if they haven’t gotten the coccidiosis vaccine yet, you can schedule one.
Coccidiosis attacks young hens and chicks the hardest. To prevent your chicks from getting sick and give them a few immunities, you should feed them medicated feed. Although, you should only give medicated feed to chicks that are not vaccinated. So if you breed your own chickens, this method might be ideal for you.
Keep The Area Clean
Water and puddles are the perfect breeding grounds for coccidia. You will want to keep the coop and run dry and clean. And you will also want to keep the food and water dishes clean. Washing them with hot soapy water daily will keep your chickens a little safer. Let’s not forget keeping the coop and run clear of feces. Doing all of this will prevent breeding grounds for the pesky parasites.
Isolate New Hens
Since coccidiosis commonly transfers from new hens in the flock, the best preventative is to isolate new ones. Most people will tell you the minimum isolation time is two weeks. But this isn’t enough time for most diseases to reveal themselves. Coccidiosis typically doesn’t start showing its symptoms until after three weeks after infection. If you integrate your new hens after only two weeks, you put your entire flock at risk. We always recommend waiting a minimum of 30 days.
Making a daily health check might not prevent disease, but it can get an earlier diagnosis. Checking that all of your hens are eating and active is the first step of a daily check. Keep track of who eats enthusiastically and who might be a little off their game. You should also check that all of the poop in the coop and run looks normal. You can tell a lot about how a chicken feels by its eating habits and feces alone.
Is Coccidiosis Contagious To Humans?
You might be wondering if you and your family are at risk if your flock has coccidiosis. But you have nothing to fear here. Coccidiosis is not transferable to humans from chickens. However, you should still be careful around sick chickens. You can carry the disease on your clothes and hands to infect other birds. If you have geese, ducks, turkey, or even indoor pet birds, they are all at risk.
What are symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens? The most common symptoms are bloody stools, lethargy, and weight loss. If you see any of these signs, you should start treatment right away. But don’t worry. With early diagnosis and treatments, your flock will be fine.
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