Coccidiosis in Chickens: Everything You Need to Know

If your chickens are acting sick or seem like something is wrong – chances are you are wondering what is going wrong. Coccidiosis in chickens is relatively common but can be a very serious problem. 

Anyone who keeps chickens should know about this disease before they start raising chickens. 

This article will teach you more about this disease, how to treat it, how it spreads, and what to do to minimize it spreading throughout your flock.

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What is Coccidiosis in Chickens?

Coccidiosis in chickens is a deadly, parasitic disease that is relatively common to find in flocks of chickens. This disease will affect chickens and other types of poultry through ingestion. This is a protozoal gastrointestinal (GI) disease that usually affects young chickens. 

The term coccidiosis refers to the single-celled organisms, or protozoa, that come from the genus Eimeria. There are nine different species of coccidia that can affect chickens differently. Each of the different species is unique. Exposure of this disease to one species will not provide protection to the other species.

Once this disease attaches itself to the chicken’s intestinal lining, it will destroy the organ’s ability to absorb nutrients that a chicken will need in order to survive. Coccidiosis will move fast and can infect many chickens. It can also kill a chicken.

It is important to note that you will not contract this disease from a chicken because it will not be passed onto other humans or animals. The only animals it will affect are other types of poultry.

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What Causes Coccidiosis in Chickens?

One single oocyst from coccidia can destroy and inflect thousands of a chicken’s intestinal cells. The spores can stay viable for months due to coccidia being shed in a chicken’s feces. Then once they are ingested by a different chicken, the life cycle of the disease will begin again. 

It is important that you know that this disease can be inevitable and is very common when raising poultry.

This disease does not always a sign of bad care of your flock. If your chickens are exposed to a higher amount of these oocysts, they will sometimes develop immunity towards that specific species of the disease.

What are the Signs and Symptoms of Coccidiosis in Chickens?

The signs and symptoms of coccidiosis will develop quickly. The incubation period of this disease will last 4 to 8 days. Sometimes you will notice the symptoms will develop gradually, other times they can appear rather suddenly. It will not be uncommon for one of your chickens to seem one day then either die or be acting very sick the next.

Typically, the most common symptom of coccidiosis will be mucus or blood in your chicken’s droppings. But, reddish-colored chicken feces is not always a sure indicator of coccidiosis. The fecal matter can also seem to be a brownish-red color because of the normal shedding of their cecal cells. To know for sure if the fecal matter is from a coccidiosis-infected chicken, have the matter tested by your veterinarian. 

Some of the other symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens will, but not always, include:

  • Failing to lay eggs, or laying the eggs inconsistently
  • Diarrhea
  • Decreased growth in younger chickens
  • Pale skin or comb
  • Weight loss in older chickens
  • Blood that is located near or at the vent site of the bird
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Decreased water and/or food consumption

You should be aware that not every chicken will show the same symptoms. Sometimes these symptoms will not be present at all in an affected chicken. If you are worried about any of these symptoms appearing in your chickens, be sure to contact a veterinarian so they can begin treatment as soon as possible when it is confirmed. 

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How Do You Treat Coccidiosis in Chickens?

Treating your flock when they get diagnosed with coccidiosis is fairly simple!  Be sure to get the droppings tested by a veterinarian and to follow up with them in order to get treatment. Soon enough your flock will be healthy again!

Amprolium for Chickens

The most common treatment for coccidiosis in chickens is to give them an over-the-counter medication prescribed by a veterinarian. This commonly prescribed medicine is called Amprolium or Corid.

All you have to do is put this medicine in your chicken’s water. It is safe for you to assume that if one chicken has coccidiosis, then the entire flock has been infected and can use the treatment.

If your chicken refuses to drink any water or eat – you can give this treatment directly to them by their beak. Make sure you contact your veterinarian about this scenario for correct instructions and dosage.

Most of the time the treatments will last for around 7 days. During this time you will need to do some deep cleaning. Make sure you thoroughly clean your entire coop and remove all of the droppings in the area. This ensures that the Coccidia does not survive and re-infect your flock. This disease can survive for a year in warm, humid environments and soil.

This disease can do quite a bit of damage to your chicken’s intestines. If they do come into contact often with this disease, your chickens will experience long-term side effects. This will lead to decreased egg production and a damaged digestive system that is unable to absorb nutrients well.

Antibiotics for Coccidiosis in Chickens

There are several different antibiotics that can be used to combat coccidiosis. You can use antimicrobials, including amoxicillin or tylosin, to control the secondary bacterial growth. 

Coccidiosis will damage the intestinal wall and this leaves the chicken at a higher risk for developing other infections. One example is necrotic enteritis which is deadly in chickens. 


How to Treat Coccidiosis in Chickens Naturally

If you prefer to treat your chickens naturally for coccidiosis, this is possible. One important step is to give them probiotics. These will help boost good levels of bacteria in order to combat the bad bacterial. It will also help to promote healthy digestive tract health in your flock.

There are several herbs and other natural substances that have been studied in chickens and believe to help with this disease. Some of these include:

  • Turmeric
  • Apple cider vinegar
  • Thyme
  • Cinnamon
  • Oregano
  • Garlic
  • Green Tea

The oils of cinnamon, oregano, turmeric, and thyme are being tested at many major poultry farms for use as a natural antibiotic for the treatment of coccidiosis. The green tea, apple cider vinegar, and garlic will work to promote a healthy immune system in your flock.

If you add green tea, cinnamon, garlic, and oregano to your chicken’s diet, it will contribute to better overall well-being in your chicks. You can also add garlic and apple cider vinegar to their water as well for some added benefits.

Ways to Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens

One of the best ways to contain an outbreak of coccidiosis in your chickens is to prevent one from ever occurring in the first place. Some of these measures will not 100% prevent your chickens from experiencing an outbreak – but they can help to ensure your flock will stay healthy.

Avoid Cross Contamination and Quarantine New Arrivals

One way to do this is to avoid wearing the same shoes or clothing, even using the same equipment and tools with your chickens that you have used on a neighboring chicken farm or other outdoor activities. If you already do this, it can cause the risk of exposing your flock to different strains of this disease. 

This means they will not have that built-up immunity they can have from their own flock. This also risks inflecting your fellow chicken farmer’s flock with strains of coccidiosis that will live on your farm. 

If you get new chickens for your flock, try to quarantine the new members for a brief time. Try to house them 12 yards or further away from your current chickens for 3 weeks or longer. This will allow you to be able to monitor the new chickens and their health. This will also help to prevent any diseases from being exposed to your current flock.

Change Waterers Frequently

Water is easily contaminated – so be sure that you are cleaning the waters that you provide for your chickens regularly. If you are able to, provide nipple waterers for poultry, rather than having open water areas. Baby chicks will instinctively take to these right away. Your older chickens will adapt easily to this change. 

This type of drinking will allow the water to be contained rather than open and will reduce the change of disease. Most commercial chicken farms exclusively use nipple waterers and have been for the past 25 years. 

Keep the Feeding Area Sanitary

Just like keeping the water clean, it is important to keep the feeding areas clean and dry as well. This will avoid the spread of many diseases, not just coccidiosis. Try to keep the food in elevated containers or hanging feeders rather than just throwing it on the group where it could be contaminated by disease. 

Clean the Coop

It is also important that you keep your flock’s brooding areas and coops dry and clean. Doing so will prevent the spread of coccidiosis and other diseases. The damp and soiled bedding will give the coccidiosis parasites an ideal environment to multiply more quickly. 

Remember, raising chickens in chicken tractors is another great option for you, too! 

Prevent Overcrowding

Be sure that your flock is not too overcrowded and that they have adequate amounts of space and ventilation. 

Make sure that each chicken has at least four square feet of space inside their coops, 6 square feet of flooring in the brooders for younger chicks, and 10 square feet in each of your chicken runs. Coccidiosis, and many other types of infections, will spread quickly if your area is overcrowded.

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Feed Medicated Feed

If your chicks are young and unvaccinated, they should be fed a type of medicated starter feed that will expose them to low levels of infection. This type of feed will always include at least one strain of coccidiosis. If your chicks have already been vaccinated, do not use this feed because it will leave your chicks unprotected due to the feed and vaccine canceling each other out. 

Introduce New Birds Gradually

When introducing new chicks to your flock, try to gradually introduce them by the time they are 4 weeks old. This will boost the chick’s natural immunity for different strains of coccidiosis. 

How Long Does it Take for a Chicken to Recover From Coccidiosis?

In most cases, a severe infection will last two weeks or less. However, it can take a few weeks past that for your chickens to return to their pre-infection productivity levels.

While coccidiosis is relatively common to see in a flock of chickens, it certainly can prove to be deadly. Make sure you know the signs and symptoms and make sure to give your chickens the best conditions to live in!  

Keeping things clean and taking preventative measures will go a long way when it comes to keeping your chickens productive and healthy for many years. 

The use of Amprolium is approved for laying hens by the FDA. This means that you will not have to withdraw any eggs from your chickens while they are receiving treatment. You can eat the eggs both during and after treatment for coccidiosis. 

If you are worried that this disease is affecting one or more of your chickens, be sure to contact a veterinarian. Take some fecal matter in for testing in order to confirm what you believe and they will begin treatment. 

With a bit of prevention and attention to detail, this is a disease that you can easily prevent and treat, if necessary, within your flock. Good luck!

Have you ever dealt with coccidiosis in chickens on your farm? Let us know your favorite tips and tricks in the comments!

Want to learn more about farming? Be sure to take a look at these other articles.

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Author: Anna B

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