FLOCK TIPS:Coccidiosis is a common and potentially devastating disease that can be a threat to your flock. As a bird owner, once you understand what causes coccidiosis and how it spreads, you can feel more confident about your ability to limit its impact on your flock.
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is caused by a microscopic parasite called coccidia that is transmitted via the droppings from infected birds. Essentially, anywhere there's a microscopic trace of bird poop – in a waterer, a feeder, or in bedding – there's almost certainly coccidian present.
Symptoms of coccidiosis include weight lose, paleness, ruffled feathers, depression, huddling, loss of appetite and watery or bloody diarrhea. All birds are at risk with this disease but growing birds and young adults ages 3 to 5 weeks old seem most susceptible.
Birds in relatively good health with strong immune systems are equipped to ward off coccidiosis, as long as they do not become stressed or overexposed to unsanitary conditions. A mild case may even pass unnoticed. Once a flock survives an outbreak, it will be immune to that particular coccidia organism (there are nine different species that can infect chickens, however, so the disease can rear its ugly head in a new form).
Each species of coccidia is "host-specific," which means the type of coccidia that could infect your turkeys is not the same type that could infect your chickens (or geese or quail, etc...) So coccidiosis cannot spread from a chicken to a goose – but it can spread like wildfire from chicken to chicken.
If left unchecked, coccidiosis invades the lining of the intestines causing tissue damage and interfering with nutrient absorption, which can be devastating to a flock.
In order to prevent a coccidiosis outbreak, practice responsible sanitation and litter management because coccidian thrives in damp, warm conditions, so wet litter around the waterer is a virtual parasite paradise.
If conditions are just right, coccidia can survive for up to four years outside a bird's body. These organisms can be transmitted via boots, equipment, insects and rodents, so to minimize the threat you're going to need a multi-tiered approach.
Medicated feeds containing a coccidiostat that controls the growth of coccidian in the digestive tract is one more important weapon bird owners can employ as part of the multi-tiered defense against coccidiosis.
Purina® Start & Grow® Medicated is formulated for layer chicks and can be fed until eight weeks of age to prevent coccidiosis. For broiler chicks and turkey poults, there's Purina® Flock Raiser® Medicated. Both of these feeds provide a complete and balanced diet for the birds they were designed for. No other supplemental feeds are necessary. When you consider that a strong immune system is a bird's best natural defense against coccidian and other diseases, investing in good nutrition from the get-go is a smart way to ensure the health of your flock.
Here are some helpful tips:
- Keep the premises as dry as possible. Coccidia love moisture.
- Never introduce new adult birds into your flock. Birds that appear healthy can be carriers of a number of deadly diseases. Quarantine them first.
- Raise chicks in isolation. Mature birds can pass along disease and parasites to vulnerable young birds.
- Thoroughly clean and disinfect the brooder between broods. This includes any equipment the chicks will come in contact with. Once the premises are dry, place four to six inches of dry, fresh litter material (wood shavings or a commercial absorbent litter material) on the floor.
- Provide clean water at all times. A typical problem is that brooder bedding or dust (containing feces) gets scratched into the water source. If possible, elevate the waterer slightly. Clean waterers relentlessly. If you wouldn't be willing to drink the water yourself, it's not clean enough. Never let the waterer run dry – it will force the birds to search for water in puddles, which are almost certainly contaminated.
- Provide clean bedding. Coccidia are spread through the feces of infected birds. If feces are in the bedding, they're on the birds' feathers. And if feces are on the featjers, the birds will ingest them while preening (using their beaks to clean themselves). Replace wet bedding around waterers and add bedding to any problem spots.
- Coccidia hate sunlight. It's a natural disinfectant. Incorporate as much natural sunlight into your brooder as possible.
- Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating. A commercial coccidiosis vaccine is available, but it's not beneficial for every flock. Consult your veterinarian before using the vaccine.
Remember, the threat comes from prolonged over-exposure to coccidian in a stressful, unsanitary environment that can overwhelm a bird's immune system.
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