Flock Health


I recently had a customer who had purchased a small flock (around 6) of chicks, and was concerned over the risk of coccidiosis:  “Now that the new birds are settled, I just want to ask you about vaccinations or medication for coccidiosis. Is there anything I need to do to protect them at this point?”

I actually do not recommend that you do anything for coccidiosis.  The vaccinations for it are only available in commercial sizes. They are a live virus (protozoan) vaccination. Which means, if you birds ever become symptomatic and are chemically treated, you render the vaccination ineffective.

Coccidiosis infection most often occurs from overcrowding and poor conditions in the brooding house.  (Commercial growers use coccidiostats frequently, because they are crowding birds and turning over flocks without changing bedding. (Economic reasons.).  If you keep the litter in your birds brooder clean and dry, the protozoan will never be able to establish itself.

Incidentally, low to moderate exposure can be a good thing.  (It’s why we have chosen to raise birds on litter instead of wire. (believe me, wire would be far cheaper.) When birds are exposed at low levels, they will develop a natural immunity to the protozoan, and be far less prone to becoming overwhelmed with infection in later years.  Bottom line, since you are only raising a few birds, just keep their litter clean and you should have no problems.

So, how would you recognize an infection?  If you see more than one bird start looking less happy than the others, start paying particular attention to their behaviors.  Classic symptoms include looking like they have a short neck (holding their head close to their body.) They will start to look unkempt.  You may also see some bloody stool.  It that is the case, immediately clean out the litter.  If you have the ability, move their coop to fresh land. High temps, extreme dryness and freezing cold can kill the protozoan.  But since it is transmitted by the fecal oral route, the key is to remove the fecal.  Get them away from the bugs and they can’t propagate.  For birds already under stress, I would recommend getting some medicated feed, or a coccidiostat from the feed store. Killing what they’re carrying, plus removing the infective agent (dirty litter) will most assuredly break the cycle.


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