Coccidiosis in chickens can be a potentially life-threatening illness in your backyard flock. Chicks are particularly susceptible to coccidia, but chickens of any age can become ill.
What is Coccidiosis?
Coccidiosis is caused by a tiny protozoan parasite called coccidia. Coccidia can only be seen with a microscope, but are bigger than bacteria. They can be found naturally in the environment and there are hundreds of different types of coccidia and each one infects a different species of animal. Chickens have 7 different coccidia species that can infect them.
Coccidia causes illness in chickens by attacking the intestinal lining, causing diarrhea (sometimes bloody, but not always) which then leads to dehydration and malnutrition, and eventually death if not caught and treated immediately. In some cases, the damage to the intestinal lining can be permanent and the bird may not grow or maintain body weight. Since a chick must eat a coccidia cyst to be infected, it takes a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks for a chick to begin showing symptoms. General lack of vigor or inactivity is usually the first sign, followed by loose, watery stools
Good brooder hygiene is the best way to prevent an outbreak of coccidia in your chicks. Keep the litter in your brooder dry at all times. Replace the litter if it becomes saturated. Since newly hatched chicks must be kept at a warmer temperature, the brooder is potentially the perfect environment to allow coccidia to explode in population and quickly infect your chicks.
Many chicken keepers prefer to use medications to help prevent a coccidiosis outbreak in their chicks. The medication amprolium is most commonly used to help prevent an outbreak. It can be found as an additive in medicated chick starter and also as a liquid medication called Corid to be added to the drinking water.
If your chicks show signs of coccidiosis, you want to treat them immediately. To help reduce the coccidia population and limit the exposure to your chicks, do a complete change of bedding. Also, empty and disinfect all drinkers and feeders with a 10% bleach in water solution before beginning the treatment with Corid. Treat the entire group of chicks by adding the Corid to their drinking water according to label directions.