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Treating and Preventing Coccidiosis in Chickens

Coccidiosis is a common, and sometimes deadly, parasitic disease that affects chicken and poultry through ingestion. The parasites enter a chicken's system when chickens eat food or drink water that has been contaminated with infected soil or feces from other infected birds. An infected bird can spread the disease for days before any symptoms occur, so if you have one infected bird, it's a good idea to go ahead and treat your whole flock to help prevent reinfections.

Coccidiosis occurs more often in the spring and summer when the soil is warm and moist giving the parasites ideal conditions to survive until they can find a host. Young birds are more susceptible than older birds, and if a bird has been infected and cured, it should be immune to future infections from the same strain of coccidia.

Since chicks are more commonly infected, it's a good idea to feed them a medicated starter feed designed to protect against parasites. Most feeds are designed to boost the immune system, so in order for them to work, chicks should be allowed to forage for at least part of the day outdoors in order to get exposure to the parasites in the soil. Keep in mind that medicated starter feeds are not a cure for coccidiosis, but rather a way to build up immunity.

Symptoms of coccidiosis include:

  • Birds that look dirty or unkempt
  • Inactivity or weakness
  • Pale combs or skin
  • Lack of appetite
  • Bloody or yellow foamy droppings in severe cases

The good news is that treatment will work quickly if started at the first signs of an infection. There are several medications to choose from, but the most common drug in treating poultry in backyard settings is amprolium — sold under the brand name Corid. It can be mixed in the water and is used for 3-5 days for successful treatment. Corid comes in liquid or powder form. Either way, it should be mixed with the chickens' drinking water to work into their system effectively.

It's impossible to keep your chickens from coming into contact with some form of coccidian parasite, but keeping the chickens' water and food clean, as well as making sure bedding in your coop is fresh, will greatly cut down on their exposure and allow them naturally to build up their immunity to this common disease.