Saturday, April 20, 2013

Coccidiosis in Backyard Chickens-Symptoms,Treatment and Prevention

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by Melissa Caughey of Tilly's Nest

Spring is a time for wet weather including muddy runs, puddles and wet chicken coop bedding, creating a wet and damp living environment for our backyard flocks.  Adult chickens are not the only ones subjected to these conditions.  Chicks too can make a wet mess in their brooder, mimicking these outdoor conditions. One such parasite that thrives in these conditions is Coccidiosis.

Coccidiosis ( käk-si-dē-ō-ses) is a parasitic disease. Not only do these parasites live inside the chicken's body but they also can survive in wet moist conditions outside of the body. Chickens that appear healthy shed the parasites in their stools. Unfortunately, with just the right conditions, these parasites can quickly multiply.   Chickens can infect themselves through their daily activities of scavenging, ingesting tainted foods and drinking from contaminated water sources.  Infected chickens show signs of infection after 3 days.  Typically, by the fourth day, the chicken will die, usually due to blood loss.

Our Buff Orpington hen, Oyster Cracker- happy and healthy
Symptoms include:
  • Droopiness
  • Not eating
  • Bloody stools (look like tar)
  • Flock huddling together
If you suspect Coccidiosis, the entire flock must be treated. Quarantining one flock member is not necessary. You should assume that every chicken in your flock is infected to some degree or stage of the infectious process.  There are several medications on the market that can be purchased on the internet and at your local feed store. A visit to your avian vet can also confirm the diagnosis as well as provide medication.  Amprolium is a medication that treats Coccidiosis and is safe for use in egg-laying hens. Please read the package insert carefully for proper administration.

Keeping shavings clean and dry, not only keeps Coccidiosis at bay but also helps keep eggs clean.
Steps to Deter Coccidiosis
  • Vaccinate your chicks against Coccidiosis.  If you do not vaccinate your chicks, then feed them a medicated chick feed.
  • Try adding supplements to their diet to help boost their immune systems. (probiotics, vitamins and electrolytes and apple cider vinegar to their water) Mix in 2 % food grade diatomaceous earth to their feed.
  • Wash out your waterers on a regular basis with white vinegar.   Keep them clean and your water free from debris.
  • Clean out the coop regularly and add extra pine shavings to help with moisture. Dropping trays in the coop can be helpful.
  • Replace wet bedding in the coop or brooder.  Use absorbent bedding such as pine shavings vs. straw.
  • Quarantine any new chickens you are adding to your flock for at least a few weeks.
  • Do not crowd too many chickens into too little space.
  • Keep puddles of water from developing in your run. Try using sand in your run or adding a layer of pine shavings to wet areas.
  • Seek treatment at the first sign of a sick bird. Keep an observant eye on your flock every day.
More reading material:
Merck Manual
Coccidiosis in Chickens
Biological Control of Coccidiosis in Small Poultry Flocks
Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens--with diet

For more information on keeping your chickens healthy, I invite you to subscribe to my website where I have complied a library of information on chicken health issues and care.

Adding shavings to the run helps to keep the area dry.

Photo Credits:  Tilly's Nest


  1. One of my hens keeps "gagging". What causes this? should I remove her from the rest? Help!!

    1. It is nearly impossible to diagnoses chickens unseen over the internet, however, with that said, have you considered gape worm as being the cause?

  2. Melissa, thanks for the overview of coccidiosis. My enclosed run always got pretty muddy in springtime, so last year I added several bags of "play sand" . Now the run dries out quickly, it's much easier to clean, and the gals enjoy dust bathing it it too. What a relief.

    1. This is such wonderful news. Thank you so very much for sharing your experiences with us Lauren. Always nice to know what works for fellow chicken keepers :)

  3. I have 16 3 1/2 week old chicks and they were vaccinated against coccidiosis at Murray McMurray before they were shipped to me. I am not feeding them medicated food. Everything has been going great and then this morning I went to check on them and there was lots of blood in the shavings (like a few tablespoons splattered around...) I noticed one of the Speckled Sussex chicks was lethargic so I picked her up. She was pretty limp. When I put her back down, some blood came out of her vent, so I separated her from the flock. She died an hour later. Now I see that someone else has bloody stools, but I can't figure out who. Could this be coccidiosis??? Thanks for any advice you can give me!

    1. Sounds like it certainly could be. At this point, I would definitely call the hatchery to confirm that they were indeed vaccinated. Do a deep cleaning of the brooder and based on what they recommend-you might need to start them on medicated chick feed. It does sound like Coccidiosis could be a possibility.

  4. You need sulmet or another medication if the bird's have coccidiosis and are bleeding...! The feed now won't do much of anything after they already have coccidiosis......!
    I believe the other medication is corid...
    Follow directions on bottle....!

  5. Corid is the brand name for Amprolium. Sulfadimethoxine 12.5% is also effective in treating coccidiosis. Any major veterinary pharmaceutical supplier will have both these medicine. They are available without a prescription.


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