Re-printed with written permission of author and
consideration as to copyright - Elite Poultry extends its
thanks for this contribution to the site
By Yvonne from Poultry on the Gwydir
After talking to a few people I have noticed that
some people have little understanding of Coccidiosis and being host specific.
Host specific means that the Cocci that cattle
get will not infect chickens, turkeys, geese, dogs, or any other animal. It will
only make cattle sick.
The Coccidia that
chickens get will only affect chickens and no other animal.
All animals carry coccidiosis that is specific
to there species only.
Coccidia is a pathogen,
a parasitic egg.
Infections enter the chicken
through infected faeces which could be as simple as the chickens that came over
the fence into your yard from your neighbour.
Some Oocysts take four to seven days to
complete there cycle others two days in the right conditions.
Your chickens will eat the Oocyst and under
the right conditions heat, humidity and moisture on the ground, the Oocyst
sporulate and become infective. When testing for coccidiosis in any animal
several faecal floats are done. You will not always see Oocysts on the first
float so usually three are done.
not always shedding the Oocysts. Healthy livestock as well as sick livestock
carry Oocysts. The only differences are that the healthy livestock have
gradually built up an immunity to the Coccidia and the sick ones have either not
had the opportunity to build up the immunity needed or there have just been too
many stress factors in there life in too short a time span for them to cope.
With faecal floats they are rarely clear when
you test. Maybe the first one was but the 2nd or 3rd floats won’t be clear.
The Oocysts will either be sporulated or
unsporulated and that is the difference between healthy and sick chickens.
It is only when Oocysts sporulate, or cell
division inside the Oocyst happens, and the outer lining of the Oocyst breaks,
ruptures and releases its contents onto the ground and eaten then passes into
the intestine or gut that the chickens gets sick.
The easiest way to explain sporulation is
imagine a clear egg with two linings, an inner lining and an outer lining which
is the outside. Like chicken eggs with the shell as the outer lining and the
membrane as the inner lining. In that egg you have four smaller eggs (sporocyst)
and in those eggs are two even smaller eggs
When the infected Oocyst is
eaten by the chicken and its cycle has happened meaning the sporozoites have
escaped from the Oocyst or clear egg with two linings and multiplies many times.
There may be several generations of asexual
multiplications but it is self limiting and will stop.
Then the sexual stage happens in which the
male and female cells join and form new Oocysts that are once again protected by
the two linings on there outer shell.
happens on the ground. This is when the infected Oocyst is eaten. This is when
the cycle will continue and other chickens get sick.
If the Oocyst dose not sporulate then all will
co exist without major problems. In a stressed animal after sporulation happens
and the animal gets sick you will notice many different
Signs for chickens could be just be
standing in the corner on there own slightly fluffed feathers, or you may just
find the chicken dead.
One of the most common
signs is watery, runny, bloody droppings.
Stress factors may be the weather, strange
constant noise or anything that the chickens are not used to.
This is when you need to isolate the sick
chicken from the rest.
Treat all chickens with
Baycox or your choice of Coccidiocides which kills the protozoa.
Follow the instructions on the bottle or what
your Avian Vet has told you to do.
chicken that has bloody watery droppings needs special attention. This one is
going to need a heat source to keep it warm and probably antibiotics to prevent
secondary infections like pneumonia.
It is not
always the Coccidia that kills the chicken in all cases; it could be a secondary
infection that the chicken has picked up due to being unwell with coccidiosis.
This sick bird is also going to need extra
fluids to help get it through and this is where Electrolytes are crucial. They
will help to rest the gut and intestines, and will also give the extra energy
needed while the chicken is sick.
laundry or spare bedroom a carry cage or cardboard box with soft bedding, wood
shavings and the old hot water bottle wrapped well so as to not burn the chicken
Remember only use Baycox when
needed. Don’t just give it to the chickens because you think they might have
Once all this is done stand in front
of a mirror and look at yourself. Have a good long hard look.
Ask yourself this question = “Why did my
chickens get Coccidiosis?”
Just in case you
don’t know I will share the secret with you.
am being blunt here.
It is your fault. You
caused it in some way.
You may either have
your chickens overcrowded, or maybe haven’t cleaned the pen for a while, or is
it that leaking roof or maybe that drafty housing and they couldn’t get out of
the draft. Or even that muddy ground around the water dish. Maybe it was brought
in from someone else’s chicken yard under your shoes, or you haven't controlled
the vermin and they carried it in.
do everything that is in your power for your chickens, illness will continue to
In most cases you will have done
something to cause illness in your chickens.
Transporting chickens can cause
coccidiosis. Remember they always carry it and if the birds have had poor
nutrition and being penned to be transported and have an out break of
coccidiosis you can’t blame the person on the other end entirely for them having
coccidiosis when you get the birds. Yes if Baycox was given it would have
helped, but the travel stress was the main contributing factor with the chickens
I am sure you can see what I am
The best way to control
Coccidiosis is Good Husbandry Technique’s.
Young chickens being kept in clean dry
Good feeding practices, let your
chickens build up a natural immunity over time say by feeding medicated feed.
The Coccidiostat found in feed has a
depressant effect on the early, (first stage) of the Schizonts and this is how
it is used to control. Or use Amprolium or vaccination.
Good management and good sanitation by
cleaning all food and water dishes of faeces regularly all help.
Also control of vermin, as they can also
spread the chicken Coccidia on their feet and fur.
There are eleven species of Coccidia in chickens, these are a few of
the worst ones:-
Eimera acervulina, Eimeria maxima –
Both these species develop in the
tissue that protects the organs in the upper part of the small
Eimeria tenella (most
destructive of all) -
This one develops in
the cells of the cecca which are two blind sacs near the end of the intestine.
It is one of the most
Develops in the small intestine
in the early stage and later in the cecum at the sexual stage. Like E. tenella
it develops in the deeper tissue of the small
Eimeria mitis, Eimeria brunetti,
Eimeria praeco -
The Coccidiosis Oocyst are resistant in the
environment, climate extremes and disinfectants and will survive in the soil for
weeks unsporulated and up to 600 days once sporulated if protected from the
But it will only survive in deep
litter for a few days due to heat caused by ammonia and fermentation.
Oocysts are destroyed by below freezing and
extremely high temperatures.
I hope this is
some help in understanding the pathogen a little more.