10 Ways to Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens


    Coccidiosis in chickens can be fatal if untreated and is often noticed only when chicks die.  Coccidiosis (Eimeria tenella) is a protozoal parasite that is the primary cause of death of chicks all over the world.  It is present in every poultry yard, concentrated in the feces of adult chickens.  

    Coccidiosis is spread by ingestion of the Lavender Orpington Chick in a Painted ChickenTractorCredit: Skeffling Lavender Farmcoccidiosis oocystes in the droppings of infested birds.  The oocystes mature before infecting other chickens and can to stay alive inside a chicken coop for over a year. Your poultry will always come into contact with cocci.  It is the quantity and the rate of exposure that you can control.  Young birds that are gradually exposed to these oocystes can generally compensate and show no signs of infection.  When a bird is overloaded with oocysts in a short period of time, the trouble begins and permanent damage or death can result.

    By being aware with good management to prevent coccidiosis, you can save a lot of heartache with your back yard flock.   We have had 2 outbreaks of coccidiosis in our chickens and have learned a lot about how to prevent and treat coccidiosis.  Many of these suggestions are common sense, many were suggested by veterinarians and the rest are from experience.

      10 Ways to Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens

      1. Have a broody hen hatch the chicks rather than an incubator.  For some reason, even on un-medicated feed, having the broody hen hatch and brood the chicks they don't seem to succumb to coccidiosis.  This is despite being gradually exposed to the mothers feces and oocysts from day one.

      2. Never house incubator hatched chicks under 12 weeks in the same coop with your adult birds or where they have been.  This can give the chicks a sudden high dose of coccidiosis oocysts that is harder for the young to overcome. 

      3. If you are short of space and must brood chicks where adults have been, thoroughly clean and bleach all surfaces in the coop.  Seal wood by painting it inside and out.  Coccidiosis lives in damp wood and can be harbored for years in unpainted wood.  If you routinely clean, bleach, and paint all wooden surfaces, it is less likely there will be an outbreak.  If there is a problem, it is easier to clean afterwards too, and you are protecting the wood from rot.

      4. Keep the brooder clean and dry.  Raising waterers so chicks don't spill or tip water out or poop or get wood shavings in them is an important and simple step.  If you make a few steps up that the chicks can hop up to reach, there will be less mess.  Cocci soaks into wood and wet bedding where waters leak and spill.

      5. Avoid overcrowding in brooders and coops.  Less feces is ingested, general health is better, so birds are better able to deal with the odd exposure.  Rotate chickens on to different areas of your land each season ,if possible, to cut down on parasite load of soil and birds.

      6. Change the chickens' water at least once a day and do not tip it onto the bedding.  By changing the water regularly, there is less time for the coccidiosis to infect other birds drinking at the same waterer.

      7. Coccidiosis vaccination is a great idea anytime, but often it's only an option if buying  hatchery chicks.  If you get them immunized for coccidiosis, you can give non-medicated starter feed.  The reason it is only an option for hatcheries is coccidiosis vaccine is a spray that comes in bulk.  It is expensive for back-yarders to vaccinate a small number of birds. 

      8. Give medicated feed which has added Amprolium.  It will take some of the worry away.  For many natural chicken keepers, this is the only concession they make and only medication they give.  Don't give medicated feed if the chicks have been vaccinated for coccidosis.

      9. You can put preventative coccidostat medicine in the water, Sulmet or Amprol.  Some do this and still feed medicated chick starter.  In a hot, damp, bad-coccidiosis year, chicks can still get coccidiosis while eating medicated food when the amprolium level is not high enough.

      10. Keep your chicks and young birds out of the rain and wet weather, if you are having a cold or wet spell.  Having young birds 4-5 weeks old out in the rain on muddy ground where adults have been, is a recipe for coccidiosis.  Keep them in on the wettest days especially if you have had a coccidiosis outbreak before.

      You can Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens

      Once you have experienced treating coccidiosis in chickens and lost chicks, you never want another.  The worry and upset are something you can avoid.  Any way you can prevent further losses is worth trying.  Recognizing symptoms and acting quickly is the key at first, then prevention in the future is the way to go.