Coccidiosis is one of the least understood of all Avian Diseases.
The key to controlling Coccidiosis is to be on a control program that will keep the disease under control , yet allow sufficient natural immunity to develop. Because the oocysts that cause Coccidiosis are present everywhere , it is virtually impossible to be free of this disease.
Coccidiosis is caused by a Protozoan which is a single celled animal. When the Protozoa multiply in the birds intestine , infection takes place causing intestinal damage. Cells that line the intestine that are used for digestion and conversion of feed into Amino Acids and other nutrients are destroyed by the protozoans and do cause severe damage to the Intestinal lining and therefore make it difficult for the bird to absorb the necessary nutrients to nourish its body.
There are at least nine species of Coccidia known to infect chickens. Every animal is affected by some species of Coccidia. All species of Coccidia are host specific, this means that Coccidia that are capable of infecting chickens will not infect turkeys and vice versa.
Five of the nine species of Coccidia that infect Chickens can be very aggressive and cause permanent intestinal damage if not properly controlled. Each of these species resides in a particular section of the intestines.
Emeria acervulina resides in the upper part of the small intestine and is usually found in birds that are eight weeks of age and older.
Emeria necatrix usually found in the middle areas of the small intestine and is usually responsible for the intestinal bleeding often seen with coccidiosis and it usually attacks young birds.
Emeria tenella resides in the cecal tonsil or blind pouches of the intestine and usually causes what is called cecal bloody coccidiosis and is usually found in birds that are between five to eight weeks of age.
Emeria brunetti does its damage in the in the lower small intestine and the Cloaca or rectum of the bird.
Emeria maxima causes intestinal damage in the middle to lower portions of the small intestine.
Coccidiosis is spread by contaminated feed and droppings from infected birds.
The infectious oocysts that cause coccidiosis can be carried by man, litter, contaminated equipment and free flying birds.
The main source of infection is the chicken itself. Birds that are infected with coccidiosis will pass great numbers of infectious oocysts in their droppings.
Even a bird that has recovered from a coccidiosis outbreak will remain infectious as they are never really free of the disease.
The oocysts are capable under the right conditions of surviving in the soil for periods of one year or longer. The oocysts that cause coccidiosis thrive in wet surroundings and are easier to control if litter and or the ground is in a drier condition.
It takes approximately four to seven days for an infection to take place in the intestines. It takes constant re-exposure to the infectious oocysts in order for immunity to coccidiosis to develop.
Immunity is not permanent nor is it guaranteed for the life of the bird. Immunity depends on constant re-exposure to the infectious oocysts , if re-exposure is not accomplished then immunity will be lost.
There is no cross immunity among the different species of coccidia. This means that in order for birds to develop immunity to all nine species of coccidia they would have to be exposed to sufficient numbers of oocysts from all nine species.
They would then have to be constantly re-exposed to all nine species of cocci in order for immunity to be maintained. The severity of a cocci outbreak will depend upon the numbers of oocysts that are ingested by the birds and their overall health and conditioning.
I use cider vinegar in the water from day old and very rarely get problems as this lowers the ph of the gut to an extent that the protozoan cannot live in it.
Now this might be laughed at by a lot of people that think that chemicals have the answer to this problem, but I can honestly say, hand on heart that Cider vinegar works. Giving it from day old it will have time to work it’s way into the chicks system before an infection is picked up.
One of the first rules of poultry keeping is do not bring in new birds and mix them with your existing flock. Many do and within a few days birds start looking ’slow’, that is, not moving around as much as a fit and healthy bird does. Introducing new birds puts stress on each and everyone of them and stress triggers all sorts of problems.
? Put waterers and feeders at a height level with the backs of the birds, so they cannot defecate or scratch litter into them.
? Clean the pens and remove infected droppings.
? Prevent the access of infected droppings to the non-infected birds.
? Keep older birds away from chicks, since old birds are carriers.
? Avoid moisture and humidity in litters.
? Keep the litter dry by frequent turning of litter to reduce the sporulation of the oocysts.
? Avoid over-crowding in the house.
These horid little buggers live by sucking blood under the cover of darkness. They live in any nooks,cracks or crevaces of a poultry coop.
They are only a major problem if you allow them to get out of control.
Look very carefully at least once a week in daylight. Run you fingers under the perches and if they come out covered red (blood) you have problems. Keep an eye out for ash like dust at the end of perches and treat at once, whatever you do don’t hope they will go away, they will not.
I treat my coops with creosote, but you can use red diesel or parrafin it has the same effect.