Coccidiosis Disease in Poultry: Symptoms and Prevention

Coccidiosis Disease is a parasitic disease of the intestinal tract of animals caused by coccidian protozoa. The disease spreads from one animal to another by contact with infected feces or ingestion of infected tissue.

Diarrhea, which may become bloody in severe cases, is the primary symptom. Most animals infected with coccidia are asymptomatic, but young or immunocompromised animals may suffer severe symptoms and death.

While coccidia can infect a wide variety of animals, including humans, birds, and livestock, they are usually species-specific. One well-known exception is toxoplasmosis caused by Toxoplasma gondii.

Coccidiosis in chickens can be a potentially life-threatening illness in your backyard flock. Chicks are particularly susceptible to coccidia, but chickens of any age can become ill.

Coccidiosis disease affects chicks at an early age between 3 – 4weeks old or more depending on the type involved.

What is Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is caused by a tiny protozoan parasite called coccidia. Coccidia can only be seen with a microscope, but are bigger than bacteria.

They can be found naturally in the environment and there are hundreds of different types of coccidia and each one infects a different species of animal. Chickens have 7 different coccidia species that can infect them.

Symptoms of Coccidiosis Disease

Chicks affected by coccidiosis disease will always close their eyes with feathers flying over and will not be able to feed or drink well as usual. There may also be bloody droppings, pale comb and ceasation of egg production in layers.

Coccidia causes illness in chickens by attacking the intestinal lining, causing diarrhea (sometimes bloody, but not always) which then leads to dehydration and malnutrition, and eventually death if not caught and treated immediately.

In some cases, the damage to the intestinal lining can be permanent and the bird may not grow or maintain body weight. Since a chick must eat a coccidia cyst to be infected, it takes a minimum of 2 to 3 weeks for a chick to begin showing symptoms. General lack of vigor or inactivity is usually the first sign, followed by loose, watery stools

Clinical Signs of Coccidiosis Disease

Coccidia which are deep tissue invaders such as E. maxima, E. necatrix and E. tenella cause severe necrosis, haemorrhage of the intestinal mucosa, and bloody diarrhoea and may result in death.

Signs include watery and/or bloody droppings, mortality (0-50%), and morbidity (0-100%). Culls appear as pale birds with anaemia, depression, poor weight gain and feed conversion, and a drop in egg production.

Prevention of Coccidiosis Disease in Chickens

Poultry farmers should ensure that litter are dried at all times. There should not be spillage of water on the floor. Good brooder hygiene is the best way to prevent an outbreak of coccidia in your chicks. Keep the litter in your brooder dry at all times. Replace the litter if it becomes saturated.

Since newly hatched chicks must be kept at a warmer temperature, the brooder is potentially the perfect environment to allow coccidia to explode in population and quickly infect your chicks. Many chicken keepers prefer to use anti-coccidiosis medications to help prevent a coccidiosis outbreak in their chicks.

One of the best ways to prevent a coccidiosis outbreak is by practicing responsible sanitation and litter management. Coccidia thrive in damp, warm conditions, so wet litter around the waterer is a virtual parasite paradise.

Believe it or not, when the conditions are just right, coccidia can survive for up to four years outside a bird’s body. And these hardy little organisms can be transmitted via boots, equipment, insects and rodents. So you’re going to need a multi-tiered approach to minimize the threat. Here are some suggestions:

  • Keep the premises as dry as possible. Coccidia love moisture.
  • Never introduce new adult birds into your flock. Birds that appear healthy can be carriers of a number of deadly diseases. Quarantine them first.
  • Raise chicks in isolation. Mature birds can pass along diseases and parasites to vulnerable young birds.
  • Thoroughly clean and disinfect the brooder between broods. This includes any equipment the chicks will come in contact with. Once the premises are dry, place four to six inches of dry, fresh litter material (wood shavings or a commercial absorbent litter material) on the floor.
  • Provide clean water at all times. A typical problem is that brooder bedding or dust (containing feces) gets scratched into the water source. If possible, elevate the waterer slightly. Clean waterers relentlessly. If you wouldn’t be willing to drink the water yourself, it’s not clean enough. And never let the waterer run dry—it will force the birds to search for water in puddles, which are almost certainly contaminated.
  • Provide clean bedding. Coccidia are spread through the feces of infected birds. If feces are in the bedding, they’re on the birds’ feathers. And if feces are on the feathers, the birds will ingest them while preening (using their beaks to clean themselves). Replace wet bedding around waterers and add bedding to any problem spots.
  • Let sunlight do some of the work. Coccidia hate sunlight. It’s a natural disinfectant. Incorporate as much natural sunlight into your brooder as possible.
  • Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating. A commercial coccidiosis vaccine is available, but it’s not beneficial for every flock. Consult your veterinarian before using the vaccine.

Remember, exposure to coccidia isn’t the threat—frankly, it’s unavoidable. Even wild birds carry coccidia. Instead, the serious threat comes from prolonged over-exposure to coccidia in a stressful, unsanitary environment that can overwhelm a bird’s immune system.

Good Nutrition

There’s one more important weapon that you can employ as part of your multi-tiered defense against coccidiosis: medicated feeds containing a coccidiostat that controls the growth of coccidia in the digestive tract.

Purina Mills® Start & Grow® Medicated is formulated for layer chicks and can be fed until eight weeks of age to prevent coccidiosis. For broiler chicks and turkey poults, there’s Purina Mills® Flock Raiser ® Medicated. (Flock Raiser® Medicated is not FDA approved for use in ducks or geese.)

Both of these feeds provide a complete and balanced diet for the birds they were designed for. No other supplemental feeds are necessary. When you consider that a strong immune system is a bird’s best natural defense against coccidia and other diseases, investing in good nutrition from the get-go is a smart way to ensure the health of your flock.

Treatment of Coccidiosis Disease in Chickens

If your chicks show signs of coccidiosis, you want to treat them immediately. To help reduce the coccidia population and limit the exposure to your chicks, do a complete change of bedding.

Also empty and disinfect all drinkers and feeders with a 10% bleach in water solution before beginning the treatment with an anti-coccidiosis medication. Treat the entire group of chicks by adding the medication to their drinking water according to label directions.

Read Also: Newcastle Disease: Symptoms and Prevention

Coccidiosis Disease: Symptoms and Prevention

List of Symptoms/Signs of Coccidiosis Disease

Sign Life Stages Type
Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate   Sign
Cardiovascular Signs / Tachycardia, rapid pulse, high heart rate   Sign
Digestive Signs / Abdominal distention   Sign
Digestive Signs / Abnormal colour of stool in birds, white, green, yellow faeces Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Anorexia, loss or decreased appetite, not nursing, off feed Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Sign
Digestive Signs / Bloody stools, faeces, haematochezia Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Dark colour stools, faeces Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Diarrhoea Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Excessive salivation, frothing at the mouth, ptyalism   Sign
Digestive Signs / Hepatosplenomegaly, splenomegaly, hepatomegaly Other:Adult Female,Other:Adult Male Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Melena or occult blood in faeces, stools Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:Juvenile Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Mucous, mucoid stools, faeces Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Parasites passed per rectum, in stools, faeces Cattle & Buffaloes:All Stages,Poultry:All Stages,Other:All Stages,Pigs:All Stages,Sheep & Goats:All Stages Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Prolapsed rectum, rectal eversion   Sign
Digestive Signs / Prolapsed rectum, rectal eversion   Sign
Digestive Signs / Steatorrhea, fatty stools, faeces   Sign
Digestive Signs / Sunken, empty crop in birds Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Sign
Digestive Signs / Unusual or foul odor, stools, faeces Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Diagnosis
Digestive Signs / Vomiting or regurgitation, emesis   Sign
General Signs / Ataxia, incoordination, staggering, falling   Sign
General Signs / Ataxia, incoordination, staggering, falling   Sign
General Signs / Dehydration Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Sign
General Signs / Dysmetria, hypermetria, hypometria   Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia   Sign
General Signs / Fever, pyrexia, hyperthermia   Sign
General Signs / Generalized weakness, paresis, paralysis   Sign
General Signs / Generalized weakness, paresis, paralysis   Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration   Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration   Sign
General Signs / Inability to stand, downer, prostration   Sign
General Signs / Increased mortality in flocks of birds   Sign
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth   Sign
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth   Sign
General Signs / Lack of growth or weight gain, retarded, stunted growth   Sign
General Signs / Opisthotonus   Sign
General Signs / Pale comb and or wattles in birds Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Sign
General Signs / Pale mucous membranes or skin, anemia Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male Sign
General Signs / Reluctant to move, refusal to move   Sign
General Signs / Sudden death, found dead Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages Sign
General Signs / Tenesmus, straining, dyschezia   Sign
General Signs / Tenesmus, straining, dyschezia   Sign
General Signs / Trembling, shivering, fasciculations, chilling   Sign
General Signs / Underweight, poor condition, thin, emaciated, unthriftiness, ill thrift Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Sign
General Signs / Weakness, paresis, paralysis of the legs, limbs in birds   Sign
General Signs / Weight loss Cattle & Buffaloes:Calf,Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:All Stages,Pigs:Weaner,Pigs:Growing-finishing pig,Sheep & Goats:Lamb Diagnosis
Musculoskeletal Signs / Forelimb spasms, myoclonus   Sign
Musculoskeletal Signs / Hindlimb spasms, myoclonus   Sign
Nervous Signs / Abnormal behavior, aggression, changing habits   Sign
Nervous Signs / Constant or increased vocalization   Sign
Nervous Signs / Dullness, depression, lethargy, depressed, lethargic, listless Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:Adult Female,Other:Adult Male Sign
Nervous Signs / Excessive or decreased sleeping Poultry:Young poultry,Poultry:Mature female,Poultry:Cockerel,Poultry:Mature male,Other:Adult Female,Other:Adult Male Sign
Nervous Signs / Excitement, delirium, mania   Sign
Nervous Signs / Head tilt   Sign
Nervous Signs / Hyperesthesia, irritable, hyperactive   Sign
Nervous Signs / Seizures or syncope, convulsions, fits, collapse   Sign
Nervous Signs / Tetany   Sign
Nervous Signs / Tremor   Sign
Ophthalmology Signs / Blindness   Sign
Ophthalmology Signs / Nystagmus   Sign
Ophthalmology Signs / Strabismus   Sign
Pain / Discomfort Signs / Pain, kidney, ureters, on palpation Other:All Stages Sign
Reproductive Signs / Decreased hatchability of eggs   Sign
Reproductive Signs / Decreased, dropping, egg production   Sign
Reproductive Signs / Male infertility   Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping   Sign
Respiratory Signs / Dyspnea, difficult, open mouth breathing, grunt, gasping   Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea   Sign
Respiratory Signs / Increased respiratory rate, polypnea, tachypnea, hyperpnea   Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Rough hair coat, dull, standing on end   Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Rough hair coat, dull, standing on end   Sign
Skin / Integumentary Signs / Ruffled, ruffling of the feathers   Sign

Read Also: Uses and Benefits of Animal Feed Supplements and Additives

Do you have any question, suggestion or other contributions? kindly use the comment box provided below for all your contributions. You are also encouraged to please kindly share this article with others you feel can benefit from this information if found useful enough as we may not be able to reach everyone at the same time. Thank you so much for sharing!

Have you visited our Market Place Today? Follow this link to visit Agric4profits.com Market Place now to check out our affordable products & services that might interest you and solve your current needs at a very cheap price.

Benadine Nonye

An Agric. Consultant & a Writer (With over 12 years of professional experience in the agricultural industry) - National Diploma in Agricultural Technology - Bachelor's Degree in Agricultural Science - Master's Degree in Science Education... Visit My Websites On: Agric4profits.com - It's All About Agriculture, The Way Forward! Agric4profit.com - The Most Reliable Global Agricultural Forum! Agric4profit.com.ng - The Most Reliable Nigeria's Agricultural Job Board! TheAgriPedia.com - For Everything Premium Agriculture! WealthinWastes.com - For Proper Waste Management and Recycling Practices. Join Me On: Twitter: @benadinenonye - Instagram: benadinenonye - LinkedIn: benadinenonye - YouTube: Agric4ProfitsTV - Pinterest: BenadineNonye4u - Facebook: BenadineNonye

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *