As I happily embarked upon my first rearing of chicks, I was horrified to see that one of them pooping reddish poop. The woman I had bought the chicks from said this was normal. WRONG. It is normal for a chicken to occasionally shed its ceca (a part of its intestinal tract) which is a brick red to a light brown color, every so often, but my chick was continually pooping a dark red poop. From inexperience I thought nothing of it. What snapped me into action was when the chick stopped eating but continued to drink and stood in a huddled, chilled, listless and droopy manner.
Coccidia are protozoan organisms (not visible to the human eye) that live in soil or the floor of your chicken coop if it has been contaminated. It proliferates in wet conditions. I had bought my chicks after a 3 week spell of rain and no sun from a woman whose runs were in deep shade. Sun and drought kill the organism. It is most common in chicks 8 to 16 weeks old, weak, poorly fed or older chickens. It is also more common in places where there are many chickens kept in a small area. It does not affect humans, dogs, cats etc.. Its effect is unique to chickens. So don’t worry you’re not at risk.
This protozoan’s life cycle starts when an ant, worm etc. eats its eggs. A hen then comes along and eats the worm. The protozoa eggs hatches inside the chicken and develop, all the while destroying the chicken’s digestive tract (thus the blood). They reproduce and its eggs are then excreted through the chicken’s poop, to be eaten again or wait to be eaten again for up to a year or little more ,if conditions are good, on the chicken coop floor or ground. This all happens in a matter of days, that’s why it is important to quickly treat coccidiosis.
Feed chickens feed containing a coccidiostat. Do not feed this if they are taking medication for coccidiosis. I personally do not do this because my whole point in having chickens was to have organic eggs.
Keep your coop dry, coccidia proliferate in wet conditions. Remove and replace any bedding that is wet.
Keep water and feeders level to chickens backs to prevent them from pooping in them.
Keep chickens in coop or enclosed in a roofed run during a long spell of rain and no sun. Let them out when the ground has dried out.
I have placed my coop so that the sun shines into it at certain times of day, sun kills coccidia.
Keep grass short and make sure that the sun hits all the grass at least for some time of the day. No deep shade spots if you have trees.
I live where rain is inevitable, so to keep coccidia down I lime my lawn once a year. I do it before a rain.
Do not feed chickens feed that contains wheat. Several studies have revealed that chickens fed wheat are more prone to develop coccidiosis.
Coccidiosis is somewhat hard to cure and if you do have an outbreak. It is important to take action quickly. Hens that do survive will not thrive and may eventually die. Two of my hens died after 6 months. The only cure I experienced was to administer an anticoccidial drug and a combination of natural medicine. It is best to talk to a veterinarian so he can recommend the proper drug because there are several types of cocci and different drugs are more effective in killing different coccidia.
On the natural medicine side, I finely grated two cloves of garlic mixed with a bit of corn meal, vitamins, a little water and two opened pills Echinacea per 10 chicks. Which I was able to coax them to eat.
Also isolate and keep warm any sick chickens so they cannot contaminate others
MANAGEMENT OF CONTAMINATED COOPS ETC.
Replace bedding and sanitize coop ( make sure you use a product made to kill protozoans). If this is not possible add a 6 inch layer of new bedding or gravel to coops and runs.
Sanitize all feeders and waterers. I naturally sanitize mine by washing with an oxy detergent, rinsing with natural (not synthetic) white vinegar and placing in the sun to dry.
CHICK PREVENTION IN FREE RANGE FLOCKS
I have not had a reoccurrence of coccidiosis in my flock. Since then I have raised a batch of checks to adulthood and am on my third batch without any problems. But I take certain precautions
If you have had a wet spell and are afraid of contamination, keep your chicks off the soil during a rainy spell or season. Better yet plan your hatches during dryer times of the year.
Give your chicks a multivitamin and amino acid complex formulated for chickens. I use a drop kind which I place in each chick’s beak to insure that each one receives his or her share.
My father told me the old timers use to put UNFILTERED, RAW apple cider vinegar in the chicken’s water. One tablespoon per gallon of water. Apple cider vinegar has beneficial bacteria to keep a chicken’s digestive tract healthy and vitamins also. I give it to all my chickens. It seems to me that since I started giving this to them they feather out nicer.
Once or twice a week I give my chicks a beak full of Echinacea to keep their immunity strong, until they are about 12 weeks old. This is a natural medicine cure.
Gradually expose chicks to soil. At 7 days I’ll let them out for 15 to 30 minutes and gradually increase this 15 to 30 minutes every day till they stay out for 5 hours. I keep this schedule until they are 16 weeks old at which I gradually increase the time again until they can stay out all day.
As I said an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure with coccidiosis. It is important to recognize conditions in which coccidia proliferate and take steps to prevent its outbreak or quickly find its cure.