This is a re-post of Chapter 005 from my On The Farm series which is on my Deviant Art farm blog. The whole series can be found by clicking this link for easy viewing.
OTF 005 - Defeating Cocci - Natural Treatment
To start, I am NOT a vet. I'm simply learning what I can from others as well as my own trial & errors. My methods may not be perfect, or the only way. I'm still learning. If you have an issue with your bird, please do your research & consult a vet if necessary.
This knowledge is meant to be a stepping stone on the way to good chicken health, please feel free to improve upon it & share it freely with others.
The method AND recipes for this treatment is below the initial OTF story. Look for "Defeating Cocci - Natural Treatment"
Early on in the year, I had ordered some straight run Ameraucanas from a hatchery. They turned out not to be Ameraucanas, but rather basic Easter Eggers. Ah well. As they grew I also began to suspect I had not even one female out of the bunch of 5. This wasn't going to do, considering I wanted them for their eggs. Though I did keep the best of the bunch, and if you're a regular +watcher of mine on DeviantART, then you already know him as Moon.
A couple months passed before I had the time to try again with another batch. I purchased some Easter Egger hatching eggs from a local farmer. It turned out to be a scam. Their little single combs & pink legs were a dead giveaway when EE's are known for green/grey legs & pea combs.
After confronting the farmer, he admitted the eggs weren't even his, but from a neighbour who let his other breed roosters mingle with the hens. It was upsetting to know I had spent a month incubating & hatching eggs into chicks I couldn't even use in my breeding program. I'm happy to say those little birds were given away to a local 'farm & petting zoo' who didn't care about egg colour but very much appreciated variety in their birds. They were given access to a free-ranged area with plenty of kids to cuddle them.
September finally came, and I found someone in the area who had Easter Egger chicks as well as Silkie x EEs. I wasn't too interested in the latter, but I was intrigued, so I thought I'd have a look at them anyways. Chicken math, and all.
There were a few warning signs from the start; the way they rushed purchase, the woman never looked me in the eyes, how the man weakly shook hand & quickly pulled back, the way he was way too agreeable...but alas my desperation to get the chicks I needed before winter set in was far stronger than the warning bells.
We had driven those 4 hours into a nearby province to meet up and purchased five of their dozen chicks. I noticed the chicks had a bit of diarrhea, but sometimes birds have that. Considering even I don't travel well most times, I figured they'd be fine the next day.
I was wrong - very wrong.
Around the second afternoon I noticed their stools were turning more orange-hued, and still had diarrhea. Normally chickens poop is varied in tones & thickness, especially their cecal poop. But I had never seen orange before...
I was aware the colours you need to watch out for were green, yellow & red.
Now, I hadn't heard of orange stools before, so I began wondering if this was going to be an issue, or if it was just an adjustment to new food or that they were eating some really weird stuff at the last place. I kept going back to the brooder to stare at their feces. By that second evening, the orange finally turned pink. "Oh no..."
- Green meant they haven't been eating much since it's the colour of their bile. You see this often with newly hatched chicks, until they've eaten enough.
- Yellow can mean liver or some other issues, which needs to be treated asap.
- Red is the worst colour you could see, since it means fresh, internal blood.
I now suspected cocci might very well be an issue. I've read a plenty about cocci, but never experienced it before with any of my birds. I started reading up on it again to refresh my mind. And again, nobody mentioned the orange stools. Just that if you see blood it's a problem.
Cocci has a few days incubation & can kill a chick within 4-7 days after infection. It's not like "There's a chance a chick might die..." but rather "Expect huge losses, you'll be lucky if any survive."
So now I was faced with a potentially huge problem. If it WAS cocci, I'd need to treat these birds fast. The other problem was that I wanted to avoid using commercial medications & vaccines on my flocks. My dream flock was one which built up immunities naturally so that with each generation they would become stronger - not weaker & more dependent on medication. At this point I reasoned I was already fighting a losing battle & might as well just medicate them so I could keep them alive. Besides, I could just keep them as egg layers & not use them for breeding purposes.
It was already getting late that night, so there wasn't anything I could really do other than keep them comfy. I put a bit of polyvisol (no-iron) children's vitamins in the water, just to give them a bit of a booster before bed. But I was determined to phone the local farm supply stores the next day to see if they had Corrid.
That evening, as a friendly update, we sent an e-mail to the people who sold us these birds. We let them know their birds might already have cocci and that ours were starting to show signs. [They never did respond, but in hindsight, I think they knew they were already sick...which is really saddening.]
The next morning the birds were bleeding from their vents & looking lethargic. It was a dramatic change from the night before. We found one chick dead that morning. While a vet is needed to 'officially' diagnose cocci, to me it was clear they had it. We did call around the local farm supply stores looking for Corrid & even Sulmet variations. Unfortunately we discovered not only did they NOT sell medication to treat (or even prevent) Cocci, brand name or not - they didn't actually know what cocci was. I couldn't believe it.
The only alternatives we had at that moment was to either order online, and potentially wait at least 3 days for the medication to arrive (too late, they'd all be dead) or start medicating via natural herbals. I decided to pursue the latter.
Again I looked online & the only information I found on treating cocci was either "give them yogurt" which doesn't really cure anything like cocci [but does help coat the intestines], or a "special blend" of oils marketed like it was some magical snake oil. Can't they even tell us what's in it? or would they rather our chicks died so they can get paid by desperate owners who buy just in case the 'next time' cocci comes knocking?
I researched what I could, scouring forums, obscure sites, dog/cat forums & even human natural treatment websites. I compared cocci to other bacteria, viruses, etc out there. I felt much like an alchemy student preparing for a critical final exam, trying to figure out the best combinations I could, in the shortest time possible. Only that the failure of this exam meant the birds would die. How horrible.
This is where I started with Stage 1 - Recipes #1 & #2 to follow. Including changing them off from shavings onto ceiling grate (explained below).
The first night of treatment (less than 12 hours treating) the second chick was on death's door. We decided to cull him since he could barely lift his head anymore, I was sure he'd be dead overnight & didn't want him to suffer further. He was the only chick we culled.
I was now left with just 3 of the smallest chicks; the Silkie x EEs. They looked very fatigued, barely moved, but their eyes were still focused the times they did open them. I honestly didn't think they would make it, but my heart cried & begged me to not even consider that.
The next morning of Stage 1, after giving the first two recipes, all 3 were still alive. They even looked a little more alert. And though they were bleeding with every watery stool they passed, they were holding out. Something in my mixture was working. However, I didn't want to celebrate too soon - after all, day 4-7 was coming up; the worst of the worst for cocci.
Through the first week on this recipe, their energy levels increased. They began to eagerly eat their food, even playing with each other by the end of that first week. But they were still bleeding internally. It was surreal & scary to see them running, eating & drinking as if nothing was amiss, only to watch them defecate droplets of blood.
By the end of the week, I reasoned that the continued bleeding must have been due to accumulative damage from the cocci. I took the risk to assume cocci was defeated & changed from their anti-cocci diet (Stage 1), straight to full on anti-inflammatory & nutrient boosting food. We were now on Stage 2, recipes #3 & #2 (repeat)
It was official - we had beaten cocci!
At day 9, these chicks were very stunted in growth. It's like they never had never grown at all since the first day they hatched, with the exception of their wings. It made them look like small flight-capable birds, like colourful robins ready to soar. They could even fly up & out of their pen, and boy did they attempt that often. Their feces at this point was a combination of reddish stools, followed by black (old blood) stools, but no more oocysts showing. To me, oocysts look like tiny little groupings of clear glass marbles, a bit bigger than the head of a dress-pin. If any chick eats that (esp one not infected) they will then get cocci & the cycle will start a new.
At around day 15 they had doubled in size, finally catching up to their overgrown wings. With as much energy as their size had increased. The daily bleeding had also completely stopped, quickly going black & then to a healthy brown with white urates. YES!
Around the 20th day I adjusted their diet again (Stage 3 - Recipe #4 & #5). From the super high nutrient & anti-inflammatory, to a fermented feed diet with a powdered supplement. It was at this point they drastically increased their food intake. Not only were they doubled in size, but their feces were getting very large & looking perfectly healthy.
They also increased their appetite dramatically, like little piggies. Eating upwards of 3 cups of FF a day for only month-old chicks.
So here we are now, a month later (Day 30ish). I want to say I'm sad I lost the two chicks, but I'm still happy I was able to save the remaining three. I am very certain though, that I didn't do anything at all that none of them would have made it. And I'm so very glad I gave it my all, because they are the most wonderful, sweetest birds I have ever had.
The Warriors Three!
Looking back, what really upsets me most, is the fact those people who sold us the chicks never responded to the e-mail we sent them. To me, it confirms they knew they were selling us sick chicks. Maybe they didn't know why they were dying, but they should have let us know. Even if they came clean & said "Okay so, we sold you sick chicks, we're sorry." I think I still would have said "We'll deal with that later, here's what I'm trying to do to help heal mine. Please try with yours as well!"
It's possible those remaining chicks we didn't purchase from them are long-dead by now, so I can't do anything about that. But what I CAN do, is share the information I've learned from this experience with you. It's not complete, and I can't say I ever want to deal with cocci again, so please take the information below as a starting point. Expand upon where I started, and share this with every chicken-keeper you know. Please.
Do what you can to make sure others don't have to struggle with finding a cure & ending up with no available information, or even dealing with farm supply stores who have no idea what cocci is to begin with. We need more information, more treatment options, more love.
To remind me of the battle they fought, the remaining three have taken on names related to some of the ingredients in their treatment. They are as follows:
And little "Yogurt"
Defeating Cocci - Natural Treatment
The first thing I've learned about cocci is by the time you see blood, it's possibly already too late. Especially if you don't have medication on hand. You need to nip it in the bud FAST.
If your chicks have brown diarrhea, it's possible it's just that. But if you see yellow, or orangy stool or diarrhea then assume it's cocci. Don't wait for the pink & eventual red to show.
Please read through all the stages & recipes before trying this method, so you understand how they work together.
First thing you need to do is get them away from their feces ASAP. They will curiously peck at poop or scratch their beaks with their feet & reinfect themselves or others. You do not want potentially healthy chicks to eat the oocysts (ie, cocci eggs) of the other chicks. And though one chick might look healthy, you'll have to suspect they're all contaminated.
I used ceiling tile grate for their floor, but you can use metal wire grate around 1/4" gaps. Don't make it smaller than this or the poop will stay on top & they could eat it.
Clean their brooder at least every 24 hours. Wipe their feet or soak them in tepid water to clean them off. They will likely be dirty, the grate will be 'gritty' as well from the clove powder.
Also, please note: Your house or garage (wherever you keep them) is going to smell like Christmas time due to the spices. It's gonna be weird.
They need a practical diet which can destroy the cocci, as well as something to help protect their intestines & slow the damage. You need to be on top of this. There is NO slacking or just skipping either recipe. All recipes below are made for only a few chicks, you'll need to up the dose for more birds.
Recipe #1 - Fighter
[* Add 1tsp Mustard - at the last 5-7th days. It acts as a final surprise attack, in case the cocci tries to overcome the other fighting herbs last minute.]
- 1 cup of Water
- 1 tsp powdered Cloves
- 4 cloves minced Garlic
- 1 tsp Tumeric (anti-inflammatory)
- 1/4 tsp Grapeseed Extract (oil)
- 1 & 1/2 cup to 2 cups of high protein (19%+) crumble feed (not pellets). Non medicated.
This is the main fighter mixture for cocci. It will be doing all the grunt work. It may seem like the dose is high but it's needed. Add ingredients except feed to water, mix well, then add the dry feed. If it's not moist enough, add a bit more water. Don't just add water to the feed & then the ingredients.
Recipe #2 - Healer
This is going to soothe the birds intestines. Yogurt will coat & reduce the cocci from doing much damage, it also gives them a break. Keep in mind the probiotics don't DEFEAT cocci, they can't replace it. It's just that they are bleeding so much that they keep losing the beneficial bacteria inside their guts as they bleed out as well as the fighter recipe will be killing the good bacteria. You need to keep replacing it so their guts have something to work with.
- 2 tbsp Yogurt (I used plain goats)
- 1 tbsp Brewer's Yeast (Niacin/VitB)
- 1 Acidophilius capsule (Human grade - emptied, cases tossed)
I do not recommend committing this (or using it solely in place of #1). This is also a treat which they look forward to. I find when they eat #2 they will cry less from the pain & bond with you as the giver of soothing. They see you're trying to help & will learn to like the other recipe (#1) so don't feel guilty & omit either. Please.
Let #2 warm up at room temperature, or warm up in the palm of your hand first. I left mine out beside their brooder during the day. It's probiotic so is fine.
Water - Clean & fresh multiple times per day. Keep it at room temperature, never cold. Same with the food - very important! Cold food/water will make it harder on their healing.
Again, give them free access to #1 Fighter, as much as they want. At this stage it may be hard for chicks to want to keep eating, so you need to give them as much opportunity as possible. They might get bored & peck at the food, only to eat more anyways. So having it there 24/7 is good.
You need to give the #2 Healer every few hours to re-coat their intestines. As stated, it helps give their bodies a much needed break & soothes the pain they're undoubtedly in. Give them about a half teaspoon each chick & let the yogurt stay at room temp. They can also get very excited about the yogurt mixture, so it lets you see how much energy they have gained or lost.
If they aren't wanting to eat, you will need to entice them. Try to liquify their #1 food further, wiggle the mixture on your fingertips like it's a worm, or something. Do anything you can to entice them to eat. If they don’t eat, they won't heal. Period.
Stage 2 - Anti-Inflammatory & Nutrient Boost
After about 9-10 days of treatment you'll notice they've got their energy back & aren't dropping oocysts (tiny clear batches of eggs) in their stools. By then, the cocci is likely defeated. Congrats - but your work isn't done yet. Now you have to repair all the damage they've taken internally & help them further overcome nutrient deficiency as well as anemia.
Recipe #3 - Strengthener
Use the yogurt in place of water, add aloe vera to soften the feed (if you can find it) after mixing the other ingredients. The key is to serve the food soft, like a porridge.
- 1/4 cup Yogurt (as water)
- 1/4 cup Aloe Vera Juice (human grade) or more Yogurt/water as needed.
- 2 tsp Oregano
- 2 cups of high-protein feed (or what you've been using the week prior)
- 4 tsp turmeric (anti-inflammatory)
REPEAT Recipe #2 - Healer (See Above)
This doesn't need to be fed as often as before, but the chicks will still look forward to the treat & you can use this opportunity to bond with them further and give them rewards for fighting the worst battle of their lives. The probiotics are more likely to stay in their guts this time, since they're not being flushed out by blood & herbal anti-biotics.
Give access to fresh, tepid water at all times. Never cold.
Stage 3 - Adjusting to a Normal Diet (Finally)
After about a week after Stage 2, you'll be able to put them on a more proper diet. They'll be nearly a month old by now. Still, you should keep the food wet & give nothing which has sharp edges (other than a bit of grit) because it will potentially cause them to bleed again & slow healing.
Recipe #4 - Fermented Feed
Ferment feed as you would normally; you'll have to research this since there's a few ways to make FF. I use the lacto-fermented breaded version with air-innoculation. I use the breaded version, but others use the straining version. Sprinkle recipe #5 on #4 FF just before serving.
Fermented Feed is very good as a post healing food for three reasons. One is that it is wet & won't dehydrate them by sucking up moisture internally. The second reason is that it's already been softened & won't scratch up their insides. The third reason is it lessens the anti-nutrients in the grains & the birds are far more likely to absorb the nutrients they need from them.
Recipe #5 - Powder for FF mixture
- 1/2 cup Brewer's yeast
- 1/4 cup Oregano
- 4 Acidophilius capsules (emptied, cases tossed)
This is a bulk mixture, which you sprinkle about a tsp on each serving. You only put this on AFTER you've poured it into their food bowl. Do not let this mix with the FF in the bucket as it's fermenting or it'll just make a spoiled mess. Store in the fridge.
Access to fresh water, as usual.
Keep this food routine up (#4 FF & #5 powder) until they're about 2 months old. You can then either go off the FF, or just keep the FF going like you would with the rest of your flock (if that's what you do anyways.) Do not keep the high protein feed going after about 16 weeks.
At this point your birds are finally healed.
Below are individual cautions & mentions I would like to state, as I feel they are important to note.
Grass & Soil Exposure Caution
After a month & a half you can risk putting them on grass as you would with your typical chicks. Normally I put my healthy chicks on grass a week after hatching, or give them dirt clumps to try their immunities. But these chicks were the exception.
I would never give them grass clumps in the state they were in either. Even if I have nothing bad in my soil, that is just extra stuff they'd have to deal with. Imagine yourself getting a cold on top of a flu, then bronchitis or pneumonia. Now imagine your health is already compromised somehow. Not fun, not fun at all.
WARNING: You should NEVER put cocci-infected chicks on grass or soil which can go back onto your farm & infect your flock. The last thing you want to do is introduce a new strain of cocci (there are many) to your garden & future chicks you will have. Cocci can survive in the soil a very long time. Just don't risk it. Do NOT compost their litter at all either. Toss it straight into the garbage or burn it in a controlled manner.
Practice safe bio-security measures here, please.
Note On Ingredients Use
All of the ingredients I mentioned above can be used for your adult & other birds at any time, as a immunity/nutrient booster & even probiotic (depending on what recipe is used).
In fact, I've begun keeping recipe #5 powder in my fridge in bulk for a weekly booster for my adult birds. Usually I just give them this stuff separately in random batches (eg, brewers yeast sprinkled over feed), but it's sure nice to have a pre-mixed version already on hand.
Warning & Disclaimer for Other Herbs
There are other anti-inflammatory herbs out there, but not all are safe for birds. For this reason, I chose to not mention the ones you SHOULDN'T be using, just in case their names stick in your mind & you think "Oh it was this, right?"
I Am Untrained; I Am Not A Certified Vet
As I said from the start, I am NOT a vet. This is all from personal research; what has worked for me. It may not work for your situation. But I really hope it does.
I'm sure I could be more efficient with doses or items used, but this is my only experience with cocci so far & I hope to never have to deal with it again. Please don't think this is the one & only way to deal with cocci naturally. In fact, I'm posting my experience online with great hope it can be used as a starting point for others to find BETTER ways to heal their birds.
Please Share My Experience
I couldn't imagine any chicken keeper who would want to be in the situation I was. Stuck without a treatment at the 11th hour, unable to find anyone who has a natural or even commercial treatment. So please share this.
If you deal with cocci often (although I hope you don't) please do try to expand upon my method. Try to help others find a natural way to defeat it. There is word out there that some strains of cocci are now building immunity to the drugs on the market. It's scary to think this will make our chickens dependent on medication & weaker over future generations. So if you can help in any way to make a healthier future, please do so.
Money or Credit is Not Necessary
A link back is appreciated though; whether here on BYC or my Deviant Art page. I do hope you'd let me know if my method any recipe mentioned works for you, and/or if you've found a more efficient method than I did. It would make me very happy to know others are giving cocci a solid boot.
Best of luck, and may Chicken Math be ever on your side.