Busting Myths About Medicated Chick Starters

Discussion in 'Sponsored Content, Contests, and Giveaways' started by Monica S, Mar 16, 2017.

  1. Monica S

    Monica S BYC Content and Advertising Specialist

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    Lana Beckard, Nutrena[​IMG] Poultry Expert

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    It’s the time of year again to buy feed for the new chicks you’ve just purchased. You’re walking down the feed aisle of your favorite farm supply store. Finding the chick starter section, you have to decide – medicated or non-medicated?

    The internal dialogue you’re having may be a question of safety for the chicks and/or safety for your family. After all, you grow natural meat and eggs! There are many misconceptions when it comes to the medicated feed option. So we’ve decided it’s time to bust the myths about medicated poultry feed.

    To clarify, when we refer to medicated poultry feed, we’re talking about feed that includes Amprolium. Nutrena manufactures two such options, within our Country Feeds® and NatureWise® lines.

    The Enemy: Intestinal Parasites

    Medicated chick starters utilize coccidiostats, which help limit the incidence of coccidiosis in young birds. Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that is widely spread and found just about everywhere. It multiplies rapidly in the gut and then appears in the feces. As chicks scratch and peck they ingest the coccidiosis from the feces and become infected. Symptoms of infected chicks are a red or orange tint to the feces, a drop in feed consumption and lethargy. This disease can quickly infect your whole group of birds and is often fatal if untreated; Coccidiosis is one of the leading causes of death in baby chicks. One way to help protect your birds against this disease is to feed a medicated chick starter.

    While the choice to feed medicated or non-medicated chick starter is solely your own, there are certain instances where it is usually a good idea to feed a medicated starter. This includes brooding large batches of chicks (more than 50 at one time), brooding large batches consecutively, living in a warm and humid environment, and if you have a history of coccidiosis in your coop.
    Likewise, there is one situation where feeding medicated chick starter is not recommended – vaccinated chicks. Always ask your chick source if chicks will be vaccinated. In this case, it is not recommended to feed medicated chick starter.


    Myths and Facts

    Now, let’s get to some myth-busting about what medicated chick starter is, and what it is not.

    Myth #1: Medicated feed will ‘cure a bird with a cold or runny droppings’.
    Fact: The medication, Amprolium, will only help prevent coccidiosis, nothing else.


    Myth #2: I do not want to feed an antibiotic to my chicks, so I do not feed medicated feed.
    Fact: Contrary to popular belief, Amprolium is not an antibiotic. It is a thiamin blocker, and the cocidia parasite needs thiamin to multiply in the gut of a bird.

    Myth #3: I do not want residual drugs in my meat or eggs.
    Fact: There is no egg or meat withdrawal time for Amprolium in poultry feed. The FDA has deemed it safe to eat the eggs or meat from birds that have consumed it.


    Myth #4: If I see an outbreak of coccidiosis (bloody droppings), I should start to feed the medicated feed immediately.
    Fact: The dosage of Amprolium in medicated feed is not strong enough to fix an outbreak. Its purpose is to serve as a preventative measure. A stronger dose of Amprolium should be added to the water immediately if there is an outbreak, but a consult with your veterinarian may be necessary to fully address what’s going on.


    Myth #5: I should always feed medicated feed.
    The fact: It is a personal choice, and coccidiosis can be managed with or without Amprolium. If there are wild birds present in the store where your chickens were bought, or on your farm, it may be a good idea to introduce medicated feed. But the decision is yours.


    Myth #6: It’s a good practice to feed some medicated feed and some non-medicated feed as a mixture if I don’t want to give my flock too much medicine.
    Fact: Feeding a medicated feed takes the guess work out of dosing, since it is formulated carefully. Mixing medicated and non-medicated feed reduces the effectiveness of the medicated feed. If you opt to use a medicated feed, a 16-week duration is what most experts recommend. If you have not started your chicks on medicated, it is OK to switch, but it may not be as effective.


    Myth# 7: I should obtain a prescription from my veterinarian for medicated chick starter since there is new veterinary feed directive (VFD) starting soon.
    Fact: Since Amprolium is not an antibiotic, no veterinary prescription is necessary. But, as with any medication, read and follow all label instructions for maximum efficacy and safety.


    Successfully brooding healthy chicks sets your flock up for a successful future. Chicks can be healthy and productive whether you choose to feed medicated or non-medicated starter feed. However, we encourage you to use this information to make a better informed choice next time you find yourself debating your chick starter purchase.

    To find a Nutrena dealer near you, visit NutrenaPoultryFeed.com. You can subscribe to the Nutrena[​IMG] poultry blog at ScoopFromTheCoop.com.
     
    Last edited: Mar 16, 2017
  2. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    There are several different strains of protozoa that can affect chickens and cause coccidiosis. Exposure to a strain for 2 to 3 weeks will cause the chicken to develop an immunity to that specific strain but offers no protection against other strains. So exposure to that bug is a good thing so the chick can develop the immunity it needs. That bug may be living in your soil whether you already have chickens or not.

    A vast majority of the “medicated” feed we buy is medicated with Amprolium. There are a few products that contain something other than or in addition to Amprolium. These are generally meant to be fed to game birds like pheasant or quail. I recommend you always read the label to see what medicine is in medicated feed instead of just assuming.

    The problem with Coccidiosis is when the numbers of the bug get out of hand and overwhelm the chicken. The dosage of Amprolium in medicated feed restricts the reproduction of the bug that is in the chicken’s system. It does not totally prevent that reproduction so the chicken can still maintain exposure to the bug long enough to develop immunity to that strain.

    The different strains of the protozoa that cause coccidiosis attack different parts of the bird’s digestive system. Some strains can cause more damage than others so are more dangerous, but all can cause serious problems if the numbers get out of hand. Some of these strains may cause blood to show up in the stool but many don’t. You do not always get bloody poop if a chicken is having problems with coccidiosis. That you always see blood is a dangerous myth. The chick’s behavior is a much better guide. If the chick is lethargic and sits around hunched up and fluffed up, start treating.

    That bug thrives in warm moist soil with chicken droppings in it or in warm dirty water with some chicken droppings in it. After two days in those conditions oocysts that have passed through the bird’s digestive can “hatch” when ingested by the bird. A normal way for chickens to be overwhelmed by coccidiosis is that they eat so many of these oocysts that the numbers get out of hand. A good way to greatly reduce the chance of your chicks having a problem with coccidiosis is to keep the brooder dry and provide fresh water. If your type of waterer allows chicks to poop in it, totally dump that water at least every two days to interrupt the life cycle of that bug. That will also interrupt the life cycle of mosquitoes that may be breeding in that water.

    Feeding medicated feed does not absolutely guarantee that the chicks will not have a problem with coccidiosis. Feeding them many treats can reduce the dosage they receive. In a wet brooder or with dirty water the number of the bugs can increase and cause a problem. Even if you feed medicated feed you need to keep the brooder reasonable dry and provide fresh water. And watch for chicks showing symptoms of coccidiosis.

    Since Amprolium in the dosage in medicated feed provides protection by restricting the reproduction of that bug in the chick’s system, medicated feed does absolutely no good if the chick has not been exposed to that bug. An all too often occurrence on this forum is that someone will feed medicated feed while the chick is in the brooder and never exposed to that bug, then the medicated feed is stopped when the chick goes outside and is first exposed to that bug. It has not developed the immunity needed so it is exposed. Especially if the weather sets in wet, the chick is at risk.

    I personally do not feed medicated feed. I keep my brooder very dry and provide fresh water. I feed them dirt from the run two to three times a week to maintain exposure to any coccidiosis bug that may be there so they can develop the immunity they need. I know I have a strain of coccidiosis in my dirt, I had problems once with a broody hen raising the chicks in a very wet run. I did not change the water out as often as I should have either. Lesson learned, keep the water clean. But I have never had a coccidiosis problem with my brooder raised chicks, either in the brooder or after they hit the ground.

    In my opinion there is nothing wrong with feeding medicated feed. It will not hurt the chicks and if used properly can reduce the risk of then having problems with coccidiosis.
     
  3. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    What about the medicated feed and water fowl myth?
     
  4. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    I don't do waterfowl Casportpony. You'll have to handle that one.
     
  5. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Not sure I want to, lol. It's one of those myths that so deeply ingrained that it won't matter what I say, people will still think that waterfowl can't eat medicated starters.
     
    Last edited: Mar 24, 2017
  6. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Regarding medicated feed and waterfowl:
     
    Last edited: Mar 27, 2017
  7. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Chicken Obsessed

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    We have contacted all the feed mills that we could find that make sacked poultry feed in the US. From material they have sent us or from their website, we have learned that these 29 mills make 59 different starter feeds for chickens, waterfowl and game birds. Of these 59 starter feeds, 19 have a medication in them to control coccidiosis. Four drugs are used. Fifteen of the feeds contain Amprolium, 1 has Monensin, 1 has Lasolocid and 1 has BMD (Bacitracin methylene disalicylate).

    Darn the numbers don’t add up. 15 + 1 + 1 + 1 =18, not 19. Oh the horror of it all!!! :oops:

    Seriously, thanks for the information. It seems that at one time there might have been a reason to not feed waterfowl a certain medicated feed, but that reason no longer exists. Isn’t that the way of most of these rumors and myths. There is often a basis for them until you put them into context. But when you look at them in context, the myth is just a myth.

    You’ve dispelled another myth too. There is a very popular myth on this forum that any medicated feed we buy is medicated with Amprolium. No exceptions, don’t even bother reading the label. Any medicated feed is Amprolium. This shows that at least three other medicines are being used.
     
  8. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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    Lol, I didn't do the math... [​IMG]

    Other meds are used, and sometimes more than one is used. These are sold in my area:
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  9. spiritbrook

    spiritbrook Chillin' With My Peeps

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    July 2017 Update

    Note: Bacitracin is an antibiotic. I would wager a bet that the above two foods are no longer available because of the new law regarding use of antibiotics in feed.
     
  10. casportpony

    casportpony Team Tube Feeding Captain & Poop Inspector General Premium Member

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