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Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Fancie, Apr 16, 2009.
and how do chicks get it.
Thats a rather generic question, but here goes nothing.
"Coccidia are a parasitic organism that infects poultry. They can cost the pastured poultry producer much in the course of a year. The degree of loss is proportionate to the degree of uncontrolled infection. Minor infections can cause poor growth and lower dress-out weights. Major infections can cause significant mortality. In discussing pastured poultry with many folks around the country it has become clear that many pastured poultry farmers are suffering major and minor losses in flocks from coccidia. Growers profits are at risk if they are unaware of the symptoms and the management style needed to avoid losses due to coccidia.
Coccidia are ubiquitous, they are everywhere. They are carried in the feces of almost all wild birds. They are on your farm. It is always assumed that farm poultry will be exposed to coccidia. The exposure presents a normal health challenge to the birds. If well cared for, most birds exhibit a positive immune response and overcome the parasite with ease early in life. Exposure is not the problem. Exposure to pathogens is critical to the vitality of an immune system. Over-exposure or extended duration of high stress events are what create the conditions that allow the coccidia to overwhelm the birds system and cause losses. Losses from coccidia are generally the result of a breakdown in the poultry-persons management which results in over-exposure of the bird to the organism. If field conditions are highly stressful for extended periods of time the birds immune system may be weakened to the point where it cannot control the organism and set
the stage for the development of coccidiosis.
Coccidia problems that are the result of poor management on the part of the poultry person can be overcome by attending to some of the basic principles for growing healthy poultry. We must learn to base our livestock production models on principles, facilities, and equipment that will provide optimum growing conditions for the stock, and minimal labor and maintenance for the keeper, with ease of management. This will maximize profit to the fullest extent (provided we can process and market what we produce). There will always be a percentage of our livestock that never cease to amaze us with to what extremes they can be pushed by our bad
management and still survive (shame on us). On the other hand there will always be the few that have a predisposition to get sick in any group of livestock even when the best of management has occurred and optimum conditions are provided (shame on them). Nature normally dispatches these creatures to prevent passing on the tendency to future generations. It is generally unprofitable to keep what nature has discarded. Our job is to provide optimum conditions in a model that is easy for us to manage. The easier a job is to do the more likely it is that it will get done and be well done. Lets review some of the basics of raising poultry.
1. Clean water.
Be sure that the birds have access to water that you would be willing to drink yourself. Go out to your poultry and look at their water and suggest to yourself that you take a drink. The degree of aversion you have to taking a sip of the birds water is proportionate to the degree of risk of excessive infection the birds are faced with. The greater the aversion, the greater the risk. Don't drink it, just use your reaction to judge the state of the water. Most people with coccidia problems would get over them right away by following this rule. You tend to loose contact with exactly how dirty the water is until you shock yourself into reality by suggesting you take a drink. "Yuk! It's dirty!" The birds opinion about it is mutual. Put out clean water and see which one they choose. This degree of watchfulness is not absolutely essential once the birds are older and have a proper immunity developed. However in early life you must not allow for dirty water. And in later life the cleaner the water the better the performance.
The big offenders here are brooder bedding (which contains feces) being scratched into the waterer or fecal/bedding dust collecting in/on the waterer or ground puddles in rainy weather. I would attribute the source of most losses related to coccidia to the last week in the brooder with dirty waterers. (I'm-going-to-put-the-birds-out-on-pasture-tomorrow syndrome). The best poultry persons have the cleanest waterers. Clean your waterers very regularly. Be sure to eliminate any wet or dirty places/puddles that the birds might have access to. They do not understand not to poop in (coccidia out of the bird, into the puddle) and drink out (coccidia out of the puddle, into the bird)of the same puddle. Mud is dangerous if they have access to the outdoors.
2. Clean bedding.
Be sure the birds have bedding to lounge in clean enough that you would be willing to kneel it in nice work clothes and show the peeps to your best friend's children. Wet, dirty bedding causes a hygiene overload for the birds in excess of the pathogen tolerance threshold for their immune system. All livestock have specific tolerance thresholds for specific pathogens. Above that level they get sick. Below that level they do not get sick. Exposure to a disease causing organism below a certain level of colony forming units does not cause disease even though the pathogen is in the birds system and you never know it because they are dealing with it as planned. The fact that many of us have gotten away with allowing some horribly dirty conditions for our poultry is not a tribute to our skills as poultry-persons but to the wonder of the birds incredible immune system. It does not mean the birds were never exposed to germs but that their immune system was successful in overcoming the invasion. Poultry exhibit hygiene behavior that includes sliding their beak over their feathers to remove dirt. Their system is designed to handle ingesting a certain amount of dirt each day. If you give them more than they can handle they may get sick. If the dirt is from overly soiled bedding they will be ingesting their feces via preening. You will notice that the coccidia affected birds will look dirty. They "know" somehow to stop preening until their body can handle the crud. Your other birds would look that dirty too, they just clean up every day. The amount of dirt on the unpreened ones lets you know how much the others are cleaning off themselves in a short time. You must add bedding in whatever amount needed to deal with problem spots in the brooder like around the waterers and in the nightly sleeping spot. Also if some of the chicks are at a size disadvantage they may get walked on if they pile up to sleep on cold nights and have more than their fair share of dirt to clean off themselves the next day.
3. The DOUBLE WHAMMY.
The busy person easily falls prey sooner or later to the fault of letting the feed and/or water run out for their poultry. The combined effect of hunger and/or thirst on the birds is to encourage them to sort through the ground/bedding searching for particles of food or moisture. In a dirty environment, hungry and/or thirsty birds will almost certainly exceed the safe threshold of tolerance for pathogens as they ingest soiled material in search of food and water. This exposure level, coupled with the stress caused on their system by the hunger and thirst creates a situation ripe for disease to set in. If you are very busy it is easy to miscalculate the time your stock have been without food and or water and assume they are not too badly affected by it. But the health of the bird is the sum of the care for each of its needs that it has been given in its life.
4. The TRIPLE WHAMMY
Poultry love sunlight. They love to sunbathe. This is a great benefit to them. If the weather turns cloudy and damp/rainy and/or the birds have no access to direct sunlight in the brooder and early stages of life they may be at a disadvantage for proper hygiene. The sunlight is a disinfectant and a therapeutic tonic in the birds world. Doing without can contribute to outbreaks of coccidia as well as other diseases. You should have abundant natural daylight in your brooder. The combined affect of violating all of the above principles can be disastrous.
Birds faced with an overwhelming infection of coccidia will look dirty and unkempt. They will be weak and listless, hunkered down in a corner and not moving much. They do not look healthy one day and just drop dead the next. You can tell several days ahead which ones are on the way out. They can have bloody manure from the bleeding of the intestine caused by the irritation of the coccidia on the papillae. Severe infections will have foamy, yellow, mustard like manure. If you have birds in this condition you have already experienced significant losses in the productivity of the rest of the flock. Left untreated coccidia can lead to necrotic enteritis (followed by death) which is the sloughing off of the inner lining of the intestine which is where the coccidia take up residence and cause intestinal bleeding. Birds suffering to this degree should be put down as recovery is not likely.
- Create an environment with abundant natural sunlight.
- Deal with dirty bedding and water. Use a plywood circle under the waterer large enough to keep the birds from scratching feces into it. Elevate the platform 3 to 4 inches above the bedding. Use drink cups or nipple waterers to provide sanitary water.
- Eliminate the wet pack areas around the waterer by removal and re-bedding. This wet, soiled area is highly conducive to the exponential proliferation of anaerobic pathogens such as salmonella and e. coli. If you have had a severe infection in the brooder clean it out and disinfect and re-bed with clean product.
- Supplement with water based probiotics in the waterer. Available from the Fertrell Co.
- Jeff Mattocks of Fertrell recommended fresh raw cow/goat milk to me as a supplement in/on the feed or fed free choice as a successful remedy for coccidiosis. The milk is mucus forming and coats the intestinal track. It also has beneficial bacteria and enzymes in the raw form. I used it on the feed about 2.5Gal milk/5Gal Bucket (25 to 30 lb) of feed, well mixed. Putting it in the feed makes sure the birds all get a dose. Usually the birds turn around in 48 hours. An old poultry-man told me they used to use milk products to treat coccidia before the medications came out. I had a severe infection in my flock last year due to management failures as described above and the milk worked well as a remedy, but only after I had corrected the management problems. The routine use of coccidiastats in commercial poultry feed is indicative of a model that forces the birds to live in the presence of their own feces to an abnormally high degree. There are models, thankfully, that have solved the problem by reducing the exposure to fecal material to a level that does not cross the birds threshold of tolerance for coccidia. Most of us have opted for those better models. Lets make sure they are operated correctly.
Poorly managed pasture models can lead to exposure levels to feces and other stressors equal to or greater than that of modern confinement poultry facilities"