Coccidiosis in Backyard Chickens

May 22, 2011

Wet weather and dirty water can make it rear its’ ugly head.  With all the rain we have been having, I want to make sure that all of our fellow chicken keepers are diligent out there to prevent it and other types of nasty illnesses that can harm their own feathered families. So what exactly is it and how do I prevent it?Coccidiosis ( käk-si-dē-ō-ses) is an illness caused by protozoa. There are 11 types that can affect chickens.  These parasites can live inside a host (chicken) or outside as well and loves wet moist conditions.  Chickens that appear healthy, shed the parasites in their stools.  With proper conditions, these microscopic parasites can multiply.  Chickens through scavenging, ingesting contaminated foods and drinking from contaminated water, such as puddles in the run, not knowingly, infect themselves.

Chickens that become infected will usually show signs about 3 days after infection.  The poor chickens droop, stop eating, pass bloody stools (these look like tar), and huddle together.  Typically, by the fourth day, the chicken will die, usually due to blood loss.

Treatment for coccidiosis usually entails treating your entire flock.  There are several medications on the market that can be purchased on the internet and at your local feed store.  Amprolium is a medication that is usually found in medicated chick feed. It is a safe medication that can be used in laying hens but is typically not used to treat coccidiosis. It is merely added to help prevent it from occurring. If you need to treat your flock,  Corid 9.6% is a safe option for laying hens. Your local avian veterinarian can also provide you more potent medications as well.  However, with a little preventative measures, your flock should never see this disease or many others for that matter.

Here are some tips to keeping your flock healthy and keeping illnesses away:

Add probiotics, vitamins and electrolytes and apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ water supply and boost their immune systems.

Add 2 % food grade diatomaceous earth to their feed

Keep water clean and free from droppings.

Consider using and cleaning dropping trays under the roosts daily.

Keep litter dry.  Pine shavings are great and noticeable wet areas can be removed and replaced easily.

Do not overcrowd your flock. Be sure to quarantine any new chickens you are adding to your flock for at least 1 month.

Keep puddles of water from developing in your run.  If you notice any, fill them with pine shavings to absorb the water.

Seek treatment at the first sign of a sick bird.  Your flock’s life may depend on it.

Consider vaccinations for your chicks.

Here are some more sources of information on Coccidiosis:

Coccidiosis in Chickens
Biological Control of Coccidiosis in Small Poultry Flocks
Prevent Coccidiosis in Chickens–with diet



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15 thoughts on “Coccidiosis in Backyard Chickens”

  1. Thank you for all the information.Do you put the apple cider in daily? And is the diatamacious put in daily? We have some I put in box for them to dust off in weekly.Thank you.

    Cindy from Rick-Rack and Gingham

  2. I put 1 tablespoon per gallon of the apple cider vinegar in the waterers (use plastic ones) and I put the DE in their food supply always. I mix in about 2% of the total food volume and then fill the feeders. Please make sure the DE is food grade!

  3. Good post! I just got chicks and keets.. all seem fine except the barred rocks (lost 1). Not sure if they are more delicate or if that group was exposed to something.

    I can say.. the keets are 2 weeks older and it's like letting juvenile delinquents teach nursery school. If they could… everyone would be running with scissors and licking frozen flagpoles.

  4. At what age can you let them snack on some bugs? We change the water every hour (3 mini water stations) and the food dish twice a day.. and everyday completely change out the shavings with spot clean ups too.

    But the keets taught the chicks to eat pine shavings. Just the dark ones (suddenly realized my birds are like my sister and M&M's)… any dark piece all of them now grab up.. run like crazy and end up eating it. They have food.. lots of it.

    Seriously… if I have to run through the neighborhood with a butterfly net to get them to stop eating shavings.. I'll do it. Chicks are around 5 days old (guessing.. the littlest ones are just getting feathers).. to over a week or so (getting tail feathers.)

  5. Hi Anne,
    I have always seen the chicks try shavings from time to time but you are right, you do not want them to eat too many as they can get blocked up and die.
    I have seen some people suggest putting in paper towels instead. I use pine shavings. There should be no dark pieces and they come two ways. I always get the large flakes. It seems to discourage them from eating them as the other type has small pieces.
    Also, try adding some distractions like a paper towel roll or a mirror. Try tossing some dried plain oats (oatmeal) into the loose bedding. Maybe this will help them seek out the oats vs. the shavings.
    Finally, they can snack on bugs when they are a few weeks. Be sure they have plenty of chick grit. Good luck! Don't forget try as they are a wonderful resource as well. Keep me posted!

  6. Backyard Market, you are very welcome. I hope that your flock is a happy and healthy one this time around! I have been following your darling chickens 🙂 I hope they are liking their new home!

    • Straw would be okay to use too. Many friends scatter it over puddles and snowy/icy spots 🙂 Unfortunately, I don't use it because Tilly LOVES to eat it. She had a terrible impacted/sour crop from it. She also taught her family to eat it. What a mess for us here! I also don't typically use straw as mites love to hide inside of the open shafts. There are no right or wrongs, it is all about what works for you and keeps you and your flock happiest.

  7. i lost a couple hens had a discharge kinda yellow not sure what was wrong had to remove them i was using the cider in the water at that time now im using terramycin in the water for now to protect the others. they just seemed to put there head in the feathers and then just died not sure what it is that made them sick we live in mo so now its cold have coop winterized hoping i have resolved the issue. I do use straw seen some use sand for warmth may try that also. I do keep the coop clean and feed grit and high protein feed. If you have an idea of what they may have had i would like that. love this inform also ty.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.