We never thought we would be the homestead that would have to deal with coccidiosis, let alone beat it before it drestroyed our entire flock.
This is the deep down dirty truth of how coccidiosis can be brought to your flock(s), which include chickens, ducks, geese, other fowl, and farm animals; the deadliest killer of poultry. About 2 years ago we learned the hard way about, and we were extremely lucky it affected only one hen, never to reach other flock members.
Coccidiosis is a parasitic diseases that it usually affects chicks, and when you least expect it one of your birds, or your entire flock, can come down with it. Coccidiosis comes in various strains and as chicks they begin to build a resistance towards strains that have been exposed to them. By the time they reach maturity they have built a good resistance, but what they suddenly fall ill to is the exposure of a new strain brought to them. A strain that their immune system does not know begins its attack on their intestine.
What brought me to write this post? Three things.
We were devastated about our hen, Buffette, falling ill. This was our first illness to any of our hens and though we thought we were prepared, nothing could prepare us for this. She did not have the tell tail sign of having bloody poop, her signs were in her behavior and foamy droppings, she was dying right before our eyes. Her illness was noticed 5 days after moving to the new property, and it shocked us. We found her standing in the rain staring at a tree trunk, tail dropped, feathers puffed out, comb shrunk and pale, eyes closed, not her normal behavior at all. We immediately quarantined her and brought her into the house, keeping her in a large dog kennel, our makeshift hospital. We consulted a few people, one included a vet, and the census was possible coccidiosis. The vet suggested Amprolium, so we treated her and the entire flock immediately. One week later Buffette was doing better and the entire flock made it through.
I credit a healthy strong immune system for their survival, and from the moment we bring home chicks or hatch them they are provided herbs daily, and ACV & fresh garlic a few times (either in their waterers or sprinkled over their feed) building up their immune system.
If we can educate at least one person on the subject, then everything we went through with Buffette would be worth it.
The second reason was a visit to my mother-in-laws homestead which included spending time with her new flock. I knew I would be working with her flock, coop, and run area, but had not brought a change of shoes. Why is that so important? I would be compromising her flock with the shoes that I had worn around our property and in our chicken area. I could have unintentionally brought her flock a strain of coccidiosis that they had not built immunity to via the soles of my shoes. Many people do not realize how easily a visitor can infect a flock without even knowing it.
We all have the excitement of introducing our flock to visitors, but we often forget the importance of bio-security measures – methods in which we protect our flock. Providing visitors, especially ones who have their own flocks, with protective shoe covers or shoes which have only been used on your property, even have them admire your flock from the other side of the fence will helps to narrow the risk that your birds will pick up a stain that they do not have. Our friends over at Happy Days Farm wrote a great blog in regards to how to execute bio-security measures while guests visit with your flock.
Here it is, information that every backyard chicken, duck, geese, guinea, other fowl, and small farm animals owner should know.
HOW YOUR FLOCK BECOMES INFECTED
1. Tracking waste onto your property through the bottom of your shoes or clothing
2. Wild birds can also carry coccidiosis, dropping waste in the area where your flock is kept
3. Ingesting the waste of an infected bird; generally occurs when feed or scraps are provided in a high traffic area
4. Chicken or chicks raised in crowded coops or runs, causing unsanitary living quarters
5. Weather conditions. Coccidiosis breeds mainly in warm, wet conditions; spring time is the prime breeding season for coccidiosis
6. New flock members carrying a strain of the disease
7. Unsanitary feed and watering containers
HOW TO PREVENT COCCIDIOSIS (holistic solutions provided by Fresh Eggs Daily)
1. Keep living situation clean and dry, remove wet bedding regularly, ensure good ventilation in coops
2. Keep feed and water area clean
3. Keep feed and water containers clean
4. Do no overcrowd living quarters and provide an adequate size run and coop
5. Do not allow visitors to enter your coop or run area unless they are wearing protective foot covering or shoes which have never have left your property
6. Inspect your poultry’s waste regularly; installing a drop pan under the roost allows for the ability to monitor it on a regular basis – poop reference chart
7. Free range poultry are less likely to contract Coccidiosis
8. Rotate run location every year allowing for the land to recover
9. Expose chicks to possible strains by leaving soiled bedding in a chick brooder – cleaning the bedding week verses daily
10. Provide raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar (Braggs or homemade apple cider vinegar) in their water a few times a week
11. Daily feeding of fresh or dried oregano, green tea and cinnamon in the feed
12. Probiotics powder on a regular basis in the feed
13. A few drops of oregano oil into their water, if you notice that they are not consuming the fresh oregano; cinnamon oil can be added as well
14. Fresh minced garlic in their waterers or mixed into their feed a few times a week
15. Feed your chicks medicated feed, or feed non medicated feed and treat with Amprolium once a week in their water
SYMTHOMS OF AN INFECTED BIRD
1. Depressed looking, often found to be ‘lost’ standing in one spot, not moving, staring off into space
2. Combs and wattles are pale, almost white and shrunken
3. No appetite, not drinking
4. Bloody or watery diarrhea, sever infection can caused yellow foamy poop
5. Becoming lethargic, weak and listless
6. Ruffled feathers; a hen will look ‘puffed’ up
7. Tail feather and back end will be drooped
8. A chicken may also lay on its side preventing pressure on their sore stomach
If your flock should become infected there are treatments available; treatment is highly effective if the symptoms are caught early enough. The antibiotics, Amprolium or Cordi, can be found at most feed stores, online, or at private farms who sell chickens and other poultry. Follow the instructions closely on the package and make sure to treat the entire flock, not just the infected animal.
Remove all of the bedding inside the coop (we burned ours), and sanitize the coop. We sanitized the coop using bleach & water, then spraying down the coop, nesting boxes, and roosts with tea tree oil.
Janet over at Timber Creek Farm wrote a great blog on how to detect if your chicken is ill and how to treat the illness. The key to good poultry husbandry is to know the symptoms, which allows you to detect an illness early on and possibly save the hen’s life or the lives of your entire flock.
It has been almost 2 years since the incident, and Buffette has been healthy since. This past summer she went broody for the first time and hatched out a guinea keet, which we named Happy.