Coccidiosis Backyard Chickens: This vet’s essential guide

The top priority of every backyard chicken enthusiast should be keeping the flock healthy and happy. This, of course, includes getting yourself familiar with the most common threats for your chickens. One of the diseases most likely to spread among your flock is coccidiosis.

It attacks the chicken’s intestinal lining, causing (often bloody) diarrhoea. As a result, chickens dehydrate, suffer from malnutrition, and eventually die if the condition is not dealt with immediately.

Caused by a single-cell microscopic parasitic organism called Coccidia, this illness attacks not only chickens but also other poultry and livestock. There are multiple types of this parasite in the environment, each attacking a different animal species. Once it finds a way to your coop, coccidiosis can hit your flock hard as it spreads rapidly and is very deadly.

The good news is that it’s preventable and treatable, so educating yourself on the causes and symptoms can go a long way in keeping your flock safe. Below, you’ll find all the necessary information on how to recognize and fight this disease.


What are the signs and symptoms of Coccidiosis in chickens?

Always keeping one eye open and tracking the behaviour of your chickens is the key to keeping them healthy. Recognizing the early signs of coccidiosis can make all the difference between saving and losing your flock.

Otherwise, you’ll notice the disease only when you start finding your chickens dead, at which point, it may be too late. Always have the proactive approach and be on the lookout for the following signs and symptoms that may point to coccidiosis:

  • Lethargy and depression are usually the first signs of coccidiosis. The birds simply seem listless, sad, and a bit off
  • Loss of appetite, although often generic, may also point to the development of disease. The chicken will significantly decrease its feed and water consumption. Rapid weight loss usually follows the loss of appetite
  • The chickens may huddle together more than usual and have fluffed and ruffled feathers and dropped wings
  • Pale comb and skin
  • Changes in the stool. At first, the bird may have a foamy stool which will soon turn to severe diarrhea. Blood in the chicken droppings is probably the most indicative of coccidiosis. The blood will start to appear on the 4thday after the infection, with the more significant amounts on the 5th and 6th days.


Can chickens recover from Coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is treatable, but only if caught early. If they receive proper treatment on time, chickens can successfully recover with no lasting consequences of the disease. Once you start the treatment, it usually lasts for about 7 days, with the first improvements visible after one day.

The chicken will probably fully recover after up to a month.

The recovery process also depends on the age of the bird. Older chickens may have already developed the natural immunity, and, even if they catch coccidiosis, they will get better faster.

Another factor is whether the chicken has any other illnesses in addition to coccidiosis. An infected chicken is also more susceptible to other diseases. If a chicken with coccidiosis falls ill with another disease, it may significantly prolong the recovery period.

Sometimes, if the infection is not too severe, the chicken can even recover without any treatment. This is mostly the case with older chickens with developed immunity.


What is the Best Treatment for Coccidiosis in Chickens?

The treatment of coccidiosis-infected chicken depends on the severity of the diseases, the age of infected birds, and their condition. Luckily, you can get most of the drugs for the coccidiosis treatment over the counter.

Before starting any treatment, make sure to separate infected birds from the rest of the flock.

In coccidiosis treatment, most vets recommend the drug called Corid. It contains amprolium, an active ingredient that can deal with the infection rather efficiently and quickly. Corid is available in powder and liquid form which are both used by adding to the drinking water.

Before applying Corid, you should remove all current drinking water from the coop and thoroughly wash the waterer, inside and out. Once they are clean, you can refill them with fresh water and add the recommended dosage of Corid. The medicated water should be the only water chickens drink for 5 days.

Alternatively, you can use another coccidiostat, Toltrazuril.

When you finish the Corid or Toltrazuril treatment, make sure to help chicken replenish vitamins in their body. The treatment reduces the birds’ ability to absorb vitamin B, so you should use one of the vitamin supplements available on the market.

Some chicken owners use natural remedies to deal with coccidiosis. Even though they’re helpful, they’re not near as efficient as the drugs I mentioned above. The most common natural remedies in use are vinegar, yoghurt, and garlic. Although they likely won’t help you get rid of coccidiosis in your chickens, they can help improve immunity and prevent further disease.

In any case, the best course of action when having a coccidiosis infection in your coop is to consult a vet and get their advice on treatment.


Can antibiotics cure Coccidiosis?

The coccidia which causes coccidiosis is not a bacteria, also antibiotics are not a part of the primary treatment. However, ac coccidiosis damages the chickens’ intestinal wall, it leaves them with decreased immunity and prone to developing secondary infections.

To control secondary bacterial development, a lot of vets recommend adding antibiotics, such as tylosin or amoxicillin, to the treatment. Along with antibiotics, it’s a good idea to add a probiotic supplement to the treatment to support the growth of beneficial bacteria.


How do you clean coop after Coccidiosis?

Using recommended drugs will help you eradicate coccidiosis. Still, to prevent reinfection and another disease outbreak you’ll need to thoroughly clean the chickens’ living space. You should remove all the waste and litter from the coop.

Furthermore, remove all the beddings from nesting boxes and the coop floor. If possible, burn them to prevent other chickens and wild birds from accessing them. As for the diseased members of the flock, it’s best to incinerate them as the disease is parasitic.

Once you’ve done removing waste and beddings, sanitize the entire space, including nesting boxes and roosting bars. You can use ammonia and water solution or some store-bought strong disinfectant. Immediately after coccidiosis, try to keep the coop as dry as possible and rake it regularly.


Pro and cons: Backyard chickens coccidiosis vaccine

One of the most efficient ways of coccidiosis prevention is vaccination. Most types of vaccines are applied to the young chick within the first week or even the first day of their life. Baby chicks are usually very susceptible to coccidiosis as they still haven’t fully developed an immune system.

Vaccination doesn’t provide 100% protection from coccidiosis but is a valuable tool of prevention. Common ways to administer vaccines are through drinking water, spraying to the feed, or eye drops.


Pros of Coccidiosis Vaccine:

  • The immunity is more lasting than when naturally developed
  • Similar performance to anticoccidial drugs
  • No risk of antibiotic resistance


Cons of Coccidiosis Vaccine:

  • It may be effective only against the most common strains, not all of them
  • Vaccine and medicated feed cancel each other
  • As vaccines are normally produced in large quantities, they may be too expensive and difficult to get for backyard flock owners


Can you eat eggs if chickens have Coccidiosis?

As with other diseases, many people worry if it’s safe to eat eggs from the chicken that is ill with coccidiosis. The fact is that most chickens have a bit of residual infection at all times. More than likely, you’ve already eaten eggs from the coccidiosis-infected chicken.

When there’s a more severe case of the illness, the infected chicken will, in most cases, stop laying eggs. Those who continue to produce them will lay perfectly healthy eggs as coccidia can’t get into eggs.

So, eggs from the chicken that has coccidiosis are safe.

However, this may not be the case if the chicken is under treatment for coccidiosis. Here, egg safety will mostly depend on the medications that these chickens receive. Some drugs have a significant withdrawal period and the eggs may be unsafe for human consumption for some time.

Make sure to always check the label of the medication the chicken is currently using. The most common coccidiosis drug, Corid, has 0 days withdrawal period and you can get eat those eggs immediately.


Is chicken Coccidiosis contagious to humans?

As I already mentioned, there are multiple types of the parasite causing coccidiosis, and each of them is species-specific. So the chicken coccidiosis can’t be transmitted to humans. Still, you can transmit the disease and be responsible for the coccidiosis outbreak in your coop. The parasites attach to your boots, clothes, and hands. One more reason to isolate the infected birds from the rest of the flock.

While coccidiosis is not contagious to humans, come other chicken diseases are. Make sure to always keep good hygiene and wash and sanitize your hands after every visit to the coop. Also, it’s a good idea to have a designated pair of shoes for dealing with your flock.