A simple fecal test will determine if any of your chicks have coccidiosis, which any vet can perform, whether they treat poultry or not. There are signs to look for but not all symptoms will determine coccidiosis. Many symptoms are similar in nature to other illnesses, so you can only know for certain with a fecal test. At my vet this test takes a matter of minutes to perform and to obtain the conclusion, but you can drop off a sample and wait for the vet to call if they are busy that day.
If coccidiosis goes without treatment, it can quickly cause chicks to expire and if one chick is infected, know that all will need to be treated to prevent further spread. There are several stages of the parasite that attacks the gut and if infestation is bad enough it will attack the cell walls of the stomach, causing leakage and if bad enough can cause blood poisoning.
If your are purchasing chicks from a hatchery, some are now offering Eimeria vaccinations to prevent coccidiosis, there will be a nominal charge, and the vaccinations are optional, however that may be the better choice, especially if you are ordering a number of chicks.
We have found that Corid is the best treatment and easy to use. It is simply added to their water and is their only source of water for 5 days. The Corid water must be changed daily, since the effectiveness is only determined for a 24 hour time period. After the 5-day treatment, they can resume their normal fresh water ration for 14 days and then given another treatment to kill off any parasites that may have hatched after the initial treatment. Do not use any vinegar water solution during this 5-day interval. After the 5 days you can give them electrolytes to help balance their system. (Refer to our link for electrolyte formula:
Some signs to be aware of:
Anytime you notice any of these symptoms it is time to determine the cause. You may witness some or all of the symptoms listed below. Forums are not the source you should be seeking to diagnose a problem, either seek your vet's advice or check Merck's Vet Manual for poultry illnesses, but act promptly; every hour counts when there is an illness in the chicks or in your flock. Forums are made up of backyard enthusiasts just as yourself, without any professional or expert training to deal with the illnesses. We have seen all too often, that advice given through random comments has been detrimental to flocks. Because of this we encourage you to seek expert advice.
We have nothing against holistic treatments, however most are slow to activate and are best used as a preventative rather than a treatment after illness has set in, and with poultry you do not have an opportunity to wait days or weeks for any treatment to begin working.
- Lethargy/Sleeping more than average
- Decreased or Loss of Appetite including water consumption
- Runny and/or Bloody Stool
- Any odd or unusual behavior
Once you have had a fecal test performed to determine if cocci is present, and begin treatment you should begin seeing improvement in the chicks behavior within the first 24 hours. If a chick is unable to drink the water, administer with an eye-dropper, a few drops at a time every couple of hours to help keep it hydrated and to get the formula into their digestive tract to treat for the parasites.
If it is necessary to hydrate a chick or older fowl, it is important that the eye dropper be inserted into the mouth, past the nostrils, to make sure the fluid is going into the throat and not into the lungs. Always give drops at a time, not a full eye dropper at a time; the birds are only able to swallow small amounts. These are just precautions for the safety of the chicks and to make sure they are actually getting benefit from the treatment and not causing further stress or complications.
Coccidiosis is most prevalent in shipped chicks. Stress tends to get the coccias more active and with stressed chicks there will be less resistance. So especially be alert for coccidiosis if you order chicks via mail order. But be aware any chicks can be infected with cocci.
Strict Bio-security is necessary when raising all poultry, but even with the cleanest environment there are simply some illnesses that are difficult to prevent. Keeping the chick environment clean, and dry is the first step to prevention. A warm, humid environment is the ideal condition for the Cocci to grow and multiply. Changing the water often if they are able to walk in the water container is vital to prevent the spread of any pathogens or parasites. Waterers and feeders that prevent the chicks from walking in them are the best choice. Waterers with water cups are a better option than open water containers.
Chicks do need exposure to some bacteria, to create a balance between the good and bad bacteria and to help build immunity to cocci, bacterial infections and viral illnesses. Introducing small amounts of probiotics such as yogurt with live bacteria is one healthy way to expose them to good bacteria and to keep their body in balance. There are certified organic probiotics that can be purchased but it's easy to make your own yogurt from live, active bacteria that is good for the chicks, chickens and you. See the link for making your own yogurt.
http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/recipes-for-self-reliance/yogurt-good-for-you-and-chickens Note: Chicks and adult chickens can be quite messy with yogurt as they shake it off their beak, so when giving them yogurt, make sure the area is easy to clean. Placing chicks in a rubbermaid (R) container for their yogurt feast may be a good option, rather than in their brooder. Make sure the container you use is not easily tipped over and shallow enough that the chicks cannot fall into it.
Things to remember:
- 1. Always feed a good quality balanced chick feed, either medicated or non-medicated. If treating chicks with antibiotics, use regular non-medicated feed, so that the treatment can be effective. Medicated feed can negate the effectiveness of vaccinations and prescribed antibiotics.
- 2. Watch for any signs of inactivity. Chicks are normally active unless they are sleeping, so be aware of any behavioral changes.
- 3. Check their droppings daily for any signs of blood.
- 4. Keep the environment clean and disinfected. For chicks their bedding should be changed daily, and more often if the bedding gets wet.
- 5. If one chick shows signs of illness treat all chicks.
- 6. Have a fecal test performed by a qualified vet, and get advice for your vet on a course of treatment.
- 7. Keep chicks warm. Avoid over-crowding. Allow at least 6 square inches per chick in the brooder and more space as they grow.
- 8. If a chick is not drinking water, be prepared to hydrate via eye dropper.
- 9. If treatment is recommended, follow all directions carefully through the duration of the treatment. After the initial treatment, follow up with fresh water and electrolytes. If a second treatment is advised, follow through to assure that the coccidiosis is clear of the gut.
- 10. After the full course of treatment give the chicks probiotics, either in the form of yogurt or probiotic formula to maintain a healthy bacterial environment in the gut.
Below you will find a link for a certified organic probiotic formula, and a link for Corid that we recommend you have on hand if you are raising many chicks annually. Both are activated with water.
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