The coccidia organism causes the disease coccidiosis. Coccidia is a microscopic protozoan parasite that lives in hosts' intestines. Coccidia is prevalent in chickens. Coccidiosis can affect chickens' weight gain and overall health, and it can kill them if left untreated.
Eight species of coccidia can infect chickens. Eight species include Eimeria tenella, E. burnetti, E. maxima, E. necatrix, E. praecox, E. acervulina, E. mivati and E. mitis. While other species can get coccidia, including humans, coccidia that infect chickens cannot infect other species, and vice versa. So if you own turkeys, coccidia from your turkeys cannot infect chickens, nor can chicken coccidia infect you or your dog. Depending on what kind of coccidia your chicken is infested with will determine where in the intestine the infestation occurs. The infestation may occur in the duodenal loop, the intestine or the caecum.
Symptoms and Signs
Coccidia symptoms include bloody diarrhea, watery diarrhea, ruffled feathers, huddling, weight loss, depression, paleness, lack of appetite and poor weight gain -- but chickens may show no symptoms whatsoever. Most birds are affected between the ages of 3 and 5 weeks old. While it can affect any chicken at any age, most chickens are immune to coccidia by the time they're 14 weeks old. Your veterinarian can diagnose coccidiosis by looking for oocysts or protozoan eggs in a bird's fecal sample under a microscope.
You can treat coccidia outbreaks either with medication prescribed by your veterinarian or with anticoccidial medications available at feed stores and from poultry suppliers. Follow the medication's directions for treating chickens.
Many chick foods come pre-medicated to prevent coccidiosis outbreaks. When fed to chicks, it helps build the young chicks' immunity to the parasite by allowing some oocysts to make it through. You can prevent coccidiosis by eliminating wet litter and use an ammonia-type pine cleaner to disinfect the areas. Keeping the brooder clean will keep coccidia under control.