What is Coccidiosis in Chickens?: Prevention and Treatment

Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease that targets the intestinal tracts of chickens, significantly impacting poultry health worldwide. It’s caused by various species of Eimeria, a protozoan parasite that is specially adapted to intrude into the cells lining a chicken’s intestines. Visible symptoms, including blood in the droppings, diarrhea, and lethargy, can emerge as the parasite damages intestinal tissues.


You might notice affected birds showing signs of weight loss or appearing under the weather, both indicators that coccidiosis could be at play. Because of the parasite’s life cycle, infection can progress rapidly through a flock, often inciting concern for poultry keepers. Proper diagnosis is crucial, as this informs a suitable treatment plan that might include medication or adjustments to management practices.

Key Takeaways

  • Coccidiosis in chickens is caused by the Eimeria parasite, leading to digestive distress and other health issues.
  • Rapid diagnosis and appropriate treatment are critical for controlling coccidiosis outbreaks in poultry.
  • Good management practices and biosecurity are essential preventive measures to keep coccidiosis at bay.

Understanding Coccidiosis

Cocci in Chickens: Prevention and Understanding

Coccidiosis is an infection in chickens caused by parasite invasion in their intestines, affecting health and farm productivity. Let’s break down what this means for your flock.

Definition and Causes Of Coccidiosis In Chickens

Coccidiosis is an intestinal infection in chickens, triggered by tiny, single-celled organisms called protozoa. Specifically, it is caused by Eimeria species of protozoa. These parasites thrive in warm and moist conditions typically found in chicken’s intestines.

  • Causes:
    • Emieria protozoa
    • Contaminated droppings

Coccidia Life Cycle

The life cycle of coccidia involves several stages. It starts when chickens ingest sporulated oocysts — the infectious form of the parasite — from their environment. Once inside the host, they undergo a replicative phase in the intestines and eventually shed unsporulated oocysts in the droppings.

  1. Ingestion of sporulated oocysts.
  2. Replication in the intestines.
  3. Shedding of oocysts in droppings.

Symptoms And Clinical Signs Of Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis can manifest through various symptoms, generally impacting your chicken’s health visibly.

  • Common symptoms include:
    • Diarrhea (potentially bloody)
    • Lethargy
    • pale comb

These signs indicate significant disruption in the ability of the intestines to absorb nutrients, affecting the overall well-being of the chicken.

Economic Impact on Poultry Farming

Your poultry flock suffering from coccidiosis can lead to economic challenges. Egg production often decreases, and the growth rate can slow down due to the infection’s impact on health.

  • Economic impacts:
    • Reduced egg production.
    • Slower growth rate in affected chickens.

Addressing coccidiosis promptly can help mitigate these financial losses and maintain a healthy and productive flock.

Diagnosis and Detection Of Coccidiosis

veterinarian inspecting chickens GuerillaHomesteader.com

In ensuring the health of your chickens, recognizing and diagnosing coccidiosis is crucial. This section explores how to accurately identify this disease and pinpoint the specific species responsible for the infection in poultry.

Diagnostic Techniques

To diagnose coccidiosis, you will typically start with a clinical examination of your chickens observing for symptoms such as lethargy, diarrhea, and reduced appetite. Yet, these signs are not exclusive to coccidiosis.

For a definitive diagnosis, analysis of feces is essential. It involves:

  • Fecal floatation test: This test detects the presence of oocysts in the droppings, which are the infective stages of the parasite released from infected chickens. By mixing feces with a solution that causes the oocysts to float, they can be viewed and identified under a microscope.
  • Necropsy: Should your chickens display severe symptoms or unfortunately perish, a necropsy can reveal characteristic lesions in the intestines which can point towards a coccidiosis infection.

Both these techniques help confirm the disease but not the exact strain affecting your flock.

Identifying Coccidiosis Species

To target treatment most effectively, you may want to identify the specific Eimeria species causing the infection. The genus Eimeria comprises several species, with E. tenella and E. necatrix being common culprits in poultry. Here’s how each species is generally identified:

  • Lesion Scoring: Post a necropsy, the intestinal tract is examined for lesions. Since different species of Eimeria affect various parts of the intestines, lesions’ locations can give a clue about which species are present.
  • Microscopic examination: If samples are taken during the fecal floatation test, a microscope can allow for the observation of oocysts’ size and shape which vary between species of Eimeria.

These methods, while technical, can provide you with specific information to address the health issue directly and prevent future outbreaks among your birds.

Treatment Approaches


When your chickens are diagnosed with coccidiosis, prompt treatment is essential. You have several options to manage the disease, including chemical anticoccidials and supportive care practices.

Chemical Anticoccidials

Chemical anticoccidials, such as amprolium, are commonly used to treat coccidiosis in chickens. Amprolium, found in products like Amprol and Corid, interferes with the parasite’s ability to multiply. It’s crucial to follow the dosage instructions carefully to ensure effectiveness and prevent resistance.

  • Amprolium
    • Dosage: Follow the label or veterinarian’s guidance
    • Duration: Treatment typically lasts for 5 to 7 days

Tips for Use:

  • Measure accurately using a proper dosing tool.
  • Mix with drinking water as coccidia can further deplete chickens of fluids, leading to dehydration.

Supportive Care and Management

Alongside specific medications, supportive care is vital. Ensure your chickens have access to plenty of fluids to combat dehydration and provide nutritional support to help them recover.

  • Hydration
    • Monitor water intake.
    • Provide fresh, clean water consistently.
  • Nutritional Support
    • High-quality feed: Keep a balanced diet to support recovery.
    • Vitamins and electrolytes: Consider adding these to the water to help with stress and dehydration.

Management Practices:

  • Remove wet litter to limit oocyst survival.
  • Practice good coop hygiene to prevent disease spread.
  • Avoid overcrowding to reduce stress and contamination risk.
  • Consider adding Chlorine Dioxide tablets to drinking water.

Promptly addressing coccidiosis with these treatment approaches can help your chickens recover more quickly and reduce the impact of the disease on your flock.

Prevention Strategies


Keeping your flock safe from coccidiosis involves a multifaceted approach that includes vaccination, meticulous environmental management, and careful control of feed and water. These measures aim to reduce the risk of infection and foster protective immunity in your chicks.

Vaccination Protocols

Vaccinations are considered by some to be one of the most effective ways to stimulate protective immunity against coccidiosis in your flock. The vaccine is usually administered to chicks early, often directly at the hatchery. By following the prescribed vaccination schedule, you might help your chicks develop a strong, long-lasting immune response. However some choose to not vaccinate their chickens (like me), due to uncertainty of their benefits and/or safety concerns. It’s up to each individual to decide for themselves.

Environmental Management

Maintaining a clean and dry environment is crucial for disease prevention. Here’s how you can manage your coop’s environment:

  • Litter: Regularly change and maintain dry litter to prevent the growth and spread of the parasite.
  • Disinfect: Clean and disinfect the coop regularly, focusing on feeders and waterers to maintain hygiene. Consider adding Chlorine Dioxide tablets to drinking water.
  • Dust and Ventilation: Control dust and ensure proper ventilation to minimize respiratory issues that can weaken your chickens’ immune systems.

Feed and Water Control

Feed and water are potential carriers of coccidia, so it’s important to manage them carefully:

  • Medicated Feed: Use a coccidiostat in the feed; this medication helps to control the spread of coccidia in your flock.
  • Fresh Water: Provide a constant supply of fresh, clean water to discourage the growth of coccidia which can thrive in dirty water sources.

Introducing Immunity in Chicks

The early days of a chick’s life are critical for developing immunity. You can introduce immunity through:

  • Coccidiostats: Include these in the feed as a preventative measure to protect chicks before they develop their own immunity.
  • Hygiene: Ensure that chicks are raised in clean, sanitary conditions to give them the best chance at developing a robust immune system without excessive exposure to diseases.

Understanding Host Interaction


Coccidiosis doesn’t affect every chicken equally; much depends on the breed’s genetics and the health of their intestinal tract.

Genetic Resistance in Breeds

Certain chicken breeds exhibit a natural resistance to coccidial infections due to host genetic factors. For example, some heritage breeds may have developed stronger immune responses over generations, which can slow down the parasite’s replication rate and reduce its impact. The genetic makeup of these breeds affects the intestinal immunity, providing varying levels of defense against this parasitic invader.

Impact of Coccidiosis on Intestinal Health

When coccidia invade, they target the intestinal lining of your chickens, undermining the gut’s integrity. This assault can lead to inflammation, diminishing the digestive tract’s ability to absorb nutrients effectively. Over time, damage to the intestinal health can impair growth, egg production, and overall vitality. Maintaining the gut’s health is crucial for ensuring your chickens have a strong defense against the disease and can recover more readily if they become affected.

Management and Biosecurity


Effective management and biosecurity are your strongest tools in preventing coccidiosis in your chickens. Keeping the environment clean and controlling pests will help keep this parasitic disease at bay.

Sanitation Practices

Clean Coops: Regular cleaning of your chicken coop is essential. Remove waste and replace bedding frequently to minimize the risk of infection. Ensure that feeders and waterers are cleaned regularly to prevent contamination.

  • Feed and Water: Keep feed and water free from fecal contamination. Use systems that keep these resources off the ground and change them out regularly. Consider adding Chlorine Dioxide tablets to drinking water.
  • Equipment: Disinfect equipment and boots before and after entering the coop to avoid spreading the parasite.

Controlling Vectors and Carriers

Insects and Rodents: Insects like flies and beetles, as well as rodents, can carry the coccidia parasite.

  • Use insect traps and rodent control measures to keep these populations in check.
  • Seal any gaps and maintain the coop to prevent these pests from entering.

Environmental Measures: Control the environmental factors that support the life cycle of the coccidia parasite.

  • Ensure good drainage around the coop to keep the ground dry.
  • Maintain proper density of chickens in the coop to reduce stress and lower the disease transmission.

Frequently Asked Questions


In this section, you’ll get answers to some of the most common questions surrounding coccidiosis in chickens, helping you better understand and manage this condition in your poultry.

How can coccidiosis be naturally treated in poultry?

You can address mild cases of coccidiosis naturally by keeping your chickens’ environment clean and dry, which discourages the growth and survival of the coccidia parasites. Herbal remedies, such as adding garlic or apple cider vinegar to drinking water, are believed to strengthen the immune system, but these methods do not replace professional veterinary treatment for severe infections.

What signs should you look for to identify coccidiosis in your flock?

Watch for symptoms like bloody diarrhea, ruffled feathers, lethargy, and poor growth or weight gain. These indicators, especially in younger birds, may point to coccidiosis. However, definitive diagnosis requires a vet’s analysis of fecal samples.

What are the common causes of coccidiosis in domestic fowl?

Coccidiosis is primarily caused by ingestion of oocysts (coccidia eggs) found in contaminated soil, litter, feed, or water. Overcrowding and poor sanitation can exacerbate the spread of this disease due to the ease with which oocysts can be transferred among birds.

Can coccidiosis be prevented, and if so, what steps should be taken?

Prevention is key and involves regular cleaning of the coop, providing fresh food and clean water, and avoiding overcrowding. Some chicken keepers use coccidiosis vaccines for their flocks or add medicated feed with a coccidiostat as a preventative measure.

Is coccidia in chickens a zoonotic disease that can affect humans?

No, the coccidia that affect chickens are not typically zoonotic, meaning they don’t usually infect humans. However, good hygiene is always important when handling birds or cleaning coops to prevent other potential diseases.

If a chicken has coccidiosis, what are two common symptoms that may be observed?

Two common symptoms of coccidiosis in chickens include bloody stool and a reduction in appetite. These can lead to weight loss and overall weakness in the affected bird.

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