“Stopping the threat” from Purina Poultry

Coccidiosis is caused by a microscopic parasite called coccidia that is transmitted by the droppings from infected birds. In other words, anywhere there’s a microscopic trace of bird poop—in a waterer, a feeder, or in bedding—there’s almost certainly coccidia present.

One of the best ways to prevent a coccidiosis outbreak is by practicing responsible sanitation and litter management. Believe it or not, when the conditions are just right, coccidia can survive for up to four years outside a bird’s body. And these hardy little organisms can be transmitted via boots, equipment, insects and rodents. You’re going to need a multi-tiered approach to minimize the threat.

Here are some suggestions:
Keep the premises as dry as possible. Coccidia love moisture.
Never introduce new adult birds into your flock. Birds that appear healthy can be carriers of a number of deadly diseases. Quarantine them first.
Raise chicks in isolation. Mature birds can pass along diseases and parasites to vulnerable young birds. Birds tend to acquire some natural immunity to coccidian as they age, but chicks are very vulnerable to infection.
Thoroughly clean and disinfect the brooder between broods. This includes any equipment the chicks will come in contact with. It is imperative that you allow time for complete drying before adding litter. Once the premises are dry, place four to six inches of dry, fresh litter material (wood shavings or a commercial absorbent litter material) on the floor.
Provide clean water at all times. A typical problem is that brooder bedding or dust (containing feces) gets scratched into the water source. If possible, elevate the waterer slightly to the level of the birds’ backs, and continue to elevate further as the birds grow; this will help to keep the water clean. Clean waterers relentlessly. And never let the waterer run dry—it will force the birds to search for water in puddles, which are almost certainly contaminated.
Provide clean bedding. If feces are in the bedding, they’re on the birds’ feathers, and the birds will ingest them while preening (using their beaks to clean themselves). Replace wet bedding around waterers and add bedding to any problem spots.
Let sunlight do some of the work. Coccidia hate sunlight. It’s a natural disinfectant. Incorporate as much natural sunlight into your brooder as possible.
Ask your veterinarian about vaccinating. A commercial coccidiosis vaccine is available, but it’s not beneficial for every flock. Consult your veterinarian before using the vaccine.

Remember, exposure to coccidia isn’t the threat—frankly, it’s unavoidable. Even wild birds carry coccidia. The serious threat comes from prolonged over-exposure to coccidia in a stressful, unsanitary environment that can overwhelm a bird’s immune system.

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