UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA

COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE AGRICULTURAL EXPERIMENT STATION
BERKELEY, CALIFORNIA

CIRCULAR

300

December, 1925

COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS
J. K.

BEACH

and D. E. DAVIS*
destructive
diseases
of

Coccidiosis
chickens.
all

is

one of the most

young

It is so

widespread that, in poultry
losses occur in chicks

districts, practically

become so. weeks old.

and new farms quickly from four to eight In infected flocks from 25 to 50 per cent and sometimes nearly all of the chicks die in two or three weeks. The large number of unthrifty or "cull" chicks among the survivors in infected flocks
established poultry farms are infected

The heaviest

that

greater loss to the

have not been given effective treatment sometimes causes a poultryman than the mortality. Older birds

become affected with a slowly fatal (chronic) type of the disease, which may be general in the flock or, as frequently happens, affect only a few birds. The disease frequently occurs in young turkeys
as well as in chickens.

CAUSED BY A PARASITE
caused by the presence in the intestines of chicks of a microscopic, protozoan parasite called Eimeria avium. The parasite
Coccidiosis
is

develops and multiplies in the
disease results

development.

the intestines. The from the injury to the cells during this period of In young chicks, the ceca (blind pouches) are the
cells of the walls of

parts affected, while in older birds with the chronic type of the
disease, the small intestines, rather

than the ceca, are involved.

Severe outbreaks of coccidiosis so frequently occur in flocks which have not received suitable food or care or which are not properly
housed, that some poultrymen believe
it to be due to such conditions. These conditions do not cause coccidiosis, but render them more susceptible by lowering their natural resistance. Therefore, such things

as

over-feeding,

sudden changes in the

ration,

poorly ventilated

houses, raising too

many

chicks in a house, failure to keep the houses

warm and dry day and
weather, and
of serious outbreaks.
*

night and especially during cold, rainy

failure to keep the houses clean favor the occurrence

Division of Veterinary Science.

UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION .

and multiply by what of this developmental known as the asexual cycle. Brooder houses. (fig. CONTAMINATED SOIL COMMON SOURCE OF INFECTION Chickens become infected with coccidiosis by the ingestion of food or drinking water contaminated with sporulated oocysts. The first stage. 1. When the sporulated oocysts are taken into the intestine. Oocysts in freshly expelled droppings are not harmful when taken into the intestines of chicks. is called a merozoite The final stage The merozoites cycle.CIRC. C). .) In the brooder yards. Under the conditions of moisture and temperature such as are found in brooder houses. known as sporozoites. 1. like migrate to other stage of which is cells and either pass through is an asexual the sporozoites. are released. feeding and watering vessels. These penetrate the cells of the mucous membrane lining of the ceca or small intestines. A). B. 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS LIFE CYCLE OF THE PARASITE its In the completion of life cycle. of the parasite is known as an Large numbers of oocysts are present in the droppings of affected chicks. motile forms. the final the oocyst (egg stage). It is the sporulated oocyst which causes coccidiosis when ingested by susceptible chicks. 1. (% 1. the parasite passes - many forms these stages or stages of development. The soil of yards in which infected chickens have been kept is the most common source of the infection. alive in the soil of poultry yards for a year or longer. but pass out with the droppings and undergo sporulation as previously described. hovers and other accessories previously used for infected birds and which have not been property cleaned may be a source of the infection. is A through knowledge of certain of of practical importance in the application of effective preventive and control measures. however. Often also the walls of small blood vessels are destroyed. oocyst (fig. or through what known as the sexual cycle. or egg stage. conditions are less favorable for sporulation and a longer time is required for it to take place. very minute. The development and multiplication of the parasite in the walls of the ceca and intestines cause extensive destruction of the mucous membrane lining. in two or three days they undergo a change known as sporulation. This results in hemorrhage into the ceca and the appearance of blood in the droppings. The oocysts do not develop further in the intestines of the birds. is This form very resistant and may remain (fig. is There they develop C).

dust -laden improbable that infected hens ever transmit the disease through the egg to their offspring. Chicks may become infected when allowed to run in as orchards or gardens that have been fertilized with chicken manure. first IN CHICKS indication of the presence of coccidiosis in a flock of chicks is droopiness of a few. it must be borne in . The affected birds remain close and stand with wings drooping. The bloody droppings usually are seen in the early stages of the outbreak. Droopy birds may be seen for two or three days before any deaths occur. Cliick with coccidiosis. (fig.4 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION Attendants may carry infection into brooder houses from contami- nated yards. The amount varies from that sufficient only to slightly tinge the droppings to enough to give them the appearance of consisting entirely of blood. wild birds. in. visitors. The infection may be introduced on wind. do not eat. and eyes closed for long periods is This attitude quite characteristic of the disease 2). It is to new premises by such means healthy adult fowls which harbor the germs. BLOODY DIARRHEA NOT ALWAYS PRESENT The droppings of affected chicks frequently contain blood. head drawn of time unless disturbed. DROOPINESS FIRST SYMPTOM Usually the to the hover. 2. Fig. Although the presence of blood in the droppings is a frequently occurring and quite characteristic symptom. etc. Occasionally they are the first indication of disease observed.

the fowl backward (fig. After this. Such birds may never become the loss to the poultrymen from this source may be profitable and as great as that resulting from mortality. may lie on its side with both may lie on its breast with one . roughened. does not always apply. 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF in CHICKENS 5 mind that. since that coccidiosis the droppings. legs extended comb and wattles. Seven-months old pullet with chronic coccidiosis. is it commonly The use of this name may give poultrymen the impression name for the disease not present in their flocks unless blood is seen in Fig. gradual loss of flesh. deaths become When less frequent but may continue for from three to four weeks. 3. many outbreaks of coccidiosis. leg weakness or "parweak movements when walking. should be discouraged. develops slowly and may affect only a few fowls in a flock. Therefore. dirty plumage. this does not occur.ClRC. effective measures of control are not adopted. " bloody diarrhea. In 3). OLDER BIRDS HAVE CHRONIC TYPE OF THE DISEASE The chronic type of pullets between the the disease is seen in older birds. MORTALITY GREATEST AT START OF OUTBREAK The heaviest mortality usually occurs during the first week or ten days after the first droopiness appears. usually It ages of four and eight months. or sluggish. a large percentage of the survivors fail to develop normally." the used by poultrymen. or it extreme cases of leg weakness. The prominent symptoms are loss of appetite. paleness of the alysis" of the legs.

as a rule. intestinal worms or leg extended nutritional disturbances. the disease can be recognized only by the finding of oocysts on microscopic examination of the contents of the ceca. This may consist of a solid mass which appears to have been deposited in layers or it may consist of a grayish-white plug with a hollow center. Occasionally the liver is involved. white or yellowish specks on the surface. small. of these organs are. the changes are usually confined to the ceca. whitish areas may be present in the walls of the ceca. 5). Such areas are sometimes distributed throughout the small intestine. In such cases. in size or The walls be normal The ceca may markedly distended. The liver lesions. in the organs observed upon examination of dead birds vary with the duration of the disease or the severity of the In chicks. The ceca of chicks which linger for a week or more before death often contain an accumulation of grayish or yellowish -white. Frequently chicks which have died of coccidiosis exhibit no definite marked change in the appearance of the ceca or of the cecal contents. cheesy material (fig. Four-months old pullet with chronic coccidiosis. Death from chronic infection occurs only after several days or even weeks of sickness.6 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION forward and the other backward (fig. They often contain sufficient blood to give them a reddish appearance. . 4). Some pullets that are unable to stand appear quite normal in a sitting posture. Fig. when present. Chronic coccidiosis may be easily confused with the symptoms resulting from external parasites. 4. consist of small. thickened. In some birds. DISEASE AFFECTS CECA OF CHICKS The changes infection.

the presence of coccidiosis should be at once suspected and proper control measures adopted without waiting for a microscopic examination to be made. This requires a microscopic examination.CIRC. The ceca rarely show any change. DISEASE IN CHICKS NOT ALWAYS EASY TO RECOGNIZE Coccidiosis is easy to recognize when affected chicks void bloody droppings or when bloody or cheesy material is found in the ceca of dead chicks. Chicks may then be submitted for examination to a veteri- . In pullets with the chronic type of the disease. the lesions are conThe intestinal walls become thickened a and the lining has spongy appearance. Fig. In severe cases. the disease is so prevalent that whenever droopiness or death of a few chicks occurs in a previously healthy flock. However. 5. When these indications of the disease are absent. it is necessary to find the parasite in the ceca in order to definitely determine the presence of coccidiosis. 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS CHRONIC TYPE AFFECTS SMALL INTESTINES fined to the small intestines. red blotches is or hemorrhagic areas may be present. Occasionally there a slough- ing of patches of the lining. Ceca of chick with coccidiosis.

1925. Hilgardia 1: 167-181. acidity in sour milk. J. nutrition and the condition of the fowls. or other milk products is not a necessary factor in producing acidity in the intestinal tract of chickens. The acidity pro- duced in the ceca by the milk sugar appears to be harmful to some In of the forms of the coccidial parasites present in those organs. Acidity can be produced equally well by feeding milk sugar alone. E. and Corl. and Davis.y UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION narian or a laboratory. Therefore.. 1 Beach. J.. CHRONIC TYPE RESEMBLES OTHER DISEASES of certain species of intestinal Chronic coccidiosis can be differentiated from the effects on chickens worms or from some nutritional disturbances only by microscopic examination of intestinal contents or of scrapings from the lining of the intestines of affected fowls. if coccidiosis is found. J. Beach. they will be benefited by receiving treatment so promptly. whether coccidial parasites are present second. whole milk or dry skim-milk on the hydrogen ion concentration of the cecal contents of chickens. it must be determined: first. CONTROLLED BY DIET AND SANITATION The 1 results of experiments conducted at this station indicate that is feeding sufficient buttermilk or skim-milk controlling outbreaks of coccidiosis. J. The influence of feeding lactose or dry skim-milk on artificial infection of chickens with sporulated oocysts of Eimeria avium. Even the feeding of cultures of lactic acid-producing bacteria adds nothing to the effectiveness of milk. E. cultures of B. The effect of feeding lactose. 1925. Hilgardia 1: 145-166. acidophillus.. its property of producing ability to stimulate rapid growth. and. . Therefore. second. and third. The chicks will not be injured by the control measures and. due to the milk sugar. whether other intestinal parasites are present. whether there is any relation between tinal . The same is true of the milkof acidity is The production souring bacteria. E. or dry skim-milk. E. D. butter milk. sour milk. 1925. of considerable value in The : benefit derived from the milk appears to be due to two factors acidity in the ceca. its first. Poultry Science 4: 83-93. C. Frequently both coccidial parasites and one or more species of intesworms may be present in the same fowl. before an intelligent decision can be made as to the treatment of fowls suspected of having chronic coccidiosis. sweet milk. Beach. Studies in the control of avian coccidiosis.

Failure to do this will result in the weaker chicks being crowded out and 2 Appliances. 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS 9 order to continuously maintain acidity in the ceca. satisfactory results cannot be expected. The ability them increased of milk to stimulate rapid growth of chicks gives to resistance against diseases in general and. against coccidiosis. consists of . and. dry skim-milk is used it should constitute 40 per cent of the Since dry skim-milk is more expensive than the poultry feeds commonly used. Recommendations concerning the use of milk itary measures to control coccidiosis follow: in the ration DRY SKIM-MILK If IN MASH mash. This has been accomplished by feeding mash containing 20 per cent milk sugar or 40 per cent dry skim-milk. 1923. if less is used. it should not simply be added to a chick mash mixture containing meat scrap or other protein concentrate instead. mash as soon as the presence of the disease is Keep the mash constantly before the chicks in hoppers or troughs constructed so as to prevent waste. therefore. the following ingredients Dry skim-milk Wheat bran Yellow cornmeal 40 pounds 10 pounds 30 pounds 20 pounds Ground barley Start feeding the determined. a more or less continuous flow of milk sugar through the intestinal tract is necessary. S.: CntC. and Gossman. this amount may seem unnecessarily large however. Sanitation in the houses and yards and the care of the chicks are as important in the control of the disease as the use of milk in the ration. E. One that has been found satisfactory. Sta. Inexpensive Labor Saving Poultry Calif. such as buttermilk. If these factors are neglected little benefit from milk feeding and san- can be expected. . 268: 1-32. Cir. J. Exp. because not relished by the chicks and nutritious. both in experimental flocks and in the few cases where it has been used on poultry farms. therefore. S. . Milk sugar alone it is is not so suitable for use in is less controlling coccidiosis as dry skim-milk or milk in liquid state. Dougherty. a special mixture should be prepared. The dry skimmilk is relatively rich in protein. 2 Provide sufficient hoppers so that all chicks can eat freely.. Agr.

3 Feed grain once or twice daily but one-third to one-half the weight of is fed. there were no other indications of coccidiosis. of . mash consumed. Until further information on this point that available. The difference in the weights represents the amount consumed during the twenty-four hour period. If the supply of greens is insufficient. This weight is used to determine the amount of grain to feed. it In our experimental work. in the ration too soon nor make it too abruptly. two weeks. as previously stated. If desired. and that the percentage of and the mortality were unusually low.10 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION not getting sufficient mash. add This one quart of cod liver also advisable oil to each one hundred pounds of mash. we cannot recommend mash containing 40 per cent dry skim- milk be fed longer than three or four weeks. See p. Do this not neglect sanitation. when weather conditions or weakness of chicks pre- vents them from running outside. and amount to from If more grain mash consumption will be reduced less satisfactory results will be obtained. showing that some had become infected. However. Determine the weight of the mash conrestrict the sumed each day. They report that the chicks made rapid growth and matured early. is Continue this system of mash and grain feeding as long as there This usually requires from one to disease. was found that this method of feeding was suitable for use for the short periods the experiments were in progress. A few poultrymen have followed feeding program from the time the chicks were placed in the brooder house until they were two months of age. the ration can then be very gradually changed Do not start the change to the one in use before coccidiosis started. and none died from this disease. the high percentage of milk protein in the ration may result in such unnaturally rapid chicks will suffer a setback when the ration is grain mixture. culls Although the continuous use of effective in this feeding method may be highly growth that the changed to the usual is preventing coccidiosis. such as droopiness. any indication of the Feed greens is as usual. 12. 3 The weight of mash consumed can be determined by weighing the amount mash supplied in the morning and weighing back the unconsumed portion on the following morning. The brooder yards used were contaminated with the coccidiosis germs (oocysts) and a few deposits of bloody droppings were observed at times during the brooding period.

in fountains or troughs. This. the feeding of mash may be very gradually resumed. either dry or liquid. Feed greens as usual. Allow the chicks no water. resulting from milk feeding. Add one quart of cod liver oil to each one hundred pounds of mash if the supply of greens is insufficient or the chicks cannot go out of doors. it necessary to clean out the houses and renew the litter daily in order When this is not done. Greater dilutions are less beneMany poultrymen report satisfactory results from the use of ficial. undiluted semi-solid buttermilk. After all evidence of the disease has disappeared. is not harmful. locate an adequate supply of good quality. may prove harmful. such as semi-solid buttermilk. the droppings become watery and are voided frequently. the floor becomes wet. water again given. Use one part to two or three parts of water. be supplied. 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS 11 BUTTERMILK AS A DRINK When first liquid milk. 12. Feed no mash. and the amount of milk reduced. This makes causes the litter and floor to become wet in a short time. . This is the only way the discharge of watery droppings. is to be used. in itself. If it is A fed in this way. very sparingly in the morning and a larger amount at night. A condition is thus created that is extremely favorable for the development of oocysts from the harmless to the harmful stage and one very unfavorable for the continued good health of chicks. however. Feed grain twice daily. water must MILK FEEDING CAUSES WATERY DROPPINGS When chicks are fed liberally with milk. such as buttermilk or skim-milk. Keep the milk constantly before the chicks If troughs are used. Do not neglect sanitation. The watery consistency of the droppings. See p. condensed milk product. Do not start this change in feeding too soon nor complete it too rapidly. Provide sufficient containers so that all the chicks can drink freely and the weaker chicks will not be crowded away.ClRC. to keep the floor dry. provide covers that will prevent the chicks from walking in them or roosting over them. may be used after dilution in the same manner as buttermilk.

sufficient to last for several weeks may be obtained one time and daily trips to a creamery avoide'd. A good grade of dry skim-milk contains about 2. possesses advanmake it somewhat more desirable for general use. available in localities distant It It This quality also makes milk districts. By this procedure a large percentage of the oocysts that are present in the fresh droppings of infected chicks are removed from the houses before sporulation has taken place and they have become capable of producing disease in healthy chicks (see also necessary to fig. semi-solid buttermilk from 60 to 70 per cent of water. This is The daily cleaning is keep the floor dry. Therefore. sufficient number of The points regarding care are intended to provide conditions favorable to maintaining good health so that the natural resistance of the chicks to disease will not be lowered. become fatally infected when they are run on contaminated soil. if infected. chicks. 1. the form of milk used in the control of coccidiosis is not of great importance as long as a sufficient quantity is tages which consumed by the chicks. provides a practical means of feeding chicks during the period danger from coccidiosis (from four to eight weeks of age).12 UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION ADVANTAGES OF DRY SKIM-MILK As previously indicated. and buttermilk about 91 per cent of water. from dairying promotes rapid development of chicks. Clean the houses and put in fresh litter daily. a quantity at keeps well stored in tight containers.5 per cent of water. of greatest so that they are less liable to SANITATION AND CARE ESSENTIAL TO CONTROL The sanitary measures recommended are designed to prevent the spread of the germs from the diseased chicks to those that are either not infected or. have not acquired a the germs to become visibly sick. Cover the floor with litter. Some of It is the these are as follows: most condensed form of milk. Dry skim-milk. It is relished It by if Buttermilk is sometimes unpalatable. however. Therefore. It is easier to feed than a liquid milk. A and B). When coccidiosis appears: Thoroughly clean the brooder houses or move the chicks to other brooders that have been cleaned and disinfected. it is easier to transport and a sufficient quantity may be more easily consumed. of great importance .

3. might result in failure 2. therefore. powdered ipecac. listed some of the mistakes or omissions that. SOME CAUSES OF FAILURE TO CONTROL THE DISEASE The successf ill control of outbreaks of coccidiosis by the previously described methods depends upon careful attention to all the details. and the sick will be afforded a better opportunity to partake of food and their chances for recovery increased. and bismuth subnitrate. outbreaks of coccidiosis can be more quickly brought under control. Watch the healthy chicks carefully so that those that later become By this means. Burn the dead. Continuing to give water with liquid milk. Be sure that the brooder houses are kept warm enough and are well ventilated. Continuing to feed mash with liquid milk. as soon as the disease appears. . Divide the chicks into as available will permit. if made. a mixture of bichloride of potassium None of mercury and sulphocarbolates (coccidiosis powder). exposure of the healthy chicks to the coccidiosis germs will be lessened. many flocks as the number it is of brooders When the flocks are small. these were found to be effective. The entire yard should be ploughed as deeply Corners and other places that cannot be reached by the as possible. and the sweepings removed. Feeding too much grain with either dry or liquid milk. plough should be spaded. dichromate. Separate the visibly sick chicks from those apparently healthy Kill the worst cases.: ClRC 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS 13 is essential because dryness inhibits sporulation of the oocysts and for the health of the chicks. Clean and plough or spade the yards. where the cjiicks The surface of this part of the yard should be scraped or swept MEDICINES ARE OF LITTLE VALUE Carefully controlled experimental trials have been station to made at this determine the value of the drugs that have been most frequently used by poultrymen in their efforts to combat coccidiosis. with coccidiosis germs to the houses is Contamination of the soil greatest in that part of the yards adjacent spend most of their time when outside. the sick can be promptly detected and removed. easier to keep the houses clean and dry and. The drugs that were tried are hydrochloric acid. of the chicks Warmth and also assist in fresh air are essential for the health and keeping the houses dry. catechu. Below are 1.

9. the greater the degree and depth of the dryness of the soil that is obtained. Feeding buttermilk containing too much water (churn washings). 7. Delaying the start of treatment until a large part of the flock is affected.. is much less dangerous than raising two or more lots of chicks in the same yards during the year. sidewalls. a suitable disinfectant for use in brooder houses. is This true even though but a single lot of chicks reared on it each year and all poultry are excluded from it during the remainder of the time. The weaker chicks are crowded out. however. 11. destroyed by sufficient exposure to a 5 per cent solution of compound solution of cresol. It is the common experience of poultry men who follow the latter practice . Failing to recognize the presence of other intestinal parasites. such as intestinal round worms. Since the germ is quite susceptible to dryness. are scraped or scrubbed loose. Neglecting to clean houses (most 12. commmon omission). Soil that has become contaminated can be made comparatively safe by excluding poultry from it for at least a year.14 4. drinking foun- and all other appliances before the chicks are placed in them. 6. Keeping too many chicks in a house. hovers. SANITATION PREVENTS DISEASE Infection with coccidiosis can be prevented by raising chicks in houses and on organism. 8. tains. The chicks suffer from crowding. mash hoppers. There is no practical method of chemical treatment of soil to assist in eradicating contamination. the more effective the treatment. etc. The house should be kept clean and dry throughout and that has the brooding period. Diluting condensed milk (semi-solid) too much. UNIVERSITY OF CALIFORNIA EXPERIMENT STATION 5. Soil that has not previously been used for chickens not been fertilized with poultry manure may be regarded as safe. Feeding unpalatable (bitter) buttermilk or semi-solid buttermilk. The chicks fail to consume enough. therefore. 10. Cleaning is facilitated by the use of a hot Oocysts are lye solution (one pound lye to forty gallons of water). It is. during which time it is cultivated so as to dry the top layer as much as possible. This practice. soil that are free from contamination with the causative Houses can be made safe by thorough cleaning and disin- fection of the floors. Merely plowing and cropping for a season will not suffice. A house cannot be regarded as thoroughly cleaned until all of the droppings that have become dried onto the floor. Soil that is used for chicks each year is is almost certain to be continuously contaminated. Having too few mash hoppers or milk containers. hover. Discontinuing the milk feeding too soon.

losses brooder yards so that each one need be used only every other year would undoubtedly accomplish much toward eliminating coccidiosis. may be floored with concrete at a reasonable This plan was successfully used during the 1925 brooding season by the Division of Poultry Husbandry at the University Farm. and place the watering vessels in the center of the platform. streams. California. visitors.'25 . INFECTION MAY BE CARRIED TO NEW PREMISES Poultrymen on new premises should avoid as much as possible contamination of the soil of brooder yards by mature stock that may harbor the infection. Davis.ClRC 300] COCCIDIOSIS OF CHICKENS 15 to suffer increasingly greater losses lot from coccidiosis in each successive Providing sufficient of chicks brooded during any one year. is There 25m-12. To avoid this. or by wild birds. therefore. remove from the area around the watering vessels that becomes moistened by overflow or by the water that drops or is thrown off the beaks of the birds when they drink. parasites. cats or other animals that may serve as mechanical carriers of the germs. This arrangement is also of value in the prevention of infection by other forms of intestinal the dirt to a depth of about two feet . however. Replace the dirt with coarse gravel cover this with a slat platform. responsible for some outbreaks that occur in the no other apparent explanation of the source of the infection first brood of chicks raised on new premises. dogs. infection introduced by these means does not result in immediate serious losses. from An alternate the area available for brooder yards method that may be used on poultry farms on which is too limited to permit more than is one yard for each brooder house that they to reduce the size of the yards so cost. dust-laden wind. The soil of orchard or garden land that has been fertilized with is liable to poultry manure able for chicks. is not suit- Moist soil around outside watering places is a very favorable place for the parasites to sporulate and may readily become a serious source of infection in yards that are otherwise clean. contain oocysts and. Usually.

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