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What is Coccidiosis?

Updated Saturday 7th May 2022 - First published Sunday 20th September 2015

Coccidiosis is caused by an intestinal parasite that exists just about everywhere. It can take a heavy toll on birds, starting from about three weeks of age. The parasite multiplies greatly in the gut of the young bird, and vast numbers of "oocycsts" (think of them as eggs) come out in the manure. Young birds raised on litter floors scratch and peck at the litter, looking for food, and become infected. The explosive multiplication of the coccidia can lead to dead, stunted, and sick birds. Young birds that are exposed to only low levels of coccidia become immune without becoming sick. Control is achieved by breaking the reproductive cycle. Young birds raised on wire floors don't get coccidiosis because they don't have enough contact with manure. Birds on free range from a very early age tend not to get it because they also don't have enough exposure. Birds raised on old litter (used for at least six months) tend not to get it because the litter eventually harbours microscopic creatures that eat coccidia. Medicated chick starter contains drugs that suppress coccidia directly. Wet litter, crowding, intermittent feeding, and any type of stress tend to increase coccidiosis. If the feeders are empty, the birds will spend more time nosing around in the litter. If you have an outbreak of coccidiosis, - the first signs are usually visible as ‘bloody’ poos.

Anti-coccidial drugs are very effective. The danger zone is usually around 3 to 7 weeks but can happen as late as 18 to 20+ weeks . Keep young stock on a crumble that contains low levels of coccidiostat. With a serious outbreak, you need to put a coccidiostat in the water, sick birds that will not eat will still drink. There are 2 products on the market; baycox and coxiprol. It is worth having an anti-coccidial drug on hand if you are not close to a vet. If caught early and treated rapidly the chicks bounce back quickly.

Coccidiosis is caused by an intestinal parasite that exists just about everywhere
Coccidiosis is caused by an intestinal parasite that multiplies greatly in the gut of the young bird

Coccidiosis is caused by a microscopic parasitic organism that affects the lining of your chickens intestine. This protozoan parasite is one of the common problems to affect a backyard flock. The gut wall is damaged which can cause significant pain to an infected chicken. If not treated this can be fatal as it affects the bird’s ability to digest food.

Symptoms and Signs

  • Blood in the droppings (not always but usually)
  • Unwell bird - drooping wings, cold feet, fluffed up, anemic, less active, goes off on its own
  • Chicks aged 4 to 16 weeks are most vulnerable
  • Loss of condition - reduced feed and water consumption, resulting in slower growth. 
  • drop in egg production
  • Sudden deaths
coccidiosis in poultry


Many birds suffer such a low dose of coccidiosis you might not even notice, and this helps the birds to build up an immunity to the coccidia in their environment. If a bird is badly affected, then treat quickly with an anticoccidial medication such as Coxiprol or Baycox to kill the Coccidiosis living in the gut. Follow the instructions on the medication for best results, some treatments require the birds to be dosed for a full week with a follow up treatment. If treating chicks best to keep them in a dry and draught free area and maybe place them back under heat to aid recovery. Make sure their bedding is clean and dry. Position clean drinkers and feeders so they hang or sit off the floor to reduce recontamination of the feed.

Treat with Coxiprol


Coccidiosis is found where birds are in contact with their own manure which is virtually all birds on the floor or free range. Former battery hens being put on the floor for the first time are especially vulnerable, so they must be introduced gradually to ground where poultry have been previously kept. Warm wet bedding, a change of environment, damp, wet environmental conditions or a stress (like the move from inside to outside or from one farm to another) are likely to trigger an outbreak within a few days of exposure, so good hygiene, awareness and management practices are essential.

Appletons Guide To Keeping Happy Healthy Chickens

If you see it in your flock act quicky to save lives.


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