Tuesday, 13 May 2008

Coccidiosis (Cock-syd-eeo-sis)

Over these past 3 or 4 days of beautiful weather it seems that Minnie (one of the new recruits in the hen pen) is not quite herself. I have been keeping a close eye on behaviour in the coop as it’s been so warm. There has been open beaked panting from all and much hiding in the shade from the unforgiving rays of sun. Minnie however has been very slow. Her usual chicken jerky head movements have been replaced by a slower dizzy-like movement, not unstable on her feet but, just not quite right. She has also been totally off her food and hasn't touched a morsel for quite a few days.

Since having the Chickens I have collected a fair few books and so decided to do some research as to what might be troubling her. After reading through most chicken diseases and illnesses, I came to the conclusion that it may be Coccidiosis, a single celled organism that lives in the intestine of a chicken but can really knock young birds around, sometimes fatally. She was showing most of the symptoms, excluding paralysis, so my hunch went with this one.

When I let them out this morning I checked her breast meat and weight. She was so light that I knew it was time to call the vet. There aren't many vets that specialise in chickens but very luckily we have one not too far from us and she is a fabulous lady who really knows her stuff. She sorted Basil the cockerel out earlier on in the year when he had a problem with his leg.

I managed to get an emergency morning appointment and promptly put Minnie in the cat basket and whizzed her off to the Doc. She confirmed my diagnosis in just a couple of minutes and decided to keep her in to start treatment. Although she was slow she was still very strong and active, trying to get airborne on a couple of occasions during the consultation. The vet assured me that she would be fine and that we had caught the complaint at a good stage. She would need to stay in overnight but could return back to the pen tomorrow.

There is now a woodchip floor in the coop as the birds were getting so brown and muddy when it rained. The coccidiae eggs hide away in such flooring and instead of disinfecting, the vet has suggested that I thoroughly rake over the coop thus exposing the eggs to the heat of the sun and killing them off.

As I have never kept chickens up until now, every day is a learning curve so every illness or problem that arrises arms me better for future care. The whole idea on keeping this blog is to help others who are just starting out as I did. If I can help just one person then my plan has succeeded!!!

"Coccidiosis is a complaint that arises when a chicken is infected with Coccidiae, tiny single-cell organisms (protozoans) seriously affecting the chickens intestines. Coccidiosis usually raises its ugly head during hot weather, often with fatal results for young birds. Also, damp bad hygiene and too little ventilation can stimulate an outbreak. The disease has many different symptoms that may occur alongside each other, but sometimes there are not many symptoms or none at all.

Symptoms include:
Chickens sitting hunched up with ruffled feathers
Becoming emaciated
A decline in laying

If you suspect one of your birds to be infected, you should have its droppings analysed to see if the bacteria is present. A vet can provide you with various preparations to control the disease".
The Complete Encyclopedia of Chickens
Esther VerhoeffAAd Rijis- 2003

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