In the Coop | Treating Coccidiosis

Although some people probably manage to get through their chicken keeping career without dealing with a coccidiosis outbreak, this is a really common flock sickness caused by a common parasite and it definitely pays to be able to recognize the symptoms before your entire flock is infected!

Before getting started on this article, I want to add a healthy disclaimer here: I am not a vet. All I want to do is share a little about coccidiosis and how I successfully treated it, and why I think it worked.

So, what is coccidiosis?

Coccidiosis is a relatively common infection that can affect all manner of livestock and wild animals, caused by a single-cell parasite in the GI tract. This parasite lives in the soil and is actively spread by wild animals. Symptoms in chickens include lethargy, not eating or drinking, watery/mucousy stools, and bloody stools.

Treating or preventing an outbreak

If you discover a case of coccidiosis in one chick or chicken, you need to treat the entire flock, regardless of symptoms. Treatment is super simple but it takes some time. Using liquid Corid (sold at feedstores and online), for 5-7 days, add 1 teaspoon of Corid to 1 gallon of water (for a moderate outbreak) OR 2 teaspoons of Corid to 1 gallon of water (for a severe outbreak). After the 5-7 day initial treatment, follow with another 5-7 days of 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water. Don’t give any other water except this Corid-medicated water, and make it fresh daily.

Treating the Sick Bird

This part is important: if you have a single chick (or chicken) that is showing symptoms of acute coccidiosis, and is displaying the tell-tale lethargy, watery droppings, and not eating, the flock treatment method will not work by itself. By the time you notice your chick not eating and drinking, it is fruitless to add Corid to their water and expect any sort of improvement. They’re not eating or drinking so any medication administered free-choice isn’t going to be consumed.

Let’s be specific here: It is the dehydration and malnutrition caused by not eating and drinking that will kill the chick, not the parasite itself. So don’t just put Corid in the water and call it good. The chick needs nutrients and rehydration as well.

Late this past summer, I had a chick suddenly get sick with all the classic coccidiosis symptoms. I isolated the chick and took a common-sense approach to treatment. My thought process was that the chick needed rehydration and needed the medication, which it wasn’t getting from free-choice water. The sick chick got dropper feedings multiple times per day of a slurry of egg yolk, yogurt, molasses, sometimes thinned with Corid medicated water (using the dosage listed above), sometimes with a few drops of Nutri-drench, and was also given medicated water by dropper as well. The first couple of days I gave her a concentrated dose of Corid by syringe. I would draw up probably a quarter of a cc of Corid into a syringe, draw up a cc or so of water, and administer that to the sick chick. I don’t have a digital scale and Corid, by my understanding, is a pretty safe medication. The chick was in bad enough shape I was willing to risk overdoing it to get enough medication actually in her. My goal was something like 5 or 6 cc’s of this medicated slurry and fluids per day, kind of whatever I could get in her without too much trouble. Based on the size of the chick you’re treating, it might be more or less than this. Use common sense. Any amount is better than the chick sitting in the brooder and not eating anything.

Don’t take my word as expert by any means, but sometimes you have to think a little outside the box – in this case, it worked really well. Obviously treating a chick or chicken individually takes a time commitment (honestly, just a few minutes a few times per day), but if you’re wanting to try to save a coccidiosis-infected bird, that’s what it will take.

I’d love to hear any other tips or advice on treating coccidiosis! It is a pretty common infection but sometimes the information can be pretty confusing on how to treat it. Happy chicken keeping!

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