Man, I thought I’d seen everything. But this one’s weird. The life cycle of coccidiosis is interrupted if you move the chickens to a new patch of ground every day. Coccidiosis is a in intestinal protozoan parasite, and it depends on infecting and reinfecting the victims through feces. Not just any feces, either — feces that has been aged enough but not too much. The coccidia in the poop aren’t ready to reinfect the birds until they go through a life-cycle change, which takes about three days. With daily-move pasture pens, you leave yesterdays poop behind before (to get technical about it) the oocysts can sporulate.
Well, it’s not working with one pasture pen of broilers. This has never happened to us before. Our best guess is that the chicks we were getting from Jenks Hatchery all these years had received the coccidiosis vaccine and we didn’t know it, while this year’s ones from Privett didn’t get it. If they got a good solid infestation in the brooder house, maybe it keeps getting worse for a while even with daily moves on the pasture. Don’t know for sure.
Anyway, the symptoms were the usual: pinkish spots on the poop (that’s blood, ewww!), listless chicks with dirty feathers.
Also, the fix was the usual, and seems to be working fine: Switch to medicated chick starter. Works like a charm, and the chicks look a lot perkier already.
Some people don’t like medication — they dislike it so much that they’d let their chickens suffer and die rather than cure them. I hate that.
I think that over-medication is silly and is also bad form, but coccidiosis is no joke. We do what we can to prevent it, including the deep-litter system in the brooder house and daily moves on pasture, but when prevention doesn’t work, one needs to go to the cure without hesitation.
Anyway, the chicks are doing better, and that’s the main thing!