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I wrote this article in 2005 based on what I have learned over the years in the Agriculture Industry about coccidiosis. Thought people here could get something useful out of this.

 

 

COCCIDIOSIS

by Gina HOUSE

 

There has been much discussion about coccidiosis and it's effects on our birds, much of it based on misunderstanding. I hope, in this article, to share with you my knowledge of coccidiosis and what it can mean to your birds.

 

 

 

My knowledge of this troublesome little fellow comes from over 15 years experience in the broiler chicken and other agricultural industries. In the broiler chicken industry, cocci can often be the cause of death in young birds but it can also lead to reduced growth rates which is a costly thing when you are trying to grow chickens fast to reach market weights quickly. Poultry producers have a very good understanding of cocci, what it is, what it does and how to go about controlling it.

 

Coccidia themselves are microscopic protozoa that infect the intestines of many animals. There are many different types of coccidia all of which affect different animals. Mammals, birds, reptiles and amphibians are all affected by coccidia. They are said to be generally 'host specific', which means that a type of cocci will usually affect only one type of animal and have no effect if ingested by different animals or birds.

 

 

Also cocci is only considered a problem to animals that are reared in fairly intensive production systems. Poultry, calves, lambs, feedlot cattle and budgies in aviaries get cocci much more often than their wild counterparts ever do, as they are exposed to the coccidiosis bug much more frequently and in higher numbers due to the confines of their environment.

 

 

In Australia 2 types of cocci have been identified that affect budgerigars - Eimera dunsingi and Isospora melopsittaci – no need to remember the names but you might be interested if you wanted to do a web search to find out more about these little suckers.

 

 

Poultry in Australia are affected by about 9 different types of cocci although 3 are of major concern. Each of them affects the birds in different ways, 2 of them cause growth rate depression due to middle gut damage and can lead to enteritis (inflammation of the gut) and the 3rd causes large numbers of deaths due to severe damage to the lower part of the gut called the cecae. Birds affected by this type of cocci generally die quickly from blood loss. All three are treated seriously as they can cause significant financial losses to poultry growers.

 

 

Young birds from 21 to 28 days old are most affected and more often when they are under stress due to a feed outage, water line break down or extreme weather patterns. These are times when cocci might rear its head and become a problem. When poultry growers keep older birds for reproduction purposes, they rarely require treatment for cocci as the birds, after initial exposure to cocci, can build a partial immunity or resistance to the protozoa.

 

 

The bug itself is ingested from the environment; it's tough outer shell is ground down in the gizzard and little worm like creatures invade cells in the gut wall of the bird. There they multiply, burst out of the cells, causing damage to the gut wall, and bury into more cells of the gut to multiply again. After a few complex reproduction stages they produce eggs (oocyts), which are shed back into the environment in the birds faeces, thus, starting the whole cycle over. The reproduction cycle is fairly fast and extremely effective, producing many, many new oocysts from a single ingested one.

 

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Due to the tough outer shell of the oocyst, it can survive for long periods in the environment and is extremely hard to destroy. Poultry houses in WA undergo cleanouts after every batch, every eight weeks or so. All the bedding is removed and the shed and equipment is pressure cleaned and sterilized. However, the next batch of chickens inevitably gets exposed to cocci again, a testament to how sturdy the oocysts are and how hard they are to destroy. Broiler poultry feed always has an anticoccidial (for prevention) of some sort added and if the birds show clinical signs of coccidiosis, they are treated with a short term, in-water product as well.

 

 

 

A critical thing to know about these cocci oocysts (eggs) is that they have specific temperature and moisture requirements before they can become "active" (sporolate). If they are ingested without becoming active, they are non-invasive and cause no problems to the birds. It is only when the oocysts become active (sporolation has occurred) that they are then invasive to the gut of the bird.

 

The development of coccidiosis in chickens and most likely in budgerigars as well depends on a number of things some of these being:

  • The number of oocysts eaten. Generally, an increase in the number of oocysts eaten is accompanied by an increase in the severity of the disease.
  • Strain of coccidia. Different strains of a species may vary in pathogenicity.
  • Environmental factors affecting the survival of the oocysts.
  • Site of development within the host. Coccidia that develop superficially are less pathogenic than those that develop deeper.
  • Age of the bird. Young birds are generally more susceptible than older ones.
  • Nutritional status of the host. Poorly fed birds are more susceptible.

So, what the *** does all that mean for budgie breeders?

 

 

 

Firstly, cocci needs moisture and temperatures of 20 degrees plus, for the oocysts (eggs) to sporolate so we will often see cocci at the change of the season when temperatures warm up after winter or when we get the first rains after summer. Remember moisture plus temperatures of 20 degrees+ means active cocci.

 

 

 

Secondly, stress can be a factor in when and why birds get cocci. Normally older birds can show quite strong immunity to cocci (poultry at least) but anything that stresses your birds will impact on the birds ability to produce a good immune response in the face of a higher cocci challenge. If they get cold, disturbed at night, are exposed to rapid or extreme temperature changes, have other diseases impacting on their health – anything that stresses your birds can mean that they might be more susceptible to cocci at a particular time. That might also mean that, in the case of exhibition budgerigars, suppressed immune systems could be having a bearing on the susceptibility that our birds show to cocci.

 

 

 

Temperature changes over autumn and spring, combined with the fact that cocci is often more active during this time due to the right temperature and moisture requirements being met, means that you will often see large outbreaks of coccidiosis in your birds during these seasons.

 

 

 

Remember that in the case of coccidiosis, the fact that your birds may have a level of immunity does not mean that they will not get coccidiosis again. With cocci it is all about the numbers of bugs that your birds can handle. If a bird is overwhelmed by activated (sporolated) oocysts and it's immune system is under pressure for any reason, it is likely to become sick with coccidiosis.

 

 

 

Thirdly, it is extremely difficult to eradicate cocci and it would seem pointless trying to implement a program to try and do this. The only reasonable way to deal with cocci is to ensure that the challenge posed to your birds is kept at a minimum. This means keeping your flights as clean and dry as possible but remembering that some exposure to cocci is essential if your birds are going to build any immunity to it.

 

 

 

Those with microscopes, do not panic if you see some oocysts in the manure of otherwise healthy active budgerigars, all this means is that your birds are getting the opportunity to build an immunity to cocci. If sick birds show numbers of oocysts, then do something. If you do use a microscope to diagnose problems you should also do random pooh checks on healthy birds so that you get an idea of what is actually normal for your stud. In poultry production, we randomly and regularly check HEALTHY birds to see if cocci is present. We always score the amount of cocci we see and are always relieved to find a low level, which means that the birds were being allowed to build an immune response to the disease without actually being overwhelmed by the cocci bug. The key here I guess is to actually know WHAT IS NORMAL for your birds.

 

 

 

Also, try and stay on top of other things that might cause stress to your birds. Draughts, mice, overcrowding, other types of treatable disease - any of the things that you can positively affect, that lowers stress on your birds, will also have a positive effect in the case of controlling cocci.

 

Effective preventative programs during the cocci season – autumn and spring – can help control cocci in your budgerigars at the times when large numbers of activated oocysts might overwhelm your birds. Careful consideration of young birds might also be appropriate, as they may not have been exposed to cocci to any great degree whilst in the nest box.

 

 

 

Recent conversations I have had with a couple of budgerigar breeders in WA indicate that one of the strains of cocci that affect our birds can do some serious gut damage leading to high death rates and birds which go downhill very quickly. Any sign of blood in the droppings would sound huge alarm bells that cocci might be an issue and serious gut damage is occurring. When poultry growers notice this, they do not wait for birds to start dying, they treat straight away. Blood in the droppings often looks brown but may sometimes be the red of fresh blood if the damage is severe or is occurring low down in the gut.

 

 

 

There are several products that you can use for the prevention and treatment of coccidiosis in your birds. Make sure they are registered for the use in cage birds or recommended by your bird vet. Preparations that are used to prevent cocci in chickens should not be considered for budgie treatment unless they are also specifically registered to be used in budgerigars or if your vet recommends their use. Many of the cocci preventatives used in chickens will kill horses, dogs and turkeys as well as producing hatchability problems in breeder poultry. Not something I would like to experiment with on my birds. Remember, many off-the-shelf chick crumbles come with anticoccidials already added which might cause some serious problems in your birds. I would only consider using these types of products if you know for sure that poultry anticoccidials are not added.

 

 

 

All in all cocci is something all intensive livestock producers have to deal with, what we as budgerigar breeders need to do is be aware of what it is, how it behaves and what we can do to help prevent it becoming a problem in our birds.

 

 

 

Lastly, I would like to point out that I am not a vet and would make no recommendations on actual programs and products that you should use with your birds. For specific recommendations on treatments other than those specifically registered for use in Budgerigars, I recommend that you consult your local bird vet.

 

Edited by nubbly5

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Topic pinned :) Many thanks for the sharing Gina :D

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Very informative and well written~ Thank You Gina! :)

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Well done Gina, Very informative.

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Boy I don't know how I missed seeing this earlier......

 

Thanks Gina great article very very helpful. ^_^

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Boy I don't know how I missed seeing this earlier......

 

Thanks Gina great article very very helpful. :lol:

 

i agree got any more on other stuff

i could understand that very clearly thanks

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A good read, my ex budgie partner used to manage a poultry farm here in Victoria. As part of his employment contract he was not allowed to keep either birds or poultry at home, did that effect you Nubbly5. Clearwing

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A good read, my ex budgie partner used to manage a poultry farm here in Victoria. As part of his employment contract he was not allowed to keep either birds or poultry at home, did that effect you Nubbly5. Clearwing

One of our young members awhile back had just started his aviary and budgies when his father got a job at a poultry place and the son was made to give up his budgies because of that contract thing. :lol:

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Yes it's the same here, can't work in a poultry farm if you own birds.

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A good read, my ex budgie partner used to manage a poultry farm here in Victoria. As part of his employment contract he was not allowed to keep either birds or poultry at home, did that effect you Nubbly5. Clearwing

One of our young members awhile back had just started his aviary and budgies when his father got a job at a poultry place and the son was made to give up his budgies because of that contract thing. :P

 

As the guy who bought Aaron's aviary, I was very pleased with his Dad's employment in the poultry industry :budgiedance:

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