Congratulations to our winners of the 2014 Winter Photo Contest!
Congratulations to our winners of the 2014 Winter Photo Contest!
Four Time Olympic Triathlete, Hunter Kemper, visited with us at the hatchery this past week and we gave him the grand tour! Hunter is helping us spread the message that fresh eggs from your backyard Murray McMurray Hatchery chickens are the ideal source of natural protein. With his recent acquisition of Murray McMurray Hatchery chicks that made him an official backyard chicken owner, it was time to give him a full understanding of our operations.
As soon as he arrived we took him to one of our many flock farms so he could see the
‘parent flocks’ in action. He got up close and personal with these chickens, asked them many questions and observed the entertaining chicken behavior. Hunter picked up his first fresh egg straight out of the nest boxes!
After seeing some of our parent stock, we gave him a quick “Coop Tour” around the area so he could see some of our chickens in their separate homes. Hunter will be
putting his coop together soon for his own chickens so this gave him a good look at what can be done for chicken housing.
After a quick lunch and a tour of Webster City, Iowa, we got Hunter to suit up in his Triathlon gear for a couple of promotional shots. After we got the chicks out of their dressing room, they looked fabulous and were ready for their session.
One of the first resources we sent Hunter before he got his chicks was our new book,
“Chickens in Five Minutes a Day.” As Hunter said, “The Chickens in Five Minutes a Day book was such a great resource for us to read through. I couldn’t believe how prepared we were for our chicks after reading the book. It was a very easy read that was easy to follow and we loved all the illustrations and pictures in it.”
In the photo to the right, Hunter is reading to the chicks and telling them all about what they are going to get from their new families they are going to. Of course, some chicks were better students than others. Have you ever tried to keep 50 chicks standing still for a photo with an Olympic Triathlete?
One of the bonuses of having an Olympic athlete in your town is the opportunity to share him with everyone. While we kept Hunter on a pretty tight and active schedule, he was every bit the perfect ambassador for his sport and country as he spent nearly four hours
visiting and talking with people. One of the first stops was at the Webster City Middle School where he visited with the students and talked about the value of Goals and Character. He helped students devise a plan to work towards achieving their goals and answered many questions from the audience about being an Olympian.
After the school visit, we took Hunter to Fuller Hall Recreation center where we held a “Meet and Greet” for anyone interested in visiting with Hunter. For more than an hour,
Hunter signed autographs and had many photos taken. Conversations and questions ranged across many subjects to include the Olympics, chickens, eating fresh eggs, exercising, eating right, dreams, goals and many more. While it had been a full two days with Hunter already, there was no rest for the weary as we had to get back to the hatchery and watch some chickens hatch!
Once we got back to the hatchery, we gave Hunter the tour again but this time with all the action happening! For the first stop, we had Hunter take some orders on the phone. While he might not have known all the answers asked of him, he did a wonderful job of maintaining that excitement of talking to others. He even got a call from a customer in Florida that lives near Hunter’s home town. What a small world! “Hello this is Hunter Kemper, four-time Olympic Triathlete and seven-time US Elite National Triathlete Champion, how can I help you today?”
Next Hunter got to see a portion of our business that separates the men from the women,
besides the restroom that is. He visited our team of sexers who’s job it is to identify the chicks as either male or female. This team has a keen eye for very small details that determine the sex of the chicken. Some chickens can be feather sexed, some vent sexed while others can be sexed by their color.
Hunter then proceeded to fill some orders that would be shipped out. There is a lot that happens quickly once the hatching begins. Hunter’s quick reflexes and energy served him well as he kept everything moving smoothly and got the chicks into the right boxes.
Within hours of being hatched, our chicks are shipped to destinations all across the United States. It is amazing how energized the chicks are as they anticipate their new home. Was your order filled by our Olympic Triathlete?
With all the hard work that Hunter and our team had
been doing, it was just a matter of time before someone wanted to see if he could do any other Olympic sport. I guess we could call this the conveyor luge…maybe we’ll keep him in the triathlon event.
And of course when we were just figuring out how to get the top speed out of it, the boss had to shut it down for safety reasons (just kidding).
After the cheering was over and the race was won, we sent off our Olympic athlete to go and preach the good news of chicken ownership to all. With his chicks at home and his new appreciation for how it all works at Murray McMurray Hatchery, Hunter is ready for his new role as ambassador for Murray McMurray Hatchery. We had a wonderful time with Hunter Kemper, husband, father, four-time Olympic triathlete and now, proud chicken owner.
We received 5 different breeds of chicks. Before they arrived, we learned a little about each type of chick and named them according to the things we learned. The 5 names we chose for our 5 different breeds of chicks represent the 4 Olympic Games cities I’ve competed in and the 2016 Olympic Games I will be going after.
Buff Orpington – Sydney (host of the 2000 Olympic Games in Australia)
We named this chicken Sydney because it is a very friendly breed, and Sydney was known as the “friendly” Olympic Games. Buff Orpingtons are the “Golden Retrievers” of Chickens. They are calm and affectionate. They are golden in color and lay brown eggs.
Barred Rock – Athens (host of the 2004 Olympic Games in Greece)
Our Barred Rock baby chick is actually the smallest of all the chicks. We’re not sure how she’ll grow, but we thought that naming her Athens would be ironic since the Athena division in triathlon is for women over a certain weight. It will be interesting to see if she remains on the smaller side, or if she begins to pass the others in size. The Barred Rock is also friendly and is a reliable brown egg producer.
New Hampshire Red – Beijing (host city of the 2008 Olympic Games China)
We named the New Hampshire Red Beijing because the color red has importance in Chinese culture. Red symbolizes good fortune and joy. The New Hampshire Red chick is yellow with a soft cast of red on her back. She will grow up to have a rich red hue. She lays brown eggs and supposedly can be competitive with other chickens. It will be interesting to see if this is the case.
White Leghorn – London (host city of the 2012 Olympic Games in England)
We named the White Leghorn, London because of her pure white color that reminded us of the queen and the royalty found in London. The White Leghorn will be a good egg layer, producing large white eggs like the kind you typically find in your grocery store.
Araucana/ Ameraucana – RIO (will be the host city of the 2016 Games in Brazil)
We named the Araucana/ Ameraucana RIO because she is very colorful. Not only are her feathers made up of a variety of colors, she lays colorful eggs! Yes, several of these chicks can lay an Easter basket full of green, blue, and even pink and yellow eggs. When we think of RIO and South America, we think of a lot of vibrant colors.
Darrell W. Trampel, D.V.M., PhD.
Iowa State University
January 27, 2014
Marek’s disease (MD) is a highly contagious disease of chickens characterized by a) varying degrees of paralysis of wings and legs and/or b) development of lymphoid tumors. Marek’s disease is found in broiler chickens raised for meat and in laying hens maintained for egg production. “Range paralysis” is an old, but very descriptive name for MD. With this condition, chickens are unable to walk and tend to lie with one leg stretched forward and the other back. Paralysis of one or both legs is caused by accumulation of neoplastic lymphocytes in nerves which causes structural damage and nerve enlargement. Death often results from starvation and dehydration because paralyzed chickens are unable to reach food and water. After 3 weeks of age, chickens may develop tumors (lymphomas) in almost any tissue or organ. Chickens with lymphomas frequently become depressed, stop eating, often have pale shriveled combs, and become emaciated prior to death. Marek’s disease tumors are gray-white in color and may appear as distinct nodules or as a diffuse infiltration that makes the affected organ look paler than normal.
Marek’s disease is a form of cancer caused by a herpesvirus (Gallid herpesvirus 2). Marek’s disease viruses are placed into categories based upon their ability to produce disease. These categories include mild, virulent, very virulent, and very virulent plus strains of Marek’s disease virus. The virus initially infects and destroys B lymphocytes which causes a transient immunosuppression. However, most neoplastic cells present in tumors consist of CD4+ helper T lymphocytes. In addition to paralysis and tumors that are the most common manifestations of MD, several other syndromes occur. Immunosuppression develops in the early stages of infection due to destruction of B lymphocytes that normally produce antibodies. Skin leucosis results from accumulation of neoplastic lymphocytes around feather follicles. “Gray eye” describes the appearance of chicken eyes after MD tumor cells have infiltrated the iris and cornea and results in blindness. Atherosclerosis in chickens is caused by MD virus and closely resembles chronic human atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis is an accumulation of cholesterol‑filled plaques on the inner walls of blood vessels which reduces the diameter of the vessel lumen. Transient paralysis is caused by MDV-induced damage to blood vessels in the brain with subsequent leakage of fluid into the surrounding brain tissue. Temporary swelling of the brain causes chickens to develop nervous tics and twisted necks.
Marek’s disease virus in large numbers are shed in keratinized feather follicle epithelial cells (dander) that slough off the surface of the skin of infected chickens and are disseminated by air currents. Shedding begins 2 to 4 weeks after infection, prior to the appearance of clinical disease, and can continue for the life of the chicken. Dander protects the virus from physical degradation and contaminated poultry house dust remains infectious for at least 4‑6 months at room temperature. Dander is a major component of poultry dust and inhalation of keratinized epithelium containing MD virus is the major route of infection. Chickens may contact residual dust and dander in the growing house from a previous flock or dust from adjacent chicken houses. Poultry dust can remain infectious for over a year. Contaminated dander may be spread from one location to another on undisinfected eggs, contaminated clothing, shoes, equipment, and vehicles. Feather tips contain MD virus and darkling beetles can carry the virus from one location to another. Once introduced into a house, infection spreads quickly from bird to bird. Transmission through the egg does not occur.
Prevention requires a combination of good hygiene and vaccination. Chicks placed in a contaminated environment are likely to be infected within the first few days of life. Delaying the time of exposure allows more time for development of the chick’s immune system and immunity following vaccination in the hatchery. Up to 7 days is required for solid immunity following vaccination. Failure to prevent early exposure is the most common cause of vaccine failure. Exposure to MD virus can be delayed and the challenge dose diminished by careful cleaning followed by disinfection of the brooder house prior to chick placement. Thorough cleaning is an essential first step because droppings, dust, and other organic matter remaining on surfaces will inactivate disinfectants. Chicks should be housed in a building that do not contain older chickens. Older chickens are likely to be shedding MD virus and represent a potential source of infection for baby chicks.
Marek’s disease vaccine was the first practical effective cancer vaccine in any species of animal and represented a major scientific advance in medical science. The first commercial vaccine against MD was the herpesvirus of turkeys (HVT, serotype 3) introduced in 1971 and still widely used today. HVT can still be obtained as a cell-free lyophilized vaccine that does not need to remain frozen to maintain potency. HVT became less effective as MDV in the field became more virulent. In the early 1980’s, bivalent vaccines containing HVT and naturally non-oncogenic serotype 2 MDV became available. Serotype 2 vaccine viruses include strains SB-1 and 301B/1. Serotype 3 vaccine (HVT) and a serotype 2 vaccine (SB-1 or 301B/1) have synergistic activity when combined and administered together. During the 1990s, field strains of MDV became even more virulent and a serotype 1 vaccine was employed to generate higher levels of immunity. This vaccine (Rispins, CVI988) was developed at the Central Veterinary Institute in the Netherlands and is now widely used in the United States and around the world. Serotype 1 and 2 vaccines are cell-associated vaccines and consist of frozen, viable MDV-infected cells that require storage and transport in liquid nitrogen. MD vaccines can be administered subcutaneously on the back of the neck at 1 day of age or in fertile eggs (in ovo) at 18 days of incubation. More broilers in the United States are vaccinated by the in ovo method.
Vaccination of chicks to prevent Marek’s disease is strongly recommended. Marek’s disease vaccines are not perfect, but they are very effective. In most hatcheries, the cost of Mark’s disease vaccination is 19-20 cents per chick – money well spent to prevent a widespread disease of chickens.
Four Time Olympic Triathlete and Seven Time U.S. Elite National Champion, Hunter Kemper, has joined with Murray McMurray Hatchery to promote backyard chickens and fresh, backyard eggs.
Hunter and his family recently received newly hatched chicks from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. The Kemper family will start enjoying fresh eggs from their own chickens within approximately 16 weeks. As Hunter continues to train and monitor his nutrition, the value of a nutritious fresh egg will fit well into his diet. “The egg is the standard when it comes to a natural form of protein,” says Hunter. “By having our own chickens, I know what they are being fed, how they are being treated, and I love the idea of eating fresh eggs right from my backyard. My family and I are looking forward to getting our first egg.”
Murray McMurray Hatchery will be showcasing Hunter’s adventure with his new chicks throughout the year at www.mcmurrayhatchery.com/hunterkemper . The Kemper family will be posting pictures, videos and blogs about their experiences as they learn how to care for the chicks. Fans of Hunter Kemper and chicken lovers alike will be able to ask questions of Hunter and offer him advice on caring for the chickens.
“When Chris (Chris Huseman, Director of Marketing for Murray McMurray Hatchery) and I first started talking, I didn’t realize how popular raising your own chickens is,” explains Hunter. “I love the idea that my family now can help play an integral part in my nutrition as we all share in the fun of raising our own chickens. My boys absolutely loved getting the chicks – they have not stopped smiling about them.”
With his five new breeds of chickens, Hunter Kemper will be aiming for his record breaking fifth U.S. Olympic team at the 2016 RIO Olympic Games.
Murray McMurray Hatchery has been providing family memories with newly hatched chickens, turkeys, geese, ducks and other fowl since 1917. The company offers more than 100 breeds of chickens and other fowl and serves customers throughout the entire United States. More information about Murray McMurray Hatchery can be found at http://www.mcurrayhatchery.com.
Hunter Kemper is a Four Time Olympic Triathlete and Seven Time U.S. Elite National Champion. Hunter and his wife, Val, live in Colorado Springs, CO with their three boys and baby girl. More information on Hunter can be found at www.hunterkemper.com. You can follow Hunter on Twitter at @hunterkemper.
Chris called us last week to let us know that our chicks would be arriving – this is great as our kids would all be home for their delivery. The anticipation was great as the boys, especially our oldest son Davis (7 years old), could not wait to meet our new baby chicks.
Saturday morning came, and they were determined to meet the mail lady at the front door. It was a very warm January day, so the kids waited outside on the front stoop. They waited and waited. The mail lady actually came to deliver our mail, but no chicks. I thought they might arrive on a separate truck perhaps. So they waited some more. Finally, around 2:00pm, I called our local post office looking for our chicks. They had not seen them. They figured their transit was probably slowed by the weather in Iowa. The kids were bummed. We were a little worried that the chicks would suffer if they didn’t arrive until Monday. However, we talked to the people at Murray McMurray and they assured us that the chicks would be fine. Apparently it is very common for it to take a few days for the chicks to arrive. We felt reassured that the chicks would be ok.
The next morning, we were all ready to go to church when there was a knock on the door. It was the mail man and he had our chicks! I had no idea U.S. Postal Service delivered on Sunday. Apparently they make some exceptions, and this was one of them! What an exciting surprise to start off our Sunday morning.
Watch this movie trailer which features our new adventure raising our chicks:
Murray McMurray Hatchery has helped make the preparation for our chickens very easy. Their
book: “Chickens in Five Minutes a Day” is awesome! It’s an easy read and tells you everything you need to know about raising chickens. We also got one of their starter kits. This kit included a roll of cardboard to create the brooder guard, 2 containers for the water, 2 feeders, an infrared bulb to heat the brooder, and a thermometer to help keep the correct temperature. We got the brooder set up in the storage room in our basement, laid some soft pine bedding down, and prepared a home for our baby chicks. We have started learning about the different breeds we were going to be getting. We are prepared, and getting really excited for the day our chicks arrive. Our kids (we have a 2 month old girl and 3 boys – ages 7, 3 1/2, and 2) are especially excited and counting down the days until the baby chicks arrive in the mail.
Backyard Chicken Farmer?
If you told me a few months ago that I’d be raising chickens in my backyard, I wouldn’t have believed you. In my backyard? Chickens? It all sounded a little crazy to me until I spoke with Chris Huseman, Director of Marketing from Murray McMurray Hatchery in Webster City, Iowa. First of all, I didn’t realize how popular backyard chicken farming was. I thought you had to live on a farm to raise chickens. I soon learned that this was not the case at all. Many people actually raise their own chickens in cities and neighborhoods all across the U.S. I started talking to my friends about it and learned that many of them had a true desire to raise their own chickens. After talking to even more people, I’ve realized that I know a handful of people that are already raising their own chickens. This was all new news to me. The more I learned, the more interested I became.
After talking to Chris, and reading some books, I learned how easy it really was to raise chicks. They need food, water, and a safe clean shelter. I thought, I can do that. I also liked the idea that raising these chickens would help teach my boys some daily responsibility as they help care for the chicks. Finally, as a professional triathlete, I eat a lot of protein to help my body recover in between workouts. Eggs are one of my favorite sources of protein. So the thought of having my own fresh, organic, eggs daily sounded great! People have told me that once you begin to eat fresh eggs straight from the hen, you will never go back to store bought eggs. I can’t wait to try them!
So we made the decision, my family was going to become Backyard Chicken Farmers!
Darrell W. Trampel, D.V.M., PhD.
Iowa State University
January 6, 2014
Each year, chicken owners contact me to discuss a serious disease in their chickens characterized by difficult breathing, loud wheezing, and gurgling. Affected chickens often stand with heads and necks extended as they attempt to inhale. Many owners report that their sick chickens are “gaping” with beaks wide open as they attempt to breathe. When owners of backyard flocks are asked if new birds were added to their flocks during the weeks preceding onset of illness, they usually answer “yes.” Owners of exhibition chickens frequently confirm that their birds have been to a fair, show, or swap meet in the recent past. Almost always, new chickens added to the flock and other chickens displayed by other owners at exhibitions and sales were clinically normal and showed no signs of disease. The flock history described above is typical for chickens experiencing infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT).
ILT is caused by a herpesvirus. The time between exposure and onset of disease (incubation period) ranges from 6 to 14 days. Disease within a flock may last for 2 or more weeks. Nearly 100% of chickens in a susceptible flock may become ill and mortality may reach 70% or more. In addition to the symptoms described above, chickens with the severe form of the disease may violently shake their head and expectorate blood‑tinged mucus on walls. The inner surface of the eyelids may be infected (conjuncitivits) and yellow exudates may accumulate beneath the eye lids. Chickens may die suddenly with few previous signs of disease and egg production may decline by 10‑20%. The trachea may contain blood, or if the chicken survives longer, a yellow mat of fibrin closely adhered to the inner surface of the trachea. In many cases, the yellow exudate dislodges from the tracheal wall and causes a plug which obstructs the opening to the trachea (glottis) and the bird dies of asphyxiation.
Sources of infection include direct or indirect exposure to acutely affected birds and recently recovered carriers. ILT virus replicates in the trachea for the first 7 days of an infection and virus shed in respiratory secretions from infected chickens heavily contaminate the environment. Movement of contaminated litter, crates and coops, trucks, egg flats, and equipment can spread this virus from pen to pen, house to house, and farm to farm. People can carry ILT virus on their hands, clothing and shoes, and are major contributors to transferring this disease from one location to another. Wild free-flying birds, rodents, and insects are not infected themselves, but can act as mechanical carriers in dissemination of this virus. Up to 50% of chickens that recover from this disease may be carriers because of the establishment of a latent infection and can shed ILT virus for up to 16 months. Latent virus is found in the trigeminal ganglia where the ILT genome is integrated into the host DNA which allows the ILTV to evade the immune system. Reactivation of latent virus and subsequent re-excretion occurs following stress associated with rehousing, mixing with unfamiliar birds, onset of egg production, and molting. Egg transmission does not occur.
Prevention is of paramount importance because there is no specific treatment. Antibiotics are sometimes used to prevent secondary bacterial infections, such as E. coli, but have no effect on viruses. Backyard flocks kept for meat or egg production should be kept isolated. Common mistakes, such as introducing recently vaccinated birds or adding birds obtained from a friend or auction should be avoided. These chickens may appear normal but are potential ILT carriers. Owners should never visit neighboring poultry flocks, especially those suspected of having a contagious disease. Avoid borrowing equipment from other flock owners. All used equipment brought onto a premises should be cleaned and disinfected prior to use. Chickens should be transported in plastic crates or carriers which can be cleaned and disinfected. ILT virus is readily killed by common disinfectants containing glutaraldehyde or quaternary ammonium. However, ILT virus is resistant to disinfectants in the presence of organic matter, so thorough cleaning prior to disinfection is essential.
Vaccination early in an outbreak is feasible because of the long incubation period and relatively slow spread through a flock. Two types of attenuated live vaccines are available, chicken embryo-origin (CEO) or tissue culture-origin (TCO) vaccines. Immunity may develop by 3-4 days and persists for 15 – 20 weeks. Vaccination by eyedrop provides more uniform flock protection than water or spray administration. CEO and TCO vaccines may regain virulence as a result of passages in poorly vaccinated flocks or after reactivation from latency. Outbreaks of ILT associated with prior use of tissue culture origin TCO vaccine are infrequent, but have been associated with CEO vaccines on multiple occasions. CEO and TCO vaccines can be transmitted from vaccinated to unvaccinated chickens and may establish latency in apparently healthy chickens. Consequently, vaccination is recommended only where the disease is endemic. CEO and TCO vaccines transmitted to unvaccinated chickens do not protect contact-infected chickens. In recent years, recombinant vaccines have become commercially available that are produced with a herpesvirus of turkeys (HVT) or fowl pox vector. Recombinant vaccines do not replicate in the trachea and do not completely prevent replication of field strains in the trachea, so vaccinated chickens can shed field strains of ILTV. Vaccination of backyard flocks is necessary only in areas where ILT is common. In such flocks, all birds must be vaccinated. Vaccination of exhibition fowl is strongly recommended when ILT is prevalent in an area.
Darrell W. Trampel, D.V.M., PhD.
Iowa State University
December 26, 2013
Coccidiosis is found wherever chickens are raised. Coccidiosis is an intestinal disease caused by protozoan parasites which belong to the genus Eimeria. Disease occurs primarily in chicks that are 3 to 6 weeks of age and immunity develops in birds that survive. By sexual maturity, most chickens have been infected and have developed immunity. Coccidiosis is found in flocks ranging in size from a few chickens in a backyard environment to large commercial flocks containing thousands of broiler or egg-type chickens. Chickens raised in cages, on floors, and on range are all susceptible to Eimeria coccidia. Seven species of Eimeria cause coccidiosis in chickens, with E. acervulina, E. maxima, and E. tenella being the most common. Coccidia have several stages in their life cycle, but the stage most important for transmission is the oocyst. Oocysts are shed in droppings of infected birds and have a thick wall that enables them to survive in the environment for 18 months or longer. Oocysts are not immediately infective after being shed, but must undergo a process called sporulation before they can cause disease. Under favorable conditions, oocysts are capable of maturing within 48 hours and infecting other birds. The severity of coccidosis is proportional to the number of oocysts ingested. Because of their thick wall, oocysts are resistant to disinfectants but are eventually killed by the action of ammonia, bacteria, and molds in litter. Heat generated by litter composting (131 F), freezing, and drying will also kill oocysts.
Transmission. Fecal-oral transmission takes place when oocysts shed in feces are consumed by a susceptible chicken. Oocysts from infected chickens are shed in droppings and contaminate litter, feed, and water. Susceptible chickens ingest Eimeria oocysts when they peck at litter, eat contaminated feed, or consume contaminated water. Numbers of oocysts in litter usually peak when chicks are 4 – 5 weeks of age and then decline due to development of immunity in the chickens and toxic effects of the litter. Oocysts can be mechanically carried from farm to farm, house to house, and pen to pen by externally contaminated people, equipment, insects, wild birds, and rodents. Airborne fecal dust can transfer viable oocysts from one location to another.
Clinical and Subclinical Disease. Coccidiosis may cause clinical or subclinical disease. Chickens with clinical coccidiosis have severe diarrhea and are obviously sick. Mild diarrhea causes fecal pasting around the vent and loose droppings can be seen on the surface of litter. Severe, watery diarrhea may soak into litter and be difficult to see. Diarrhea causes loss of water through the droppings and chickens rapidly become dehydrated. Death losses in affected flocks typically peak around 5 to 7 days after onset of diarrhea. Subclinical coccidiosis is not severe enough to cause overt illness but may markedly reduce the rate of growth and impair digestion and absorption of nutrients from feed. Coccidiosis damages cells lining the inner surface of the intestinal tract and makes chickens susceptible to secondary diseases. Proliferation of Clostridium perfringens bacteria in the intestinal tract is often associated with coccidiosis and causes a disease called necrotic enteritis.
Coccidia are host-specific. Eimeria species typically infect only one avian species. Chicken coccidia infect only chickens and will not infect other birds, such as turkeys, quail, or house hold pet birds. And the opposite is true as well. Coccidia that infect turkeys, quail, or wild birds will not infect chickens. Because of host specificity, chicken coccidia do not pose a threat to the health of children, dogs, cats, other avian species, or livestock.
Chicken coccidian are site-specific. Each Eimeria species infects a specific segment of the avian intestinal tract. Location of coccidia lesions in the intestinal tract is somewhat helpful in identifying the species of Eimeria responsible for an infection. For example, E. acervulina infects the upper intestinal tract (duodenum), E. maxima infects the mid-gut, and E. tenella infects the ceca. Unfortunately, oocyst morphology and the location of different Eimeria species in the intestinal tract may overlap. In addition, chickens may be infected by more than one Eimeria species at the same time. Consequently, other tests, such as polymerase chain reaction (PCR), are needed to confirm the identity of specific Eimeria infections. Affected segments of the intestinal wall are ballooned and may have a red and white speckled appearance. In severe cases, intestinal contents may be watery or bloody and the inner surface of the intestine may be covered by a yellow-brown membrane.
Immunity against coccidiosis is species-specific. Infection by one Eimeria species induces immunity only against that particular species, not against other Eimeria strains. Because immunity is species-specific, it is possible for the same flock to experience several outbreaks of coccidiosis, each outbreak caused by a different Eimeria species. Cell-mediated immunity mediated by T lymphocytes is the major mechanism for conferring resistance to cocccidiosis, not antibodies.
Chickens suffering from coccidiosis may or may not have blood in their droppings. The presence or absence of blood in droppings depends primarily upon the species of Eimeria causing the infection and the number of oocysts ingested. Eimeria acervulina, E. maxima, E. mitis, and E. praecox infect surface epithelial cells and cause malabsorption but do not cause bloody droppings. In contrast, E. tenella, E. necatrix, and E. brunetti penetrate deep into the intestinal wall and damage blood-filled capillaries which causes hemorrhage in the intestinal wall and bloody droppings.
Treatment. Coccidiosis in chickens can be treated with amprolium or sulfonamides.
Preventive Management. Good management is important to limit oocyst sporulation in the litter and recycling through chickens. Oocysts survive longer in high moisture environments which allow higher numbers of coccidia to survive in the litter. Temperature and ventilation in chicken houses should be used to keep litter dry (30 – 40% moisture). Water spillage from drinkers should be minimized and wet litter (cake) should be removed from around feeders and waterers to avoid a build-up of high concentrations of sporulated oocysts. Waterers should be cleaned at least once per day and overcrowding of birds should be avoided. If coccidiosis has been a problem, thoroughly remove used litter between flocks and start new flocks on clean litter to minimize the number of oocysts encountered by baby chicks.
Preventive Medication and Vaccination. Coccidiosis can be controlled by using preventive drugs (coccidiostats) or by vaccination. Two broad groups of anticoccidial feed additives are available, ionophorus antibiotics or synthetic chemicals. Ionophorous antibiotics are incorporated into the Eimeria cell membrane and facilitate transfer of cations across the membrane and into the cytoplasm of coccidia. Coccidia parasites must use energy to remove cations and excess water. When stored energy reserves are depleted, the coccidia cell swells with water and dies. Feeding medicated chicken feed containing amprolium is the easiest method available to prevent coccidiosis in small flocks.
Vaccines have had success comparable to medication, but vaccine application must be carefully controlled and careful, continuous management of litter is critical. Vaccinated chicks are exposed to a small controlled dose of virulent live oocysts that initiate infection and induce an immune response. Vaccine sporulated oocysts with a colored dye are given to day old chicks in the hatchery using a specially designed spray cabinet. The dye allows hatchery workers to monitor vaccine coverage and encourages preening and ingestion of live oocysts. A different vaccine delivers sporulated oocysts to chicks in an edible gel puck that can be placed in chick boxes at the hatchery or on feed trays in the poultry house. Delivering too high a dose to chicks may cause disease and providing too few oocysts results in lack of immunity. Approximately 6 – 9 days after vaccination, fresh oocysts are excreted into the litter. Birds must ingest sporulated oocysts from litter to stimumulate further immunity, so litter conditions must permit the proper amount of sporulation. If litter is too dry, sporulation and recycling may be insufficient to provide continued stimulation of the immune system. If litter is too wet, sporulation may be excessive and clinical disease may occur. Food and water provided before vaccination and for at least 21 days after vaccination must not contain anticoccidial drugs.
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