Game Birds

This is NOT a housing management guide. These sections were created to help explain the relationship between housing and oocyst ingestion. Please consult your veterinarian and bird management guide from the breeding company for housing management information.

Ideally, it is best to house birds of the same age and species together at any given time. Older birds can shed large numbers of oocysts and have partial immunity due to some exposure to the parasite (without showing obvious signs of being sick). If these older birds are housed with younger birds the young birds could ingest large numbers of infectious oocysts and become sick.

If a variety of ages must be housed on the same property, it is always good practice with cleaning/feeding/etc. to start with the youngest birds first and finish with the oldest birds. Keep feeders, drinkers or other equipment separate between the younger and older birds. If equipment must move from older to younger birds a thorough cleaning should be completed prior to the move.

Be aware that wild birds of the same species are susceptible to the same species of Eimeria. As a result, keeping wild birds and fecal matter of wild birds away from your birds is essential. 

Currently, there are no registered live coccidiosis vaccines for game birds in Ontario, Canada. There are also no registered anticoccidial drugs that have LABEL claim for game birds in Ontario, Canada. For questions regarding anticoccidial drug off-label use PLEASE CONSULT YOUR VETERINARIAN.

General Good Practice for Coccidiosis Management

Atmospheric barn environment: Get to Know Relative Humidity - Because barns require ventilation, the outside temperature and humidity can impact the environment of the barn; especially if the equipment does not control the RH of the air feeding the barn.

There is not a designated optimal relative humidity percentage set-out for sporulation but an RH of 35-70% is considered adequate for oocyst sporulation (bird management guides for chickens and turkeys recommend between 60-70%). Interestingly, practicing good relative humidity monitoring may also help the welfare of the bird (1).

Atmospheric Barn Environment: Oxygen Access - If the oocyst does not have adequate oxygen access during sporulation, it may not become infective. High ammonia levels resulting from accumulated manure can also kill oocysts.

Physical Barn Environment: Nipple Drinker Cups – If nipple cups are attached to the drinkers this is a potential reservoir for oocysts.

Cage Reared Game Birds

Physical Barn Environment: Oocyst Cycling in the Cage – A mesh floor assists in reducing the number of oocysts accessible to the bird but these mesh floors will not eliminate oocysts from the cage environment. A mesh floor alone usually does not provide enough potential for oocyst transmission to generate adequate oocyst low-level oocyst cycling for complete protection against coccidiosis challenge (2). A typical Eimeria species will start to shed from the bird between 5 and 7 days post initial ingestion of an infective oocyst. The oocyst takes between 24-48 hours to become infective once shed. 

Physical Barn Environment: Manure Belts in a Cage System - When a manure belt is in use it will rotate and go through a scraping area where manure is scraped off the belt into a manure disposal area. While most of the manure is removed during this process, the scraper cannot remove all of the manure and it is not equipped to remove microscopic organisms, such as Eimeria. In multi-tier conventional cage system the manure belts act as roofs for the tier level below. When the bird is tall enough they are able to peck at the manure belt roof and potentially at oocysts that remain on the belt (3, 4). This issue can act as a potential disease source OR a method to allow for low level of oocyst cycling depending on the number of oocysts being shed and becoming infectious in the environment.

Litter Reared Game Birds

Litter Management: Keeping the Litter Dry - Make sure the floor is warm and dry prior to spread shavings or straw and placing birds in the barn. Be sure the bedding (shavings or straw) starts off dry. Be aware of leaky drinkers and flushing birds. If necessary, remove “cakey” litter (areas of localized high moisture).

Leaky Drinkers
- Wear and tear on the nipple drinker over time can cause the drinkers to leak. Leaky drinkers cause localized areas of high moisture which can be a good spot for above average oocyst sporulation. Be cautious of these areas as there may be infective oocyst build-up.

Outside Access - If the flock has access to outside, how the outdoor run is designed and managed may influence Eimeria transmission (5). If an outdoor run is used, the run should be rotated each flock to reduce the potential for oocyst transmission between flocks. If the land used for a run is limited, a suggestion to help reduce oocyst transmission is removing approximately the top 20cm of soil from the run and planting a new fast growing crop (6).

Good Practice When Showing Birds

1. Make sure the bird’s feet are cleaned prior to having the bird re-enter the housing facility. This will help remove feces from other birds and potential contaminants.
2. Wash your hands with soap and water prior to and proceeding the event. This will help remove feces from other birds and potential contaminants.
3. The shoes and clothes worn to a bird show event should be different and separate than the shoes and clothes worn into your birds’ housing facility.

References

1. Stamp Dawkins, M., C.A. Donnelly, and T.A. Jones. Chicken welfare is influence more by housing conditions than by stocking density. Nature 427:342-344. 2004.

2. Price, K.R., M.T. Guerin, L. Newman, B.M. Hargis, and J.R. Barta. Examination of a novel practical poultry management method to enhance the effect of live Eimeria vaccination for conventionally housed replacement layer pullets. International Journal of Poultry Science 12:175-184. 2013.

3. Price, K.R. Use of live vaccines for coccidiosis control in replacement layer pullets. The Journal of Applied Poultry Research 21:679-692. 2012.

4. Dr. Mike Petrik, personal communication.

5. Sossidou, E.N., A. Dal Bosco, H.A. Elson, and C.M.G.A. Fontes. Pasture-based systems for poultry production: implications and perspectives. World's Poultry Science Journal 67:47-58. 2011.

6. Flegal, C.J. Managing Game Birds. Extension Bulletin E-692 Michigan State University. 1994.  Access HERE.