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Pullets Reared in Enriched Cages - Live Vaccines

This information 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.


The brooding and immediate post-brooding periods are important to vaccine success because this is the time where offspring vaccine oocysts can cycle in the barn at low levels. Essentially, the cycling during this phase is acting as an immunity booster to the original vaccine dose; without this cycling, the vaccine will not work as effectively.

Note: Oocyst transmission has yet to be studied in enriched cages. Methods used with litter or cage rearing may be tried but are NOT guaranteed to work.

General Good Barn Practice Provide chicks with clean, biosecure housing. Ensure that feed and water are readily available to the chicks when they are placed (1). Additionally, proper heat, ventilation and lighting as well as feed and water quality are required for good rearing management (1).

Physical Enriched Cage Environment During Brooding: Nipple Drinker Cups If nipple cups are attached to the drinkers this is a potential reservoir for oocysts.


Figure 1. Example of a dirty nipple drinker cup for pullets.  Be cautious as this dirty cup can be a potential reservoir for oocysts.

General Good Practice for Coccidiosis Management During Rearing

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

Example of the minimum outside temperature needed paired with the temperature gradient needed in a generic chicken barn over the first 6 weeks of rearing (1) to achieve an RH of 35% inside the barn (if air handling equipment does not control the RH of the air feeding the barn).


 Day 1-2

Day 3-4

Day 5-7

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5-6

 RH (%) inside the barn








 Temperature inside barn (°C)









Dew point outside barn (°C)








Click HERE to calculate Relative Humidity.

There is not a designated optimal relative humidity percentage set-out for oocyst sporulation but an RH of 35-70% is considered adequate (bird management guides recommend between 60-70%). Interestingly, good monitoring of RH may also help the welfare of the bird (2).

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 Enriched Cage Environment: Manure Belts - 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 multitier 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. 

Physical Enriched Cage Environment: Perches, Platforms and Dust Bath Areas - As the pullets grow to use the perches, platforms and dust bath areas fecal build-up may occur on or below these additions. Consequently, it is important to note these areas as potential reservoirs for oocysts. Additionally, this elevation may allow the birds defecate on each other which could be another way in which birds could ingest oocysts (5). 


1. Anonymous. Layer management guide: Lohmann LSL Classic. In. Lohmann Tierzucht GmBh. 2005.

2. 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.

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. Appleby, M.C. The Edinburgh modified cage: effects of group size and space allowance on brown laying hens. Journal of Applied Poultry Research 7:152-161. 1998.