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Turkeys Reared on Litter - Live Vaccines

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.


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.

Brooding with Brooder Rings (1) - In this management method, bird density is increased for the period they are in the brooder rings. A typical Eimeria species will start to shed from the bird between 5 and 7 days post initial ingestion of an infective oocyst (i.e. live vaccine administration). The oocyst takes between 24-48 hours to become infective once shed. If birds are kept in the brooder ring for period of time to allow the poults to ingest offspring vaccine oocysts (and if relative humidity, temperature and oxygen access are maintained), this brooding method may provide sufficient duration for low level cycling and thus sufficient exposure to infective oocysts.

Note: If birds are moved to the whole barn earlier in the brooding period there will have been oocyst shedding, oocyst sporulation but not enough time to allow for the ingestion of these shed oocysts as is needed for the live vaccine to work effectively.


Figure 1. Simple diagram illustrating Eimeria oocyst build-up in a brooder ring brooding system.  In this brooding method bird density is increased for the period the poults are in the brooder ring.  As offspring vaccine oocysts are shed into the environment they can accumulate in the occupied rings.  If the poults are kept in the brooder ring until the offspring oocysts sporulate and become infective, this brooding method may provide the sufficient duration and exposure to oocysts for low-level cycling.


Figure 2. An example of brooder rings for brooding poults (Picture Credit: Dr. Lloyd Weber).

Large Ring/Whole Room Brooding (1) - This brooding method does not confine birds near to the point heat source and with good heating the birds should spread out in barn/large ring. There would be no increased bird density so the transmission rate of infective oocyst ingestion would be reduced (but not eliminated). 


Figure 2. Simple diagram illustrating Eimeria oocyst build-up in a large ring/whole room house brooding system.  In this brooding system, if oocysts are in the environment the spread of birds could reduce the potential for a bird to ingest an infective oocysts.

Physical Environment During Brooding: Litter -Some oocysts may fall between the litter used and if birds do not peck or scratch at the area in which the oocyst fell it may be lost to the bird.

Physical Environment During Brooding: Feeders and Bell Drinkers
- Poults during the brood stage are small enough that they may be able to fit in the open feeders. Be aware that these poults will defecate into the feeders and should the feces contain oocysts, this will allow for cycling. Additionally, bell drinkers are also potential reservoirs 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 control the RH of the air feeding the barn.

Example of the minimum outside temperature needed paired with the temperature gradient needed in a generic conventionally brooded turkey barn over the first 7 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).


 Week 1

Week 2

Week 3

Week 4

Week 5

Week 6

Week 7

 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 and Litter - If the oocyst does not have adequate oxygen access during sporulation, it may not become infective. Accumulation and compaction of litter can decrease oxygen access which can act to stop sporulation. In addition, high ammonia levels resulting from accumulated litter can also kill oocysts.

Physical barn environment: Leaky Drinkers - 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.


Figure 3. Examples of leaky drinkers (A) and dirty bell cups (B) for turkeys reared on litter.  Be cautious of localized areas of high moisture due to leaky drinkers (A).  Dirty bell drinkers (B) can be potential reservoirs for oocysts (Picture Credits: Dr. Lloyd Weber).

Physical barn environment: Wet Phase of Turkey Production - The wet phase of turkey production can occur between 6 and 9 weeks of age, in part due to a vegetable diet (e.g. more soybeans or canola and no meat meal). This flushing can increase litter moisture to a point where oocyst sporulation may be fast and overwhelming. Be cautious of this time and, if necessary, remove "cakey" litter (areas of localized high moisture).


1. Anonymous. Commercial Management Guide. In. Hybrid: A Hendrix Genetics Company. 2013. Access HERE.

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.