You’ve decided on a breed, you decided how many to get, you may have even decided on some names – now there is one more decision to make: should you feed medicated or non-medicated chick starter? This is a personal choice, and to help you make an informed decision, we’ve summarized what medicated starter does and does not do.
Medicated chick starters utilize coccidiostats, which help limit the incidence of coccidiosis in young birds. Coccidiosis is an intestinal parasite that is widely spread and found just about everywhere. It multiplies rapidly in the gut and then appears in the feces. As chicks scratch and peck they ingest the coccidiosis from the feces and become infected. Symptoms of infected chicks are a red or orange tint to the feces, a drop in feed consumption and lethargy. This disease can quickly infect your whole group of birds and is often fatal if untreated; Coccidiosis is one of the leading causes of death in baby chicks. One way to help protect your birds against this disease is to feed a medicated chick starter.
It is important to note a few things that medicated chick starter is NOT:
- Medicated chick starter is not necessary if your chicks have been vaccinated for coccidiosis. However, the coccidiosis vaccination is relatively new and fairly rare so chances are your chicks will not have been vaccinated.
- Medicated starter is not a cure after you have an outbreak of coccidiosis. There is only enough medication in the feed to act as a preventative – and once your chicks become sick with coccidiosis their feed intakes usually drop dramatically, so feeding them medication will not help.
- Medicated chick starter is not targeted to prevent anything other than coccidiosis. It is not a dewormer, respiratory medication, etc.
There are certain instances where it is usually a good idea to feed a medicated starter:
- Brooding large batches of chicks – 50+ at one time
- Brooding large batches consecutively
- If you live in a hot, humid environment
- If you have a history of coccidiosis in your facility
Notes on Amprolium: Amprolium is the coccidiostat that is used in Nutrena’s NatureWise® and Country Feeds® medicated chick starter. Here are some specifics about this medication:
- Amprolium is a drug that has been approved by the Food and Drug Administration.
- Amprolium IS NOT an antibiotic
- Amprolium has no withdrawal period, either in birds raised for meat or those used for egg production.
- Amprolium works by limiting uptake of thiamine (vitamin B1) by the coccidia parasite, which needs the thiamine to actively multiply.
- Amprolium allows some of the coccidia to remain in the system, stimulating creation of antibodies to develop against the disease.
Whether you decide to feed a medicated or non medicated chick starter, there are other things you can do to help decrease your chances of coccidiosis in your flock:
- Chicks kept on wire have less access to feces to peck at and this reduces their chances of becoming infected
- Clean regularly, change litter frequently and keep the brooding area dry
- Don’t crowd your birds – overcrowding quickly leads to unsanitary conditions