In West Africa, 52 per cent of chicken mortality in Ghana and 80 per cent in Nigeria is attributed to coccidiosis, according to findings published in African Journal of Ethnobiology.
Globally, the disease leads to 51.38 per cent of overall chicken deaths.
In Kenya, the prevalence of coccidiosis is highest according to a study conducted at the University of Nairobi which shows that it accounts for over 35 per cent of all poultry diseases diagnosed.
For instance, Western Kenya – where chicken is considered a local delicacy – prevalence of the disease is more than 48 per cent.
“The disease is perhaps the most common in the country affecting broilers and even indigenous chickens. Rural farmers only notice the problem once their chickens start dropping dead after a spell of low production”, observed Dr Maina Chege, a Nyeri-based veterinary officer.
Coccidiosis is a poultry disease caused by coccidia protozoa that is characterised by diarrhoea, decreased feed consumption, rough feathers, brownish to bloody mucus in faeces as well as reduced growth and egg production.
“Under poor poultry rearing systems, mortality can exceed 60 per cent, a huge loss for farmers across the country. Signs of an outbreak include the birds becoming pale and, droopy and they tend to huddle together as if they are cold. Also feed consumption drops dramatically. Farmers should take quick steps at this point to avert deaths”, notes Dr Chege.
Mostly indigenous chickens
In most African countries, 70 per cent of the poultry production and 20 per cent of the animal protein intake come from indigenous chickens.
For instance, in rural Kenya, every household has some chickens, providing vital protein through eggs and meat. Indigenous chickens also provide a quick source of money in case of emergencies and they have to be sold fast in rural markets.
Chickens also provide guano - a form of farmyard manure needed in improving soil fertility and food production.
However, diseases such as coccidiosis can hamper progress in poultry production from free range systems to more sophisticated battery cage systems.