I recently blathered on BYC about my recent experimentation concerning coccidiosis and the use of medicated feed. I thought i would share it here also.
This is mostly a direct copy/paste from my post on BYC.
I live in the "soupy south," as SpeckledHen called it. And i have used medicated feed (in the past) for every group of chickens coming through.....and every group of medicated chickens came down with coccidiosis and had to be medicated anyway. So i started reading everything i could find on coccidiosis in chickens, here on BYC, more professional articles and studies - whatever i could find on the web. I wanted to really understand (as much as my not-a-scientist mind could understand) how coccidiosis really works.
I also talked with SpeckledHen, who always has good, educated things to say to back up her opinions, and i decided to try an experiment.
The previous groups of chicks who came through always got sick about 2 weeks after hitting the ground, and that lined up with what i read about the time it usually takes to overwhelm a chick's system.
But it has seemed that the older a chicken is when she is exposed, the worse it hits her.
So with my most recent addition, i stopped feeding medicated feed. I had to switch to game bird grower to get something without amprolium, but i'm o.k. with that. (props to those of you who are grinding your own feed - awesome!)
In addition to feeding non-medicated feed, while the chicks were still in the brooder, i started giving them small amounts of the soil that my flock regularly poops in - in their brooder, so they could scratch through it and get exposed asap. Also, on the very first sunny warm day, i put them all on the ground in the run and let them "free range." Then, as soon as they were feathered in - and as long as it hasn't been raining - i started letting them run the run all day every day. They've been doing that virtually every day for about a month [about six weeks at the date of this chicken chat post], and i have - for the first time ever - had no outbreak of coccidiosis.
I'm no scientist, but i think a lot of people are going about this all wrong. From what i've read, the way to protect a chick from being overwhelmed by cocci protozoa is by exposing them ASAP, just like a mama hen does.
Keeping their environment perfectly spotless and keeping them from being exposed to chicken poop - even though it seems to be the right thing to do - is what seems to be making them more vulnerable in the long run.
This is preliminary. I will want to do the same thing with several more groups of chicks - during different parts of the year - before i get on a really big soapbox about it, but this is my experience so far. I definitely don't think the medicated feed is helping anyone; i'll tell you that. And i will gladly pay extra to give them a feed without it.
Even the game bird grower i've been feeding has antibiotics (not amprolium - just antibiotics) in it, and i hate that too - but i talked to my feed store, and they agreed to order a different feed with actually NO MEDICATION at all in it - just for me. They currently carry nothing that has NO medication. Then i will be happier. Since my chickens free range all day, i don't worry too much about the fact that it's manufactured. The feed i give them is meant to be just a supplement to what they get in pasture.
I think my chickens should be able to say no to drugs.
ETA: One more thing - medicated feed is meant to help the chicken build resistance to the cocci protozoa. If you are feeding medicated feed, it can't do its job unless you expose your chicks to the protozoa - meaning the soil and the poop. If you don't expose them, the medication can do NOTHING to benefit your chicken.