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Toxoplasmosis is a disease caused by the protozoan parasite Toxoplasma gondii (T. gondii). T. gondii is commonly found in backyard and free range chickens worldwide. However, clinical disease rarely occurs in chickens, and they are generally considered to be resistant to clinical toxoplasmosis. There have only been a few documented reports of clinical toxoplasmosis in chickens.
Felids (wild and domestic cats, bobcats, ocelots, pumas, and Asian leopards) are an essential part of the life cycle of T. gondii. Therefore, domestic cats are frequently infected with the organism, and will shed it's eggs (called oocysts) in their feces (by the millions), contaminating the surrounding environment. T. gondii oocysts are very hardy and will remain in the environment for years---well after the cat's feces has decomposed. Chickens become infected by ingestion of these oocysts from the environment.
Documented Toxoplasmosis Outbreaks in Chickens
Three out of a flock of 14 backyard chickens were infected with T. gondii in Illinois. The observed clinical signs were: torticollis (wry neck), inability to stand and lateral recumbency prior to death. The remaining 11 flock members showed no signs of disease.