Chicken Disease Prevention Tips


Date: March 6th, 2013

Unfortunately, chicken diseases are something that some owners may have to deal with. Diseases may enter the flock through many different sources including:

  • People
  • Other birds
  • Rodents
  • Insects
  • Feed and equipment

Disease prevention is much less stressful and costly than disease control and recovery. Read on for prevention tips.


One of the key preventative measures for poultry diseases is proper sanitation.  It is important to thoroughly clean equipment (feeding, watering and ventilation) and facilities prior to the introduction of a new flock.  All feeding, watering, and ventilation equipment should also be cleaned.


Following cleaning and prior to chick placement, the grow-out area should be treated with a disinfectant.  Disinfectants are most effective when used on clean surfaces free of organic material such as straw and manure.  Leaving the chicken house empty for about two to three weeks will also help eliminate or reduce the population of infectious organisms.


If outdoor runs are used, they also should be kept clean.  Disinfection is difficult, but it is beneficial to allow the area to dry thoroughly prior to bird placement.  It is also important to keep the area as dry as possible when birds are present.  This can be accomplished by alternating runs.



In general, a sick chicken is less active, retracts its neck close to its body and has an unkempt appearance, but not all diseases have the same presentation. Here are 11 common chicken diseases to be aware of:


Pecking and Cannibalism

Symptoms: Early signs include continuous toe-picking in chicks, pecking at maturing feathers in growing chickens, or head and vent pecking in older chickens. It's essential to pay close attention to the entire flock to determine the difference between random pecking and problematic behavior. Normal flock behavior does include the establishment of a "pecking" order. 



Symptoms: Chicks develop rubbery bones that cannot support their body weight. In severe cases, the chicks are unable to walk and die of suffocation as their bones cannot support the muscle movements required for breathing. In marginal cases, chicks have a stiff gait, decreased growth and eventual bone deformities, especially in the legs. 


Vitamin A Deficiency

Symptoms: Chickens develop a crusty material in the nostrils and eyelids, progressing to the accumulation of a cheesy material. In the initial stages, it mimics respiratory diseases. Similar damage in the throat makes swallowing difficult. Deficient chicks fail to grow, are severely depressed and die of organ failure. Adult hens experience a drop in egg production, and breeding birds experience a drop in hatchability. 


Lice Infestation

Symptoms: Chickens act nervously, and scratch and peck themselves frequently. Feathers look dry and ruffled. Eventual weight loss and decreased egg production occurs. 



Symptoms: Chickens exhibit diarrhea, weight loss and pigmentation loss. Severe infections cause bloody diarrhea and could be fatal without treatment. 


Ascaridiasis (Roundworm)

Symptoms: Common signs in chickens are diarrhea and weight loss. In severe infestation, masses of adult worms can cause a blockage of the intestine, which can be fatal if not treated. When large numbers of larvae or immature worms migrate through the lining of the gut, they cause severe inflammation. 


Capillariasis (Hairworm)

Symptoms: Signs of hairworm infection include paleness, diarrhea and wasting. It can be fatal if severe cases are left untreated. 



Symptoms: Watery eyes, dirty nostrils, coughing and sneezing are exhibited in chickens and are slow to develop. Egg production, fertility and hatchability are decreased. Over time, infection can lead to the accumulation of a "cheesy" material in the eyelids and sinuses as well as noticeable outward swelling. 



Symptoms: Chickens appear listlessness, have ruffled feathers and labored breathing, and cough frequently. Severely infected chickens may exhibit diarrhea, swelling, and congestion of the liver and spleen. Newly hatched chickens sometimes exhibit a navel infection.


Fowl Cholera

Symptoms: Sudden death can occur, sometimes without signs of infection. Signs of infection can be severe depression, cyanosis (dark-purple discoloration of skin) and mucus coming out of the beak. The chronic form of this disease is usually characterized by localized infections in the face, wattles, sinuses or joints. Infection in the cranium can cause twisting of the neck, called torticollis. 


Fowl Pox 

Symptoms: Fowl pox causes round, raised lesions with "scabby" centers, usually located on the comb, wattle and face, and occasionally on the legs. Infections to the lining of the mouth and the windpipe can also occur. The lesions in the throat can grow to cause complete blockage and possibly death by suffocation. Chickens could be temporarily or permanently blinded if lesions spread to the eyes. 


Quarantine if Necessary

Check your flock daily to spot diseases or parasites so you can start treatment right away. When an unhealthy chicken is noticed, it is important to immediately quarantine the chicken and accurately diagnose the disease. By expediting the treatment of infected birds, you'll prevent further spread of the disease.

If you think your flock has been infected, contact a veterianarian or consult a poultry expert.



Source: For more information, read this article:

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