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Chicken Ailments and Diseases

Chicken Ailments and Diseases

There are many common chicken ailments that affect chicken health. What follows is by no mean an exhaustive list, but the most common chicken ailments and diseases that affect chicken health. Unless identified and treatment immediately initiated, some chicken diseases can cause death and/or easily spread and affect your entire flock.

Avian Influenza

This is by far the most common chicken disease that can wipe out your birds. This is caused by a virus and can infect human populations as the outbreaks in the late 1990s and early 2000s attest. Avian influenza is characterized by listlessness, appetite loss, respiratory distress, decrease in egg production, production of shell-less or soft-shelled eggs, facial swelling, bluing of comb and wattles and a blood-tinged discharge from the nostrils. There is no effective treatment and vaccinations may only be used with special permits. If you suspect that your flock has avian influenza,  report to it immediately to the state veterinarian’s office for prompt action as even the mild forms of the virus can readily mutate.

Infectious Coryza

Caused by bacterium known as Avibacterium paragallinarum, infectious coryza manifests itself as swelling around the face, smelly nostril and eye discharge, labored breathing, irritated and sticking of the eyelids, diarrhea and abnormal breathing sounds. Treatment using water soluble antibiotics or antibacterials containing sulfadimethoxine is usually effective in nursing the birds back to health but the birds will remain as carriers. Vaccination, sanitation and good management prevent outbreaks from occurring.


Coccidiosis is a common and economically important disease affecting fowl worldwide. It is caused by coccidial parasites or protozoa from the genus Eimeria. The chickens eat the eggs from contaminated droppings. These later multiply in the bird’s intestinal wall. The clinical signs may be minimal with only mild loss of appetite, weight loss, diarrhea (sometimes bloody) and dehydration. While birds can develop resistance, those who have eaten a voluminous number of oocysts can die. Anti-coccidial drugs are usually administered as a preventive measure. Vaccination, good management and hygiene around the farm minimize the infection.


Caused by the bacterium E. coli, colibacillosis is an infectious disease that affects chickens around the world. Respiratory distress, poor appetite and slow growth are just some of the symptoms of this disease. When examined post-mortem, lesions of airsacculitis, pericarditis and peritonitis are seen in the affected birds. Antimicrobial therapy is the mode of treatment in this disease. However, eliminating the factors that predispose a bird to respiratory distress is an effective preventive measure. This includes vaccination for mycoplasmas like infectious bronchitis virus and Newcastle Disease. Thorough cleaning of the coop and ensuring that your birds drink only clean water are also important preventive steps.

Mareks Disease

This is cancer for the avian species, with tumors in the nerves of your birds causing symptoms of lameness and paralysis. When the tumors grow in the eyes, it can cause irregularly shaped pupils and blindness while those growing in other parts of the body can give rise to incoordination, paleness, weakness, pale and scaly combs and green diarrhea. There is no treatment for Mareks. Vaccinations are given to chicks in the hatchery to prevent the formation of tumor.

The best treatment for common chicken diseases is prevention. Clean living quarters, clean water, and preventative vaccinations are the keys to chicken health.

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