What is disease?

Any condition that results in deviation from normal function.
Not all poultry health problems are caused by infectious agents
Always consider non‐infectious conditions (management factors or FLAWSS) first:
  • Feed quality
  • Lighting
  • Air quality and ventilatidivon
  • Water quality
  • Space (feeders and drinkers)
  • Sanitation

Use medications judiciously and only when necessary

Management problems can only be fixed by proper management changes and/or corrections
Viral infections cannot be treated with antibiotics
Bacterial infections can only be treated with the proper antibiotic
Always consult a veterinarian before initiating any treatment
If antibiotics or other drugs are prescribed, follow recommended dose, route, duration of therapy, and withdrawal time

Farming practises for healthy flocks

Good farming practices are the first line of defence to help prevent disease affecting your flock. It is important to keep your flock in a clean environment with minimal stress. Always provide sufficient feed for the age and production status of the birds and plenty of cool, clean water.
The following list of farming practises will help you maintain the health of your flock

Biosecurity planning

All poultry farms should have a biosecurity plan.
Implement on-farm biosecurity practises to limit the ways that disease can spread. .

Manage human contact with birds

Always start work with the younger stock and finish with the oldest.
Check where your visitors have been - have they been in contact with poultry in the last 3 days or have they recently been overseas?
Prevent anyone who has had recent contact with other poultry from working with your flock until they have followed strict biosecurity measures as required for your property.

Identify, prevent and control disease and parasites

  • Monitor and check birds daily.
  • Be aware of the physical signs that may indicate possible disease in birds
  • Protect birds through vaccination, and control internal and external parasites.

Quarantine new and returning birds

  • Always isolate sick birds from the rest of the flock. Have a qualified person diagnose and treat them for illness.
  • Ensure new birds are separated from the flock for a month. Watch for any signs of sickness, lice or mites.
  • Always source birds from a reputable supplier.
  • Keep exhibition birds returning from shows separate from the main flock for at least two weeks.

Provide clean and appropriate housing

  • Allow enough floor, feed and water space, and shade for the species requirements and poultry welfare code.
  • Ensure perches are smooth and at a height suitable for the breed.
  • Cover concrete floors wdivkeys and peafowl separately as each can carry diseases that can make the others sick.
  • Provide housing that will prevent contact with wild birds.
  • At the end of each batch or production cycle:
    • wash and spray the shed with a disinfectant and insecticide
    • remove the old litter, rake over dirt floors and spray with disinfectant or sprinkle with slaked lime
    • take out, clean and disinfect all moveable objects
    • try to leave sheds empty for at least 10-12 days
    • if re-using litter, windrow for at least 5-6 days between batches
    • if sheds and pens are used continuously, aim to do a complete clean and disinfection at least once per year.
  • div Regularly clean and flush water bowls, lines and feeders.
  • Regularly clean nest boxes, remove dirty litter and avoid using mouldy bedding material.
  • Fence off range areas to reduce the impact of predators.

Equipment

  • Don't share equipment between flocks or properties. If this is unavoidable, only share essential equipment and make sure it is thoroughly cleaned and disinfected before use.
  • Routinely clean and fumigate poultry incubators.

General poultry farm hygiene

  • Maintain a continuous vermin control program.
  • Keep the area surrounding sheds and range areas clean and tidy. Keep grass mown and remove all rubbish.
  • Remove and dispose of dead birds daily. Never feed dead birds to cats or dogs
  • Keep the area surrounding sheds and range areas clean and tidy. Keep grass mown and remove all rubbish.
  • Store feed in a cool and dry vermin proof area to maintain freshness, prevent mould growing and prevent contamination from other animals.

Brooding

  • Clean each shed or pen before new batches of chickens arrive. Whatever the brooding system, the birds need heat, water, feed, light and good management.
  • Observe chicks regularly. You can tell when chickens are too cold or hot by watching their distribution or the sounds they make.
  • Recognise early signs of disease by regularly observing poultry and practising good animal husbandry and stockpersonship procedures.
  • Use fresh bedding in the brooding area, sourced from a reputable supplier.

Poultry disease prevention and management

Routine preventative measures form the next line of defence against disease, after providing a clean and hygienic environment through good poultry farming practises. Preventative measures include:
  • vaccination
  • parasite control
  • identifying and treating sick birds
  • separating multi-age flocks
  • Adult poultry
  • practising routine biosecurity procedures between flocks and staff working with them.

Vaccination

Vaccination can prevent many poultry diseases. Follow a suitable vaccination program or only buy appropriately vaccinated stock. You can request vaccination certificates from your supplier when purchasing chicks or pullets.
Poultry vaccinations include:
  • avian encephalomyelitis
  • chicken anaemia
  • egg drop syndrome 76 (EDS 76)
  • fowl cholera
  • fowl pox
  • infectious bronchitis
  • infectious bursal disease
  • infectious coryza
  • infectious laryngotracheitis
  • Marek's disease
  • Newcastle disease.

For breeders of poultry, when vaccinating:

  • always follow the instructions on the label, including storage conditions
  • use disposable syringes and needles
  • discard all unused vaccines, syringes and needles in a proper manner
  • be clean, but never use detergents or disinfectants near vaccination equipment. Do not disinfect skin before vaccinating with fowl pox or Marek's HVT vaccine, as this will kill the vaccine virus.

Parasite control

Birds that are housed on the floor and have access to pastures and outdoor areas will have greater exposure to internal and external parasites. For birds housed in these conditions, it is important to have a prevention program in place and treat as required. This helps to minimise physical stress and keep birds in good condition so they can resist disease. Control parasites by:
  • regularly inspecting birds for external parasites
  • spraying or dusting birds thoroughly with an approved insecticide if you can see lice or mites - spray the shed, perches and nests thoroughly, making sure the insecticide gets into crevices
  • cleRemove sick birdsaning sheds and rotating ranges to prevent worms
  • regularly checking faecal material for any sign of worms
  • always checking the label on worming treatments for withholding periods as some are not suitable for production birds
  • consulting a veterinarian.
divmove sick birds
Regularly observe your birds for any signs of ill health or problems within the flock such as feather pecking. Remove sick chickens and other poultry from the main flock and obtain a diagnosis from a qualified person. Sick birds usually appear different to healthy birds. You can give the correct treatment once you identify the disease or problem. Keep ill birds quarantined from the flock until completely recovered. If medication is given, it is important to adhere to any withholding periods.

Multi-age flocks@inkoko.rws, there is an increased risk of disease transfer from the older birds todivAdult poultry

COMMON POULTRY DISEASES

Fowl Pox
Fowl Pox
If you notice your chickens developing white spots on their skin, scabby sores on their combs, white ulcers in their mouth or trachea, and their laying stops then you should grow concerned that your chickens are developing Fowl Pox.
There are treatment options for Fowl Pox. You can feed them soft food and give them a warm and dry place to try and recoup. With adequate care, there is a great chance that your birds can survive this illness.
If you would like to remove the odds of your birds even contracting this disease there is a vaccine available. If not, you should know that they can contact this disease from other contaminated chickens, mosquitos, and it is a virus so it can be contracted by air as well.
Botulism
Botulism
If your chickens begin to have progressing tremors you should grow concerned. If your chickens have botulism the tremors will progress into total body paralysis which does include their breathing.
It is a serious disease. You will also notice their feathers will be easy to pull out and death usually occurs within a few hours. However, what can you do about it? Well, there is an antitoxin that can be purchased from your local vet. Though it is considered to be expensive. However, if you catch the disease early enough you can mix 1 teaspoon of Epsom salts with 1-ounce of warm water. You can give it to them by dropper once daily.
Fowl Cholera
Fowl Cholera
You should be suspicious of this disease if you see your birds begin to have greenish or yellowish diarrhoea, are having obvious joint pain, struggling to breathe, and have a darkened head or wattle. Fowl Cholera is a bacterial disease that can be contracted from wild animals or food and water that has been contaminated by this bacteria.
However, the biggest downside to your chicken developing this disease is there is no real treatment. If by some chance your chicken survives, it will still always be a carrier of the disease. It is usually better to put them down and destroy their carcass so it will not be passed. However, there is a vaccine for your chickens to prevent the disease from ever taking hold.
Infectious Bronchitis
Infectious Bronchitis
This disease hits close to home because it wiped out half of our flock when we were new to raising chickens. You’ll recognize this disease when you begin to hear your chickens sneezing, snoring, and coughing. And then the drainage will begin to secrete from their nose and eyes.
Their laying will cease too. Even so, the good news is you can get a vaccine to stop this disease from impacting your chickens. However, if you decide against that then you will need to move quickly when seeing these signs. Infectious Bronchitis is a viral disease and will travel quickly through the air.

To treat Infectious Bronchitis, give your chickens a warm, dry place to recoup. I gave my birds warm herb tea and fed them fresh herbs, which seemed to help.

Adult poultry
Infectious Coryza
Infectious Coryza
You will know that your birds have caught this disease when their heads become swollen. Their eyes will swell shut and their combs will also swell. Then the discharge will begin to flow from their eyes and noses. They will stop laying and will have moisture under their wings.
Unfortunately, there is no vaccine to stop this disease. Once your chickens contract this disease they should be put down. If not, they will remain a carrier of the disease for life which is a risk to the rest of your flock. Be sure to discard the body afterward so no other animal becomes infected by it.

However, the light at the end of this tunnel is that even though this disease is a bacteria it only travels through contaminated water, other contaminated birds, and surfaces that have been contaminated with the bacteria. If you keep your chickens protected from other random chickens and keep their coop and water clean they should be safe from this disease.

Marek’s Disease
Marek’s Disease
This disease is more common in younger birds that are usually under the age of 20 weeks. You will know that this disease has struck your baby chicks if you begin to see tumors growing inside or outside of your chick. Their iris will turn gray and they will no longer respond to light. And they will become paralyzed.
Unfortunately, this disease is very easy for them to catch. It is a virus which means it is super easy to transmit from bird to bird. They actually get the virus by breathing in pieces of shed skin and feather from an infected chick. And sadly, if your chick gets this disease it needs to be put down. It will remain a carrier of the disease for life if it survives.

However, the good news is there is a vaccine and it is usually given to day-old chicks.

Adult poultry
Thrush
Thrush
Thrush in chickens is very similar to thrush that babies get. You’ll notice a white oozy substance inside their crop (which is a space between their neck and body.) They will have a larger than normal appetite. The chicken will appear lethargic and have a crusty vent area. And their feathers will look ruffled.
It is important to mention that thrush is a fungal disease. This means it can be contracted if you allow your chickens to eat molded feed or other molded food. And they can also contract the disease from contaminated water or surfaces. Even though there is no vaccine, it can be treated by an anti-fungal medicine that you can get from your local vet. Be sure to remove the bad food and clean their water container as well.
Air Sac Disease
Air Sac Disease
This disease first appears in the form of poor laying skills and a weak chicken. As it progresses, you will notice coughing, sneezing, breathing problems, swollen joints, and possibly death.
Now, there is a vaccine for this illness, and it can be treated with an antibiotic from the vet. However, it can be picked up from other birds (even wild birds) and it can be transferred from a hen that has it to her chick through the egg. As a precaution, keep an eye out for any of these symptoms so it can be treated quickly and effectively.
Newcastle Disease
Newcastle Disease
This disease also appears through the respiratory system. You will begin to see breathing problems, discharge from their nose, their eyes will begin to look murky, and their laying will stop. Also, it is common that the bird’s legs and wings will become paralyzed as well as their necks twisted.
This disease is carried by other birds including wild birds. That is how it is usually contracted. However, if you touch an infected bird you can pass it on from your clothes, shoes, and other items. Still, the good news is that older birds usually will recover and they are not carriers afterward, but most baby birds will die from the disease. There is a vaccine for the disease although the US is working to rid the country of the disease all the way around.
Mushy Chick
Mushy Chick
This disease obviously will impact chicks. It usually shows up in newly hatched chicks that have a midsection that is enlarged, inflamed, and blue-tinted. The chick will have an unpleasant scent and will appear to be drowsy. Naturally, the chick will also be weak. This disease doesn’t have a vaccine. It is usually transmitted from chick to chick or from a dirty surface where an infected chick was. And usually, it is contracted from an unclean area where a chick with a weak immune system contracts the bacteria.
There is no vaccine for this disease, although sometimes antibiotics will work. However, usually, when you come in contact with this disease you will need to immediately separate your healthy chicks from the sick ones. Use caution as the bacteria within this disease (such as staph and strep) can impact humans.
Pullorum
Pullorum
This disease impacts chicks and older birds differently. The chicks will show no signs of activity, have a white paste all over their backsides, and show signs of breathing difficulty. Though some will die with no signs at all.
However, in older birds, you will see sneezing and coughing on top of poor laying skills. This is a viral disease. It can be contracted through contaminated surfaces and other birds that have become carriers of the disease. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine for this disease and all birds that contract the disease should be put down and the carcass destroyed so no other animal will pick up the disease.
Avian Influenza
Avian Influenza
Avian Influenza is most commonly known as bird flu. It was one of my initial fears of owning chickens because all you hear about on the news is how people get sick with bird flu from their chickens. However, after knowing the symptoms you’ll be able to put that fear to rest. You need to know how to act quickly if you are afraid your backyard birds have come in contact with it.
The signs you will notice will include respiratory troubles. Your chickens will quit laying. They will probably develop diarrhea. You may notice swelling in your chicken’s face and that their comb and wattle are discolored or have turned blue. And they may even develop dark red spots on their legs and combs. Unfortunately, there is no vaccine and the chickens infected will always be carriers. Wild animals can even carry the disease from bird to bird.

Once your birds get this disease, they need to be put down and the carcass destroyed. And you will need to sanitize any area that the birds were in before ever introducing a new flock. Use great caution because this disease can make humans sick.

Bumblefoot
Bumblefoot
Bumblefoot is a disease that you’ll know exactly what you’re looking at when you see it. It begins with your chicken accidentally cutting its foot on something. It can happen when they are digging in the garden, scratching around in mulch, and so many other ways, but then the cut gets infected. And the chicken’s foot will begin to swell. It can even swell up the leg. You can treat it by performing surgery. If not, the infection will eventually take over the chicken and claim its life.
Obviously, bumblefoot can happen very easily and there isn’t much you can do to prevent it besides keeping a close eye on your chickens’ feet. If you notice they have a cut then be sure to wash and disinfect it to prevent this disease from setting up. However, there are many less common illnesses too. Just be sure to always pay attention to your flock and stay alert to any changes. Never be afraid to research. It is better to overreact than to underreact and miss something that could be detrimental to your whole flock.

Adult poultry

Characteristic Healthy birds Diseased birds
Stance
  • Erect
  • Tail held high
  • Tail and wings 'dropped'
  • Head held close to body or twisted over back or between legs
Head
  • Clean comb and wattles
  • Bright about the eye
  • Clean nostrils
  • Discoloured
  • Shrunken comb or eyes dull or watery
  • Nostrils caked
  • Face shrunken or swollen
Muscles
  • Bird feels 'solid'
  • Struggles vigorously when held
  • Loss of weight and strength
  • Uneven size of thighs
  • Keel protrudes under skin
Legs and feet
  • Clean waxy scales
  • Smooth joints
  • Cool to touch
  • Dehydrated with prominent tendons
  • Enlarged
  • Warm to touch
  • Cracked feet
Feathers
  • Smooth and neat
  • Fluffed out
  • Stained in abdomen area
Colour
  • Breed and strain characteristics
  • Less colourful
  • In hens excess yellow may be from reduced laying rate
Appetite and thirst
  • Eat and drink often
  • Lose appetite
  • Drink excessively
Droppings
  • Grey
  • Brown with white caps
  • Definite form
  • Caecal droppings may be frothy
  • White
  • Green
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Very watery or sticky
Abdomen
  • Firm to touch
  • Fat birds may feel hard
  • May be very hard or very soft
Vent
  • Clean
  • Level with body surface
  • Inflamed around vent area
  • Pasted over with droppings
  • Protrusion of tissues
Breathing
  • Silent
  • Beak closed (in hot weather birds may breath with mouth open)
  • Coughing
  • Young poultry
Stance
  • Erect
  • Tail held high
  • Tail and wings 'dropped'
  • Head held close to body or twisted over back or between legs
Head
  • Clean comb and wattles
  • Bright about the eye
  • Clean nostrils
  • Discoloured
  • Shrunken comb or eyes dull or watery
  • Nostrils caked
  • Face shrunken or swollen
Muscles
  • Bird feels 'solid'
  • Struggles vigorously when held
  • Loss of weight and strength
  • Uneven size of thighs
  • Keel protrudes under skin
Legs and feet
  • Clean waxy scales
  • Smooth joints
  • Cool to touch
  • Dehydrated with prominent tendons
  • Enlarged
  • Warm to touch
  • Cracked feet
Feathers
  • Smooth and neat
  • Fluffed out
  • Stained in abdomen area
Colour
  • Breed and strain characteristics
  • Less colourful
  • In hens excess yellow may be from reduced laying rate
Appetite and thirst
  • Eat and drink often
  • Lose appetite
  • Drink excessively
Droppings
  • Grey
  • Brown with white caps
  • Definite form
  • Caecal droppings may be frothy
  • White
  • Green
  • Red
  • Yellow
  • Very watery or sticky
Abdomen
  • Firm to touch
  • Fat birds may feel hard
  • May be very hard or very soft
Vent
  • Clean
  • Level with body surface
  • Inflamed around vent area
  • Pasted over with droppings
  • Protrusion of tissues
Breathing
  • Silent
  • Beak closed (in hot weather birds may breath with mouth open)
  • Coughing
  • Young poultry
Navel area
  • Smooth
  • Colour and appearance of normal skin
  • Thickened appearance and feeling of a 'button' or a knot of tissue
  • Black string of dry tissue protruding
  • Fluid exudate
Vent
  • Clean
  • Level with body surface
  • Pasted over with droppings
  • Protrusion of tissues
Legs and feet
  • Legs under body
  • Toes straight and spread evenly
  • Legs sprawled
  • Sores on hock joints
  • Toes curved
Breathing
  • Silent
  • Beak closed (in hot weather birds may breath with mouth open)
  • Coughing
  • Young poultry the tail
  • Feathers show no distinct break lines
  • Wings droop
  • Feathers show clear 'fault lines' in vane