Poultry Diseases and How to Prevent Them

Poultry are not disease free, and it is important that you create an environment that will protect these birds from as many diseases as possible. If you intend to eat your chickens or consume their eggs, you will want them disease free for yourself as well as their own well being.

Most diseases are a matter of prevention. Here are four easy steps to reduce exposure to disease in general.

1. Make sure your chickens are receiving a balanced diet that includes protein, vitamins and minerals.
2. Make sure mash, scratch and pellets are kept clean and dry and not used after the expiration date.
3. Keep your coop cleaned out.
4. Keep water clean.

Below are the most common diseases chickens suffer from, their symptoms, and how to prevent them.

Infections Bronchitis
This is a fairly common respiratory disease that can be mild or severe depending on immunity and environment.

Symptoms include:
Decreased interest in food and water
Discharge from eyes and nostrils
Gasping and other signs of respiratory distress
Strange chirping sounds
Dramatic reduction in egg production

Treatment:
The most effective form of prevention is vaccination. You will need to find a vet that works with livestock and poultry while they are young. If your chickens are not vaccinated, they can be prescribed antibiotics that you will have to give them. They will need to be isolated as well. Increasing the temperature of the isolation area is also helpful.

Avian Encephalomyelitis
This occurs predominantly in young birds and is quite common in developed countries.

Symptoms:
Dull expression
Uncoordinated movements
Twitching of the head and body

Treatment: Isolate the chicken immediately. The best form of prevention is vaccination.

Chronic Respiratory Disease or Mycoplasma Gallisepticum
A respiratory disease that affects a large number of chickens. It is also called Infectious Sinusitis or Mycoplasmosis.

Symptoms:
Swollen Sinuses
Sneezing
Discharge from the nostrils
Foamy eye discharge

Treatment:
Antibiotics have proven very effective in combating this disease and they may be administered by mixing in food or water or by injection.

Fowl Pox or Avian Diptheria
Is not the same as the chicken pox your children can get. It is a respiratory disorder.

Symptoms:
Spots that look like warts on bald areas of the body
Diminished egg production
Raw, occasionally bleeding skin
Respiratory distress
Congestion

Treatment: Vaccines are available, however there is no treatment for this particular disease. It is, however, slow to spread so if caught early it may not spread to unaffected poultry.

Cholera
This occurs in adults, predominantly roosters. The most common symptom is loose, green stools and swollen wattles.

Treatment: Tetracyclines should be administered until symptoms disappear- about one week.

Marek’s
This is a highly contagious disease caused by the herpes virus.

Symptoms:
Asymmetrical Paralysis
Difficulty Breathing
Change in eye color

Treatment: To prevent this disease, chicks should be vaccinated upon hatching.

Infectious Coryza
Also known as a cold or croup, it is a respiratory infection.

Symptoms:
A strange foul smell
Nasal and Eye discharge
Difficulty or changes in breathing
Diarrhea
Wheezing sounds

Treatment: Antibiotics are most commonly used as well as anti-bacterial medications.

There are two disease that you MUST REPORT TO THE USDA if your chicken show the signs or symptoms of.

Avian Influenza or Bird Flu
Symptoms:
Respiratory Distress
Changes in eating habits
Diarrhea
Decreased egg production
Nose discharge that contains blood
Red or white spots on the legs

Newcastle Disease
Respiratory Difficulties including wheezing, gasping and sneezing
Green, watery diarrhea
Nervousness and depression
Paralysis
Tremors
Thin-shelled eggs or no eggs
Swelling of the skin around the eyes and in the neck

If you suspect a chicken in your flock has either of these diseases, you MUST contact the U.S. Department of Agriculture.

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