Common Chicken Diseases and Afflictions Affecting the Skin and Feathers

Chicken Diseases and Afflictions are Common. Keeping a healthy flock can be a challenging task for the backyard chicken owner. Here is a brief overview of some common chicken diseases and afflictions affecting the skin and feathers.


Fowl Pox

Fowl Pox is a disease caused by a virus and manifests itself through distinct warts on the skin. However, fowl pox can also affect the inside of the mouth and upper respiratory system, making the course of the disease more serious. 

 

Spreading the Disease

Fowl Pox virus can be spread through both direct and indirect contacts. Mosquitos are known for transmitting this virus as well. The disease itself is considered slow-spreading as incubation periods are long and virus can survive in dried up scabs for months. The course of the disease itself can take up to 3 -5 weeks.  

Signs & Symptoms

Fowl Pox is diagnosed through the observation of whitish spots, which turn into typical lesions. Treatment

Treatment

There are currently no treatments available for Fowl Pox 

Prevention

There is an option of vaccination of high-risk flocks. Chicks can be vaccinated as early as one day old.


Parasitical Diseases

The most common chicken diseases and afflictions of the skin are caused by parasites, such as mites, lice, and ticks (like the one pictured above).

Parasites can be dangerous themselves, affecting productivity as well as uniformity of the flock. However, parasites can also transmit other, serious or life-threatening diseases, such as the Marek’s disease.

The most common way that chicken diseases and afflictions are spread is through contact that chickens have with each other.


 Ticks

Tiny tick on the end of a finger.

Ticks are blood-sucking parasites, which can be very dangerous and hard to eradicate.

Ticks are known to be able to survive without feeding for up to three years.

Large numbers of ticks can result in a significant blood loss.

This can eventually leading to emaciation and even death.

Spreading the Affliction

Ticks are typically active at night feeding on their host and may leave their host bird during the day, hiding in cracks and slats of the chicken house where they lay their eggs which can lie dormant for long periods. 

Signs & Symptoms

Skin irritation, weight loss, agitation, irritation, and an unwillingness to go back into their coop. 

Treatment

Permethrin is a commonly used synthetic insecticide for treating many kinds of external parasites. Due to its residual qualities, it is usually applied to the chicken house and equipment. In case of tick infestation, it is not necessary to treat the birds. 

Prevention

Chickens love to eat all kinds of crawly things including ticks and will do a good job of helping to keep tick populations down. As always, maintaining clean and sanitary conditions in your coop and limiting the presence of other animals, such as mice or wild birds, can greatly improve the chances of preventing the spread of ticks.


The Common Chicken Mite

The Common Chicken Mite is the most common blood-sucking parasite. In large numbers, these mites can cause anemia, resulting in severe drop in egg-production.

 

Spreading the Affliction

The most common way that mites are spread is through bird to bird contact. Common Mites are typically active at night and may leave their host bird during the day, hiding in cracks and slats of the chicken coop. 

Signs & Symptoms

The presence of the common mite can be recognized by scaling and scabbing of the skin and vent feathers, and by a peppering appearance on the surface of the feathers.

Treatment

If an infestation occurs and is prevalent, it is possible to use common insecticide to treat the problem. It may be necessary to treat the birds as well as the chicken house. Sevin Dust is recommended for use in smaller flocks.

Prevention

Maintaining a clean poultry house, preferably with smooth surfaces, and limiting the presence of other animals, such as mice or wild birds, can greatly improve the chances of preventing the spread of infection and/or chicken diseases and afflictions.

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Northern Fowl Mite 

This mite can have negative impact on weight gain, egg production and semen production in roosters.

 

Spreading the Affliction

The most common way that Northern Fowl Mites are spread is through bird to bird contact. Infestation with Northern Fowl Mite is more common in colder seasons, when birds tend to stay closer together.

Unlike the Common Chicken Mite, this parasite remains on the bird for the whole duration of its life cycle, day and night. However, this mite is very small and typically cannot be observed through naked eye. 

Signs & Symptoms

The disease manifests itself though scales and scabs on the feathers and skin of the vent and tail. 

Treatment

As with other mites, common insecticides are used for treatment, in this case it is crucial to treat the birds as well as the house. 

Prevention

Maintaining a clean poultry house, preferably with smooth surfaces, and limiting the presence of other animals, such as mice or wild birds, can greatly improve the chances of preventing the spread of infection and/or disease.

 

Lice

Lice are not blood-suckers; they feed off of dander and feathers. They are fairly common so it’s a good idea to thoroughly check your flock every couple of weeks. Lice can be dangerous to young birds. Immature chickens can get exhausted by irritation, refuse to eat and eventually die.

 

Spreading the Affliction

The most common way that lice are spread is through bird to bird contact although they can also be transmitted through shoes, clothing, etc. Lice stay on their host bird throughout their life cycle and die shortly once removed. 

Signs & Symptoms

The warning signs for infestation with poultry lice are irritability, restlessness and sleeplessness. Visually, you can notice chicken pecking at their own skin, ruffled up and missing feathers.

Treatment

As with other skin parasites, treatments with dust or spray insecticides are common. However, lice eggs are resistant to most insecticides and therefore it is important to repeat treatment in two weeks. 

Prevention

Maintaining a clean poultry house, preferably with smooth surfaces, and limiting the presence of other animals, such as mice or wild birds, can greatly improve the chances of preventing the spread of disease. Also make sure you check your flock consistently (at least every couple of weeks) for the presence of lice.

Parasites like Mites, Lice, and Ticks are a common cause of chicken diseases and afflictions so you'll want to be aware and check your flock often as well as practicing good chicken coop maintenance. 

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