Chicken Diseases Causing Lameness

Strong, Healthy Rooster

There are Many Diseases Causing Lameness

Unfortunately, lameness causing diseases are common among flocks. It can be a sad thing to see one of your birds that was previously healthy, now limping or lame. It’s even worse when you don’t know what’s causing it.

On this page, we're going to explore 5 common chicken diseases causing lameness. If your chickens are showing any of the following signs or symptoms, it’s important to treat or isolate the affected birds immediately. With rapid treatment, you can often prevent these chicken diseases from spreading to the rest of your flock.

 

Viral Arthritis

While the mortality rate for viral arthritis in chickens is low, the morbidity rate is high.

Spreading the Disease

The disease is transmitted by fecal contamination, and once a bird contracts the virus, they will remain a carrier for more than 250 days. The virus is extremely hardy, and is resistant to chloroform, heat and ether.

Signs & Symptoms

Signs of infection include lameness, delayed growth and low mobility. You may see mild to severe inflammation at the hock as well as swelling of the tendon sheaths.

Treatment

No treatment is currently available for viral arthritis; however,

Prevention

Vaccinations can minimize the potential for infection.


Marek’s Disease

This condition is a herpes virus infection that primarily afflicts chickens. Marek’s has a number of strains that manifest in different ways, affecting the neurological system, the eyes, the internal organs, and the skin and feathers.

Spreading the Disease

It is spread through direct contact – either bird-to-bird, through inhalation (infected dander or feathers), or through bugs that live in the coop. 

Signs & Symptoms

Symptoms typically include paralysis in the legs, neck and wings. Some birds become visually impaired and develop a gray or irregularly shaped pupil. Weight loss is also a common symptom.

Treatment

Marek’s cannot currently be treated. Mortality rates can be extremely high.

Prevention

Though you can avoid contagion by only purchasing your flock from resistant strains. Consistently good hygiene habits and vaccinations can also prevent outbreaks of Marek’s disease.


Staph Infections

As in humans, these infections are caused by the Staphylococcus bacteria. While only about 15% of chickens actually die from the infection, birds will often be culled from the flock for humane purposes.

Spreading the Disease

Birds typically contract staph infections through accidentally-inflicted wounds during toe and beak trimmings.

Signs & Symptoms

Staph infections will generally result in common symptoms like lameness, low mobility and ruffled feathers. You may often see swelling and tenderness around the hocks and feet.

Treatment

Fortunately, staph infections can often be easily treated with a course of antibiotics.

Prevention

Staph infections can be largely prevented through good hygiene and maintenance when it comes to caring for your flock and their home.


Rickets

Spreading the Disease

This is a  non-contagious condition is caused when chickens have a diet deficient in Vitamin D, or an imbalance in phosphorus/calcium.

Signs & Symptoms

Similarly to the condition in humans, your birds will gradually experience lameness and a softening of the bones. The beak will also soften, and you’ll often see birds go off their legs. They’ll rest by squatting and their hocks may swell and become tender.

Treatment

If your birds do develop rickets, the condition can be treated with regular doses of Vitamin D in their drinking water.

Prevention

The condition can largely be prevented with proper nutrition, regular supplementation of vitamin D, and a healthy balance of phosphorus and calcium.


Mycoplasma

Mycoplasma is another of the diseases causing lameness. This chicken disease occurs in many poultry-producing countries, and it can spread rapidly through your chicken flock.

Spreading the Disease

If your birds are already under stress or experiencing viral respiratory infections, their chance of contracting Mycoplasma is much higher.

Signs & Symptoms

In some cases, there will be no signs of infection; however, you will likely see this disease causing lameness and swelling in the hocks, shanks and feet. Birds may also suffer depression and have ruffled feathers.

Treatment

If your birds do become infected, they can be treated with tylosin, oxytetracyline, tilmicosin, or chlortetracycline.

Prevention

Prevent infections by carefully selecting uninfected chicks when adding to your flock. Vaccinations aren’t widely used, as birds quickly develop immunity to repeated inoculation. If your birds do become infected, they can be treated with tylosin, oxytetracyline, tilmicosin, or chlortetracycline. 


Chicken Diseases Causing Lameness are a sad and unfortunate part of owning chickens, but with proper prevention and immediate treatment, many of the diseases can be controlled and even prevented.

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