Intestinal Diseases of Chickens

Healthy, free range chickens out in field.

Intestinal Diseases of Chickens

Diseases affecting the intestinal and digestive systems in chickens have various causes of infection. This accounts for a wide variation in symptoms, prevention, and treatment options. As with other common poultry diseases, intestinal diseases of chickens can be traced back to viral, bacterial, fungal, and parasitical origins.

Infectious Bursal Disease

Infectious Bursal Disease (IBD), also known as Gumboro is a serious and one of the more easily transmitted intestinal diseases of chickens. It is a viral infection affecting mostly young chickens. The risk is most acute at between 2-4 weeks of age and continues until about 4 months of age when the risk of infection drops off. Because of its high contagiousness, Gumboro is especially feared in large, densely populated farms and commercial operations; however it can affect a small backyard flock as well.

Spreading the Disease

IBD can be spread through contact with infected animals, insects, rodents, and from infected chickens to other chickens. IBD can also be spread through contact with infected feed or feces.

Signs & Symptoms

Chickens may show signs of tremor, loss of appetite and dehydration. Other signs may include ruffled/damaged feathers, vent picking, diarrhea, and apathy. The initial stages of the disease can be deadly although birds that survive the initial stages tend to have a quick recovery.

Treatment

There is no treatment for IBD as IBD is a virus and viruses do not respond to anti-biotics. In the small backyard flock it may be best to focus on relieving the symptoms through an increase of temperature in the coop, adequate ventilation and ensuring plenty of water to combat dehydration of the infected birds. These measures have shown success in decreasing mortality. 

Prevention

Vaccinations are available for IBD and may be appropriate for large flocks where economic loss is a concern. In general, the best preventative measures for the backyard flock owner is a solid biosecurity program that includes keeping the coop, feed, and watering implements clean and carefully watching your flock for any signs or symptoms of illness.

 

Salmonella

There are well over 2,000 different strains of Salmonella bacteria affecting poultry. Some of these strains are contagious for people and may be acquired by handling an infected chicken or its manure. This brings us back to something we’ve talked about before on this site. Always wash your hands after handling your chickens and practice good flock and coop maintenance! 

Spreading the Disease

Salmonella can be spread through contact with the infected bird although it is normally spread through contact with infected manure (feces) of the chickens themselves, rodents or other infected animals that gets into the chickens feed or water. 

Signs & Symptoms

Possible symptoms of Salmonella include, but aren’t limited to Weakness, lethargy, loss of appetite, increased thirstiness, green or yellow diarrhea, swelling of the joints and around the eyes, and a marked decrease in egg production. 

Treatment

Salmonella may be successfully treated by antibiotics once the specific strain of salmonella has been identified. 

Prevention

Vaccines are available, but dosages are usually sold in large quantities and generally require 3 separate vaccinations to be effective. For the small flock owner, the best course is to consistently practice good flock hygiene and maintenance along with careful rodent control. 


E. coli 

E. coli is considered a non-contagious bacterial disease, because it can be transmitted only through a direct contact with contaminated environment. In fact, the bacteria itself is commonly found within the poultry’s intestines. 

Spreading the Disease

Usually through contaminated feed, water, or litter. 

Signs & Symptoms

Possible symptoms of E.coli include diarrhea, respiratory distress, lameness, and even the possibility of death. 

Treatment

Antibiotics are available for infected birds 

Prevention

Consistently practice good flock hygiene and coop maintenance.

 

Candida

Candida is a fungal disease and is usually a secondary infection that is non-contagious and less acute than most primary infections. However, secondary infections like Candida can still have a negative effect on individual birds’ health and productivity. 

Spreading the Disease

Fungal diseases like Candida are primarily spread through mold and yeasts. 

Signs & Symptoms

Infected chickens tend to be smaller, weaker, exhibit a decrease in egg production, and can have visibly rougher feathers. 

Treatment

Treatment requires a long-term process which can include antibiotics. 

Prevention

If yeast is a problem in your flock, you can attempt to prevent Candida by treating chicken water with copper sulfates. For mold issues, thorough cleaning and proper coop maintenance are necessary.

 

Roundworms 

Parasite infections are sources of the many common intestinal diseases of chickens. Roundworms are one the most common intestinal parasites found in chickens. Adult worms can be up to three inches long; therefore roundworms are easily identifiable through naked eye observation. 

Spreading the Disease

Parasites like roundworm are often spread through the feces of chickens and other animals. The eggs go into the soil and remain there until they are later ingested by the chicken. 

Signs & Symptoms

Affected birds may have diarrhea and become emaciated. In rare cases, roundworms can be deadly. 

Treatment

Piperazine is used to treat specifically this type of parasite. However, any available medications will only kill the adult worm, eggs remain unaffected. It is crucial to maintain high sanitation of the environment and keeping infected birds separated. 

Prevention

You can reduce the risk of roundworm infection through good coop maintenance and chicken hygiene. Additionally, don’t allow manure to build up around areas where your flock eats or lives. Rake and rotate the topsoil so that any roundworm eggs aren’t as close to the surface.

There are many intestinal diseases of chickens to be aware of. But with proper preventative measures, they are less likely to occur and easier to manage.

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