Diseases and Ailments


In this section we investigate chicken diseases, cures and vaccinations. If your chickens have a disease, yet you are unsure what it is, contact an avian vet.


Avoiding Disease



Feather Pecking

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum

Red Mite

Scaly Leg


Avoiding diseased chickens

Obviously there is no magic formula for this, but good husbandry and management will help ensure birds stay healthy.
· Clean out BEFORE necessary.
· Disinfect house regularly.
· Dose chickens in louse and mite powder every month. *
· sufficient ventilation in the hen house is important.
· Take all food that has not been eaten out of the coop every day.
· Have birds vaccinated against incurable diseases if vaccine exists.
· Feed well balanced diet.
· Keep feed in a cool dry place in a closed bin.
· Prevent your birds getting stressed.
· Do not keep growers together with adults.
· Leave new birds in quarantine and get droppings and/or blood tested
* Some mite powders really work and last up to six weeks.

Bumblefoot- symptopms, causes and tretment

Bumblefoot or plantar pododermatitis is a condition of the foot caused by bacteria Staphylococcus.


* sore feet

* lameness

* swelling

* heat

* hard black, pus filled scab

This foot ailment is often caused by birds jumping on to perches that are placed too high, stepping on wire or a nail or something sharp. a  break in the skin then lets bacteria in. It can also be the result of a secondary infection.

Chances of successful treatment are higher when the lessions are soft, rather than hard and old. When left untreated, it can cause mortality through severe infection.

The best thing to do is to gently squeeze out the black pus, apply antibacterial cream and bandage the foot securely, and purchase apropriate antibiotics. Seperation, clean sterile bedding, daily cavity flushing, antibacterial cream appliance, and rebandaging are a must for birds infected with bumblefoot.

Chronic Respiatory disease- Mycoplasma Gallisepticum

Mycoplasma Gallisepticum is associated with chronic respiratory disease. Infection causes symptoms listed below and stays with the birds all their lives. This is an airbourne disease which is highly contagious and rapidly spreads when the birds sneeze. It cannot be cured and stays with the birds all their life, but it can be suppressed by antibiotics. The birds can soon lead a pretty normal life, their eggs can be eaten and they can behave normally, but when they get stressed the symptoms arise again and they need antibiotics again.

Symptoms include;

  • frequent sneezing
  • ‘coughing,,
  • huddling around in a sorry state
  • listlessness
  • ‘snortling’ and wheezing with every breath
  • loss of balance
  • foamy eyes

If in doubt, or you suspect your birds may have myco, contact your vet, and if the vet thinks its CRD then the birds will need to be blood tested to obtain confirmation. If they are positive, the vet will prescribe Tylan or similar. These are soluble antibiotics in powder form, added fresh every day to th birds water.

If the birds are kept stress free they can live a fairly normal life, but should not be used to breed from as oviducts can become infected and the disease is be passed on through the egg.


This is a disease caused by a microscopic creature, a protozoa. Symptoms include

    • diarrhea (in extreme or cecal cases can be full of blood)
    • listlessness
    • emaciation
    • dehydration

A flock may experience several outbreaks of coccidiosis because there are several strains. While their body creates antibodies to one that they are resistant to, when subjected to a new strain there body takes longer to create antibodies. Birds are infected by direct or indirect contact with another birds droppings and they ingest some protozoa. The protozoa settle down in the lining and reproduce, within a week of infection, the tissue lining in which they settled is full of oocysts (immature protozoa). The number of coccidia ingested plays a large role in the severity of the infection. If a small number is ingested, the infection can go unnoticed, but if a large amount is ingested, the result could be death.

Very young or mature birds are rarely infected, mostly growers and young adults contract the disease, but some people have had newly hatched chicks infected because their immune systems are still weak..

Bloody droppings, anemia and vey often, death is produced by cecal coccidiosis. Intestinal coccidiosis is far less serious, but in cases of high indigestion can also result in death.

Even most healthy birds posess some coccidia, but this does not disturb them until the conditions are perfect for rapid breeding, therefore causing an outbreak.

Some people recommend vaccine, but i avoid vaccinations and prefer to use treatment solutions, or, even better, not have the birds infected at all! I think Coxoid is the good for treating outbreaks, and is very effective if outbreaks are spotted early. Baycox and medicated pellets are also said to be good, but i have never tried these. Some people swear that natural yogurt with probiotics does wonders for them because the beneficial bacteria strengthen the gut.

Dry bedding, good hygene, clean and regularly disinfected feeders, drinkers perches and other every day applications help avoid such problems. Prevention is better than cure!

Feather pecking
It is a well known fact that chickens have a pecking order and that the bottom ones constantly get picked on, but feather pecking, whether friendly or aggressive, can also morph into an unpleasant habit.
There are several reasons why this may occur including boredom or over crowding. If behaviour continues when they have a bigger space they may be plain bored why not dig over a patch of grass and let them search for worms?
If this is not an option, why not sprinkle some mixed corn into some long grass** and let them search for it?

**The grass must not be too long, or else it can cause blockages in the crop, which can be potentially fatal.

Red mite

Not strictly a disease, but these small creatures can cause lots of stress, blood loss and, eventually death. When these mites hatch, they are grey. They are small, but not microscopic, and visible to the naked eye. Their grey colour rapidly turns to red as they satisfy their need to feed on your chickens blood. Even after chickens have vacated their home, the mites survive for up to six weeks without food, making them a difficult pest to eradicate.

Symptoms include:

  • discomfort and scratching
  • grey, clumpy patches in the hen house (these are deposits and in some cases, if they move, grey, newly hatched mites).
  • not to be confused with lice which cause grey buildups at the feathers root.

Even if none of these symptoms are seen, it is important to dust the house with mite powder to avoid mites.

If mites are present, a purpose made on the spot application can be used on the birds and a disinfecting, cleaner should be used on the house. If no action is taken, populations can rocket and can ultimately cause death.


Scaly leg

This is caused by a parasitic mite, Knemidocoptes mutans. The mite buries itself under the leg scales, although in some cases the comb and whattles are also affected. Symptoms include

  • Raised scales
  • Crusty deposits
  • Painful, irritant crusty deposits, primarily on legs but sometimes also on combs and whattles.
  • in later stages the birds will go lame

The mite spends its entire life on the bird, and the diseases is usually transmitted by direct contact.

Treatment varies, you can buy special solutions and lotions for scaly leg, but you can also paint the birds legs with surgical spirit and let it sink in. Vaseline (petroleum gelly) can be rubbed on the birds legs, this has the effect of stopping the mites breathing and soothing the legs. Our chickens have never had scaly leg (touch wood!) but i recommend birds legs be painted with surgical spirit, allow it to sink in then apply vaseline. Mites will be killed by spirit, and those that escape are suffocated by vaseline.

An insecticide can also be used, but i dont recommend this because it is potentially dangerous. It must be diluted correctly or it will enter the birds system and poison and possibly kill the bird if its too strong.



The purpose of these is to avoid an outbreak of disease. Vaccinations for humans, or other large animals tend to be via syringe, but avian vaccinations are, where possible, added to the drinking water.

Vaccinations give the animal a dead or inactive form of the disease it is trying to protect them from. Though this may sound contradictory, the pathogens in the vaccine are unable to cause disease, and therefore the body makes antibodies for the pathogens, without contracting the disease. Memory cells remain within the blood stream, and if the pathogens enter, they will be killed before the animal gets the disease. There are vaccinations for diseases that are incurable, and mycoplasma gallisepticum vaccine exists, but whether it really works is a subject that is open to debate. There are also other health implications from vaccines, therefore some people prefer not to vaccinate their birds.

Gradually I will keep on adding more details, if you think any important details are missing, then dont hesitate to contact us.