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Top 8 Common Illnesses Affecting Your Chickens

Top 8 Common Illnesses Affecting Your Chickens

Raising chickens can be a rewarding experience, whether for fresh eggs, meat, or simply companionship. However, just like any other animal, chickens are susceptible to illnesses that can impact their health and productivity. Being aware of common ailments and knowing how to identify and address them promptly is crucial for maintaining a healthy flock. Here are some of the top illnesses to keep an eye out for in your flock: 

Avian Influenza (Bird Flu)

Avian influenza, commonly known as bird flu, is a viral infection that primarily affects birds, including chickens. It spreads rapidly among poultry populations and can have devastating consequences for both commercial and backyard flocks.

Birds infected with avian influenza may exhibit a range of symptoms, including respiratory distress, such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge.


To effectively manage avian influenza in poultry, early detection and prompt intervention are crucial. Backyard poultry keepers should closely monitor their birds for any signs of illness and report any unusual symptoms to a veterinarian immediately. 

Isolation and quarantine are essential to prevent the spread of the virus within the flock. Infected birds should be separated from healthy ones, and movement should be restricted.

Supportive care, such as maintaining proper nutrition, hydration, and warmth, can help alleviate symptoms and improve the birds' chances of recovery. 

In some cases, antiviral medications or antibiotics may be prescribed to control secondary bacterial infections or alleviate symptoms.


Prevention is key in managing avian influenza. Practicing good hygiene, implementing biosecurity measures, and monitoring bird health closely are critical to reducing the risk of avian influenza outbreaks and protecting poultry populations.


Infectious Coryza

Infectious Coryza is a bacterial disease affecting chickens, particularly those raised for egg and meat production. It typically spreads through direct contact with infected birds or through contaminated equipment, water, or feed. Chickens with  Infectious Coryza may exhibit symptoms such as nasal discharge, facial swelling, difficulty breathing, decreased egg production, and occasionally, swollen joints. 


Treatment for Infectious Coryza typically involves administering antibiotics prescribed by a veterinarian to control the bacterial infection. Supportive care, including providing clean water, proper nutrition, and maintaining a stress-free environment, can also aid in recovery. However, it's essential to note that antibiotics may not completely eliminate the bacterium from the flock, and infected birds can become carriers, posing a risk of recurrence or transmission to other birds.


This includes quarantine of new birds, regular sanitation practices, control of wild birds to prevent contact with domestic poultry, vaccination where necessary, and surveillance for signs of illness to promptly report suspected cases to a veterinarian. Overall, a combination of biosecurity measures, vaccination, and prompt veterinary intervention is essential for controlling Infectious Coryza and protecting poultry health and welfare.


Marek's Diseases

Marek's disease is a highly contagious viral illness that primarily affects young chickens. Marek's disease is characterized by tumors that develop in various organs, including the nerves, skin, and internal organs, leading to a range of symptoms such as paralysis, weight loss, and decreased egg production. The disease is primarily spread through airborne transmission of viral particles shed by infected birds, although it can also be transmitted through contaminated feed, water, or equipment.


Treating Marek's disease is challenging because there is no cure for the virus itself. However, there are vaccinations. As for you, you can offer supportive care like proper nutrition, hydration, and comfort to alleviate symptoms and improve there quality of life. 


As I said above, the best preventative is to get vaccinated. With that being said, most of the time chickens contract Marek's as a chick. I would recommend reading this document from USDA. 



Coccidiosis is a common parasitic disease affecting chickens and other poultry species. It's caused by the parasite coccidia, which infect the intestines of birds. The symptoms include diarrhea, bloody stool, lethargy, and decreased appetite/weight loss. 


Treating coccidiosis in backyard chickens typically involves administering anticoccidial medications prescribed by a veterinarian but you can look into and try CORID which is designed to treat chickens with this disease. These medications can help control the parasite population in the bird's intestines and alleviate symptoms. Supportive care, such as providing electrolyte solutions to prevent dehydration and maintaining proper nutrition, can also aid in recovery. 


You can take preventative measures such as maintaining cleanliness in both the chickens and their coop, practicing good hygiene, ensuring proper nutrition, and considering vaccinations if deemed necessary. These proactive steps play a vital role in minimizing the risk of disease and promoting the overall well-being of your flock.


Fowl Pox

Fowl pox is a viral disease affecting poultry, caused by the avian poxvirus. It primarily spreads through biting insects such as mosquitoes or through direct contact with infected birds or contaminated objects.

Fowl pox typically manifests in two forms: dry pox, characterized by wart-like lesions on the skin and feathered areas, and wet pox, which affects the mucous membranes of the mouth, throat, and respiratory tract.


Treating fowl pox in backyard chickens primarily involves supportive care to alleviate symptoms and promote recovery. There is no specific antiviral treatment for fowl pox, so management focuses on maintaining the bird's health and comfort. This may include providing clean water, proper nutrition, and a stress-free environment to support the bird's immune system as it fights off the virus. 


Preventing fowl pox in backyard chickens relies on strictly biosecurity measures that include mosquito control, cleanliness/good hygiene, and vaccination


Sour Crop

Sour crop is a condition that commonly affects backyard chickens and occurs when the crop, a pouch in the bird's esophagus where food is stored before digestion, becomes impacted or infected. This can lead to fermentation of the ingested food, resulting in a foul odor and the development of a thick, sour-smelling liquid in the crop. Sour crop is typically caused by factors such as overeating, consuming indigestible materials, or fungal or bacterial infections.


Treating sour crop in backyard chickens involves addressing the underlying cause of the condition and providing supportive care to alleviate symptoms. Mild cases of sour crop may be resolved with simple home remedies, such as massaging the crop to help break up impacted material or withholding food for a short period to allow the crop to empty and normalize. However, if the sour crop is severe or accompanied by other symptoms such as lethargy or weakness, veterinary intervention may be necessary.


Preventing sour crop in backyard chickens involves implementing good management practices and providing a balanced diet to ensure optimal digestive health. This includes feeding chickens a diet appropriate for their age, breed, and nutritional needs to prevent overeating and digestive issues. Additionally, limiting access to indigestible materials such as long strands of grass or string can reduce the risk of blockages in the crop. Maintaining a clean environment by regularly cleaning and disinfecting the chicken coop and feeders helps prevent the spread of pathogens that can contribute to sour crop. Monitoring bird health for signs of illness or digestive issues is crucial.


Newcastle Disease

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral infection that affects birds, including backyard chickens, and can cause severe illness and high mortality rates in poultry flocks. It can manifest in various forms, ranging from mild respiratory symptoms to severe neurological signs and death. 


Treating Newcastle in backyard chickens is challenging as there is no specific cure for the virus. Instead, supportive care and management practices are typically employed to alleviate symptoms and prevent secondary infections.


Preventing it in backyard chickens relies on implementing strict biosecurity measures to minimize the risk of exposure to the virus. This includes maintaining a closed flock and limiting contact with other poultry flocks, wild birds, and potentially contaminated areas. Practicing good hygiene by regularly cleaning and disinfecting poultry housing, equipment, and footwear helps prevent the spread of the virus. Vaccination against Newcastle disease is an essential part of disease prevention in regions where the virus is prevalent. Vaccination can help stimulate immunity in chickens, reducing the severity of infection and the risk of transmission within the flock.


Salmonella Infection

Like humans, salmonella can cause illness in chickens. It is a type of bacteria that can be contracted by birds in several ways including: Fecal contamination, egg contamination, contaminated food and water, and direct contact with infected birds. 


If you suspect salmonella infection in your flock, seek professional advice. You can also consider looking into antibiotics and salmonella vaccines

Other than that, isolating the infected bird to prevent spread within the flock until they recover is the best option. 



Besides administering a vaccine to prevent the disease, there are things that you can do to prevent it such as implementing strict biosecurity measures like we talked about earlier and good hygiene practices. 



Regular observation, proactive preventive measures, and prompt veterinary care are crucial for maintaining the health and well-being of your chicken flock. By staying vigilant and informed about common poultry illnesses, you can help ensure a thriving and productive flock for years to come