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Common Chick Diseases & How To Treat Them


Because chicks live in close quarters and easily can spread disease, raising a healthy flock requires constant vigilance. Watch for any signs of distress or illness, and separate chicks that appear sick. Some of the most common diseases that affect hatchlings and young birds include:

E. Coli (Colicbacillosis)

  • Symptoms: fever and lethargy, trouble breathing, diarrhea and coughing
  • Impact: high death rate for newly hatched, infected chicks
  • Prevention and treatment: Good sanitation is imperative, especially in hatching conditions. Avoid overcrowding and stress. E. Coli is not easily treated, and different strains react to different drugs.

Rot Gut (Necrotic Enteritis)

  • Symptoms: diarrhea that that has a rotten odor
  • Impact: Rot gut primarily affects 2- to 5-week-old birds.
  • Prevention and treatment: Maintain clean conditions and avoid overcrowding to prevent an outbreak. Providing antibiotics through the chicks' drinking water is an effective treatment.

Brooder Pneumonia (Aspergillosis)

  • Symptoms: slowed eating, increased drinking, gasping for air
  • Impact: Normally occurring in 7- to 40-day-old birds, brooder pneumonia can cause a death rate in up to 50 percent of the flock.
  • Prevention and treatment: Because Brooder pneumonia is caused by a fungus, maintaining a clean hatchery and living conditions is vital to controlling the spread. This disease is not curable.

Cold (Infectious Bronchitis)

  • Symptoms: heavy breathing, gasping, mucous discharge from eyes, and sneezing
  • Impact: The illness spreads easily through air, food and from bird-to-bird contact.
  • Prevention and treatment: Giving antibiotics and raising the room's temperature can help treat the cold. Vaccines are available but cannot be used during an outbreak.

Mushy Chick Disease (Omphailits)

  • Symptoms: navel infection, unabsorbed yolk sac, dehydration and a putrid smell
  • Impact: Infected chicks usually die within a few days of hatching.
  • Prevention and treatment: Mushy Chick Disease occurs when a young chick's navel does not heal and becomes inflamed with bacteria. It is important to remove any ill chicks and maintain good sanitation to avoid future outbreaks.

Salmonella (Pullorum)

  • Symptoms: Sick birds often huddle near heat and experience pasting with light-colored diarrhea.
  • Impact: Infected chicks have a high death rate.
  • Prevention and treatment: Salmonella is transmitted from the hen through the egg but also can come from contaminated equipment. By law, all contaminated birds must be eradicated.
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Poultry Care Series

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