News & Advice

Chicken illnesses

Mar 10, 2017 | Lifestyle Farmers

Recognising a sick chicken

Healthy chickens have a full coat of feathers, a red upright wattle, bright eyes and non-scaly legs.

A sick chicken is often lethargic, separated from the flock, fluffs its feathers, and could be lame, open beak breathing, be losing feathers, or have scaly legs.


This can be a sign of sickness, but be aware, this is also a yearly process. In late summer/autumn laying chickens shed their feathers and begin to shut down laying for the winter.

Common illnesses

Coccidiosis – a parasite of the gut that causes loss of condition, pale combs, lethargy and blood in the droppings. This usually occurs in birds 14 to 16 weeks old, but it can sometimes occur in older birds with depressed immune systems. Treatment can be bought from your Vet, but prevention is best and is via coccidiostats in the feed and good hygiene.

Bumblefoot– this is caused by a cut or a graze on the foot, when warm, wet conditions allow infection to get in. Treat with nursing care and antibiotics – bad cases may need debriding by your Vet.

Egg bound – laying hens can produce eggs that are too bit and get stuck! Symptoms include straining and squatting and generally a miserable outlook. Treatment includes giving a warm water bath, applying lubrication and gently manipulating; Vet advice is recommended.

Mites and lice – symptoms include itchiness, loss of feathers, sores, anaemia (pale comb and wattle) and scaly legs. Treatment includes Ivermectin pour-ons, Vaseline on the legs, or insecticide powder. Talk to your Vet for the best option for you.

Worms– symptoms include a dirty vent, loss of condition, pale wattles. Treated with an anthelmintic and TLC.
There are many other illnesses of chickens so talk to your vet about any symptoms seen if concerned.
Sudden death – many people want us to tell them why their chicken died. But there are many reasons a chook can get sick and die suddenly. Without a post mortem and further testing, we can’t say!

If more than one chicken in your flock is sick, we should investigate as there are many infectious problems that could hurt your flock.

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