Chicken Diseases: Prevention, Symptoms, and Treatment

Chickens are active and cheerful animals. If they are missing something, you will usually notice it quickly on your poultry. In this article, you will find out what can be behind symptoms such as indifference, refusal to feed, or respiratory problems and how you can avoid typical chicken diseases.

Chicken Diseases: Diarrhea, Runny Nose, Etc.

Hygiene and a species-appropriate environment are essential when it comes to keeping chickens. Even so, chickens sometimes get sick. Chicks, very young and old chickens are particularly susceptible. Common causes of disease in chickens are parasites, viruses, or bacteria. If you know your poultry well, you will probably quickly notice if something is wrong with one or more animals. If chickens sneeze, behave differently or suffer from diarrhea, you should isolate them from the group immediately and – depending on the severity of the symptoms – either observe the animals for another day or consult the vet immediately. If in doubt, it is best to go to the veterinarian directly.

How Can I Avoid My Chickens Getting Sick?

The housing conditions have a major impact on the health of your chickens. Therefore, you should consider the following aspects:

  • Make sure that there is enough space for your poultry.
  • Design the chicken coop and run appropriately and clean both regularly and thoroughly.
  • Chickens need a lot of sunlight and need to be protected from drafts. In winter you should equip the stable with lighting.
  • Provide your chickens with varied, high-quality feed.
  • Protect your chickens from disease by regularly deworming and vaccinating the poultry.
  • For the Newcastle disease (ND), vaccination of the animals is also mandatory for private owners!

You cannot avoid chicken diseases. However, you can significantly reduce the chances of your chickens getting sick.

Chicken Diseases: Symptoms

Of course, the symptoms of the most common chicken diseases differ significantly from one another. However, most chickens show certain behavioral changes – regardless of whether it is chicken diseases of the eyes, intestines, or respiratory tract.

These include general symptoms such as:

  • Loss of appetite or refusal to feed;
  • Indifference;
  • Isolation from the group;
  • Chicken is fluffed up;
  • Chicken is pecked by other chickens;
  • Dull plumage and cloudy eyes.

Therefore, watch your flock of chickens daily and watch out for the smallest changes in behavior. The sooner you can identify a sick chicken, the greater the chance it will be cured. It can also prevent other chickens from becoming infected.

Which Chicken Diseases are Common?

Infectious chicken diseases are transmitted by pathogens such as parasites, viruses, or bacteria.

Symptom of Runny Nose

A runny nose manifests itself in chickens with a nasal discharge, which, in addition to watery eyes, is often accompanied by a distinct shake of the head and the typical sneezing. If you are short of breath you can see a permanently open beak.

Causes: drafts (especially in cold, damp weather), dust, rhino or adenoviruses, but also worm infestation or infectious diseases such as Newcastle disease.

Symptom Diarrhea

What does diarrhea look like? The normal manure consists of a liquid and a solid part. In the case of diarrhea, the two mix together and has a pulpy consistency.

Causes: feeding errors, worms and unicellular parasites (e.g. coccidiosis), infectious diseases such as Newcastle disease.

The following diseases that can be transmitted by pathogens are particularly common:


The red poultry mite (blood mite)

The bird mite is an arachnid that develops into an adult animal through various stages. Every advancement is preceded by a meal of blood.

The mites are dangerous because of the massive occurrence and the progressive weakening of the chickens through the withdrawal of blood, up to and including death.

Poultry mites are nocturnal and crawl into fine cracks so that they are difficult to see during the day. Typical signs are intense itching, crusty skin, and apathetic animals. Evidence can be provided by sticky traps or a white cloth laid out under the animals’ seats, on which black or gray areas will then appear the next morning.

Limestone mite

The limestone mite is a grave mite or also a mange mite.

They live in the uppermost horny layer of the skin in non-feathered areas. This leads to corneal growths, the so-called hyperkeratosis. Severe itching and inflammation of the skin are part of the appearance.


Featherlings are insects that feed on feather material and live constantly on the chicken. As typical pests, they usually only cause latent unrest in the stand, as well as loss of performance and damage to plumage, when the rate of infestation is high.


There are several worms in chickens that are part of the chicken life to a normal extent. As a rule, they do not cause any damage but are easily kept in check by the “trained” immune system. Therefore, no attempt should be made to completely eliminate the worms.

The veterinarian can then determine the degree of the infestation using a fecal sample and thus decide whether and against what treatment is necessary.


Coccidiosis is a disease of 6-8 weeks old young birds. Main symptom: bloody diarrhea.
There is a risk of death from bleeding to death or excessive fluid loss.


Newcastle disease

Newcastle disease (ND) is a notifiable animal disease and is also known as pseudo-avian influenza. The symptoms range from complete inconspicuousness to extreme diarrhea, respiratory infections, or central nervous disorders in a mild form. Strict hygiene measures and vaccination can prevent the outbreak of this mostly fatal chicken disease.
In Germany, chickens and turkeys are required to be vaccinated in accordance with Section 7 (1) of the Ordinance. The vaccination requirement exists for every chicken farmer, whether commercial or private!

Avian influenza, avian flu

Avian influenza (also known as avian influenza) is a notifiable animal disease for captive birds. Registration is mandatory for wild birds. If only one chicken in your group is infected, the law requires that the entire herd be killed. There are different types of viruses. The most important and dangerous are the highly pathogenic types H5 or H7, which also mean that poultry is currently required to be housed in the cold season. Respiratory problems, apathy, and a drastic reduction in laying performance are among the characteristic symptoms of bird flu. The extremely contagious animal disease spreads via feces and droplets. If even one chicken in your group is infected, the law requires the entire herd to be culled.

Bacteria: Mycoplasmosis

Mycoplasmosis is a bacterial disease that primarily affects pre-weakened animals. The previous damage is mainly caused by stress caused by an infection with E. coli., High stocking density, poor housing conditions, stress, feeding errors, and other negative influences on well-being.

Mary Allen

Written by Mary Allen

Hello, I'm Mary! I've cared for many pet species including dogs, cats, guinea pigs, fish, and bearded dragons. I also have ten pets of my own currently. I've written many topics in this space including how-tos, informational articles, care guides, breed guides, and more.

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