Basic Poultry Diseases

This is an attempt to summarise the common poultry diseases found in small flocks. It is essential to involve your veterinary surgeon if you have problems with your poultry and although some wormers and flea powder can be obtained through licensed outlets, most drugs and medicines are only obtainable through a vet. Wash hands after handling medicines and observe the withdrawal instructions on the labels of drugs, so do not eat eggs or birds when medicines are being given. If medicines are given in water, make no other water available. Most diseases are management related, for instance rats and mice carry some diseases as well as all those carried by wild birds, so many diseases can be prevented by good management.







Bird Species



Feather pecking due to heat stress or overcrowding.Accidental cut. Fighting

Remove the red colour, spray with coloured antiseptic, put Stockholm Tar on area.Isolate until healed.

Young stock or any bird

Brown diarrhoea, slow growth, sickly smell, poor feathering


Escherichia coli (E. coli) bacteria, stress, dirty conditions

Terramycin in the water or Framomycin or Baytril if bacteria immune.

Young stock of all poultry from 5 days

Cheesy substance in ear canal

Ear infection


Antibiotic ointment, some success with Leo Yellow mastitis tubes

Any bird

Cheesy substance in mouth and throat

Oral canker (Trichomoniasis)


See vet for advice

Any bird

Discharge from nostrils, sneezing, foam in corner of eye, swollen sinus under eye.Rattling breathing, sweet sickly smell.

Mycoplasma (roup)


Control by injecting Tylan 200 - 0.5ml per adult in fowl breast muscle, 1ml for turkeys.Repeat after 48 hours.Mild cases, Tylan soluble in water.Nearly 100% affected.Mortality low except in young.

Fowl, turkeys, peafowl, pheasants, ducks


Injury or internal problem

Possibly a tumour

Keep quiet and isolated.If an injury it should heal.If a tumour it will get worse.No treatment.

Any bird

Listless, greenish diarrhoea, gaping in pheasants, waterfowl off legs


Up to six different species of worm in different internal parts

Flubenvet mixed into feed in trough for 7 days, 1 tblsp to 4lb feed.Ivomec (not licensed for poultry) drops on bird

Fowl, ducks, geese, turkeys, pheasants, guinea fowl, peafowl, quail

Listless, head sunk into neck, white diarrhoea, maybe blood in droppings


Coccidia parasite

Sulphamex or Proleth (not licensed for poultry) in water for 5days.   80-100% affected, mortality high

All birds from 3 weeks old

Listless, head sunk into neck, yellow diarrhoea


Parasite carried by heterakis worm

See Vet for advice

Turkeys, pheasants, guinea fowl, rare in hens, but if hens wormed heterakis vector removed

Listless, straining

Egg binding

A form of cramp

Keep bird warm until egg is passed, putting a little warm olive oil on vent.

Any hen

Noxious smell, scabby vent

Vent gleet

Herpes virus

Topical antibiotics may help but culling advised.Small number affected.

Birds over 1 year

Paralysis, sometimes same side leg and wing

Mareks disease

Herpes virus

Vaccination possible but not always effective.Cull affected birds.30 to 50% if unvaccinated.5% in vaccinated.Mortality up to 100%

Hens coming up to point of lay.Young cockerels

Pendulous crop


Old fibrous grass, poor muscle tone

Isolate with just water for 48 hours.If not improved, massage crop contents out by holding bird upside down, giving it time to breathe.May need surgery to remove impaction.

Old hens or birds on long grass or hay

Purple comb when normally bright red

Heart disease

Age, disease or deformity

No treatment


Raised encrusted scales on legs

Scaly leg

Mite burrowing under scales

Dip legs in surgical spirit once a week for 3 weeks.Do not pull off crusts.Takes a year to look normal.(Or use Ivomec)

Any bird

Respiratory distress, gasping



Cull and remove infected hay or litter.Few at a time affected.Low mortality.

0 - 4 weeks chicks, turkeys, waterfowl, pheasants

Round swelling on underside of foot

Bumble foot

Staphyloccus bacteria entry due to injury

Very difficult to cure due to location.Some success with sulphur tablets or long term antibiotic cover.1 or 2% affected, mortality low

Old heavy birds, perches too high, any bird.

Sides of females bare of feather or bleeding


Sharp claws or spurs of males

Cut or trim with hacksaw, careful of quick, file smooth and rounded

All male birds

Some respiratory distress, loss of egg quality

Infectious bronchitis


Vaccination effective.100% affected, mortality between 25% in chicks to 90 percent in cold weather.

Fowl, pheasants, guinea fowl.Adults are carriers, 40% chick mortality

Sudden chick death, wet litter

Gumboro (Infectious Busal Disease IBD)


Vaccination effective, antibiotic cover useful.Nearly 100%affected, up to 30% mortality

1 - 16 weeks

Top beak overgrowth, long claws

Overgrown beak/claws

Slight deformity of beak not symmetrical, ground too soft to wear claws

Trim with dog nail clippers, careful not to cut the quick, cauterise with styptic pencil if bleeding occurs

All birds

Unusual behaviour


Disturbance or major changes

Vitamin powder in water or feed Probiotic powder in water or feed

Any bird.Stress can depress immune system causing dormant illness to flourish

Visible parasites round vent, listless, small blood spots on egg shells, whitish powder around perches.

Fleas or mites

4 types of flea
2 types of mite

Dust with pyrethrum based powder all over bird, spray housing crevices and perches for red mite with Duramitex.Remove louse eggs on base of feathers.Or Ivomec drops on birds

All poultry

Wasting away but still feeding and alert

Avian tuberculosis


No treatment - carried by wild birds.Natural immunity possible.10 to 50% affected, mortality 100%

Birds over 1 year

White diarrhoea, thirst, sudden death

Bacilliary White Diarrhoea (BWD)

Salmonella pullorum bacteria

Blood test to find and cull carriers.80-100% affected, up to 90%

Chicks 0-3 weeks, adults as carriers