Common Chicken Diseases and How to Treat Them

Chicken diseases – Do you have a backyard flock of chickens? There are lots of benefits of keeping chickens. However, in order to be a responsible chicken owner, you have to make sure they stay healthy.

Otherwise, they could stop laying altogether.

This means preventing contraction of diseases, treating them when they occur, and possibly even culling chickens when they’re in danger of spreading dangerous infections.

Learn all about the most common chicken diseases, how to spot them, and how to treat them if you find them in your coop.

Fowl Pox

This disease is usually not deadly, but is known to take the lives of young or particularly weak chickens.  It usually lasts 10-14 days in a bird, but can take up to 6 weeks to eradicate from a flock.

Symptoms of Fowl Pox

  • White spots on the skin
  • Comb sores
  • Mouth or trachea ulcers
  • Laying stops

It can be contracted from other contaminated chickens, but is also carried by mosquitoes.

Fowl pox can be treated with vitamin supplements, particularly Vitamins A, D and E. During treatment, chickens need to eat soft food in order to allow the mouth ulcers to heal.

They also need a warm and dry place to rest.

In order to avoid this disease, it’s best to get your chickens vaccinated.


Botulism is one of the most serious chicken diseases there is, as the symptoms progress very quickly and the death rate is very high.

It’s caused by contamination of food or water by rotting meat, and most commonly occurs in summer and fall, when temperatures are warm enough for the bacteria to thrive.

This illness is not passed on from bird to bird, but can affect an entire flock if they all share the same source of food and water.

Symptoms of Botulism

  • Weakness and nervousness
  • Tremors or shaking
  • Feathers are easy to pull out
  • Paralysis of the legs, which progresses to the wings and neck before a chicken then suddenly dies

If the disease is caught early enough, it can be treated with an antitoxin by a vet.

However, a home remedy of one teaspoon of Epsom salts mixed with 1 oz of warm water given daily with a dropper can also work.

Infectious Bronchitis

Infectious Bronchitis is a common chicken disease in backyard flocks. This is because most wild flocks develop a resistance to it from increased exposure.

Symptoms of Infectious Bronchitis

  • Decrease in eating and drinking
  • Discharge from eyes and nostrils
  • Coughing, gasping or loud breathing
  • Decreased egg laying
  • Misshapen or soft-shelled eggs
  • Sluggishness

Chickens can be vaccinated against infectious bronchitis. However, this doesn’t guarantee that they won’t be infected. Instead, it just decreases the chance of contracting it.

If you notice any symptoms, you’ll need to act quickly. This viral disease is known to spread quickly and can kill entire flocks if left untreated.

There is no specific treatment for infectious bronchitis, but some chicken owners report having success with herbal remedies.

Infectious Coryza

This bacterial disease infects the eyes or nose and is highly infectious.

Symptoms of Infectious Coryza

  • Swollen head or face
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Discharge from eyes and nostrils
  • Reluctance to eat or drink
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Ceased laying
  • Staggering

This chicken disease is usually treated with antibiotics. However, if it has progressed past the point of treatment, infected chickens should be put down to avoid passing the disease on to the rest of the flock.

Unfortunately, there is no vaccine against infectious coryza.


This disease is viral and can, therefore, be contracted through contact with other infected birds as well as contaminated surfaces. Like chicken pox in humans, this illness affects infant and adults differently.

Symptoms of Pullorum

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Poor laying in adult birds
  • Breathing difficulties
  • Low activity
  • White paste on the backsides of chicks

There is currently no vaccine against pullorum, so the best way to protect against it is to be aware of the signs and symptoms, then put down any chickens that contract the disease.

Avian Influenza

Avian Influenza is the most commonly-known chicken disease, also known as Bird Flu.

There have been some fears surrounding this illness, as bird flu outbreaks in the news are common, and people are concerned about contracting bird flu themselves.

However, with the correct care, this shouldn’t be a problem.

Symptoms of Avian Influenza

  • Respiratory problems
  • Diarrhea
  • Swelling of the face
  • Discolored comb or wattle
  • Red spots on the legs

When a chicken contracts bird flu, it will be a carrier of the disease for the rest of its life. For that reason, it will have to be put down.

Some farmers have to cull entire flocks of chickens due to this particular disease. After a cull, a coop must be completely cleaned and disinfected before any new chickens can be introduced. Otherwise, they are at risk of contracting the illness.


This is one of the easiest-to-spot chicken diseases. Unfortunately, it’s also virtually impossible to prevent.

It’s caused by a cut on the foot, which can be picked up by digging, scratching, or even just walking.

When bacteria enters the wound, it can develop into a staph infection. This can be cause for surgery or amputation, and if left untreated, can kill a chicken.

Symptoms of Bumblefoot

  • Limping
  • Swelling
  • Cut or wound on the foot that refuses to heal

The best way to prevent this problem is by checking your chickens’ feet regularly. If they get cut or scratched, disinfected the area and keep it clean and then monitor the healing process.

Keep Your Chickens Healthy and Happy

In order to prevent chicken diseases, you must keep your birds’ immune systems up. 

You can do this by providing a hygienic, warm environment for them, with good quality food. See Best Chicken Feed Options for Your Flock.

Choose a good chicken feeder to prevent waste and to keep the feed clean. Also choose a watering system for chickens that will keep the water cleaner.

To improve their quality of life, you can also provide them with toys to play with. Take a look at our post on how to entertain your backyard chickens to get some ideas for how to keep them busy and active. Like any other animal, chickens love to play. 

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2 thoughts on “Common Chicken Diseases and How to Treat Them”

  1. This is important information for me, helping me to know more about common diseases in chickens to help me prevent chickens and chicken care better. I have raised chickens in large numbers so I am very interested in diseases to prevent.

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