Four More Diseases That Specifically Threaten New Chicks

Chicken Diseases

Four More Diseases That Specifically Threaten New Chicks

By Jen Pitino

Chicks lack immunity to a wide array of viral, bacterial, fungal and protozoal diseases that may be found around the world and at all times. Strong biosecurity measures are particularly important when caring for newly hatched chicks. Without proper biosecurity measures your baby birds become more susceptible to the following four deadly diseases:


This viral disease generally attacks chickens less than six weeks old. Infected chicks will show dullness, followed by loss of coordination, sitting on their hocks, as well as tremors of the head and neck. In the advanced stages of Avian Encephalomyelitis, affected chicks will suffer paralysis, prostration, and death. The disease is typically spread hen to chick through the egg or chick-to-chick. Infected birds should be culled and incinerated.


This bacterial disease, more commonly called “Mushy Chick” disease, attacks only chicks. Infection usually occurs at the time of hatching (or shortly thereafter) when the bird hatches from a dirty egg or into a contaminated holding box. Symptoms of this distinct disease include an external navel (umbilical cord stump) infection that is marked with pus or a foul odor. Death usually results from sepsis.


This bacteria disease, also called “Rot Gut,” infects chicks between 2 and 12 weeks of age. The bacterium is ubiquitous in soil, dust, feed, feces and soiled poultry litter. It attacks the infected chick’s intestines and liver. Initial signs of the disease may include foul smelling feces, diarrhea (sometimes blood-stained), or emaciation. The disease is not spread bird-to-bird, but rather through poor sanitary conditions. Mortality rates may be as high as 50 percent from this Necrotic Enteritis.


This bacterial disease may infect chicks within the first two to three weeks of life. Pullorum infections result in very high mortality rates — potentially approaching 100 percent. Typical symptoms of this disease may include droopiness, weakness, huddling of the chicks, diarrhea with pasted vent, chalk-white feces (sometimes stained with green bile), and gasping. Infected chicks often begin dying at ages 5 to 7, with death rates peaking another four to five days thereafter. Pullorum may be spread from hen to chick through the egg. It can also be spread through contaminated incubators, brooders and other equipment. Flocks infected with Pullorum must be eradicated by law.

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