The first week of the life of a baby chick is characterized by intensive welfare and management, to keep them away from harsh environmental conditions and protect them against diseases, which may be detrimental to the over raw growth and performance of the baby chick.
Most sick chicks show droopy heads and ruffled feathers
Taking care of a baby chick can be so challenging, especially in the first seven days of life. These challenges include harsh weather conditions and life-threatening chicken diseases, and which may lead to high mortality rates and poor production.
Therefore, it is essential you plan ahead on how to prevent these common chick diseases and their treatment in case of any eventualities.
So in this post, we are going to look at six common chick diseases you have to watch out for. These will also include their symptoms, prevention, and treatment.
Here are the six most common chick diseases that affect hatchlings and baby chicks:
Colibacillosis is one of the major infectious bacterial diseases in baby chicks and laying chickens. It is caused by Escherichia coli which are always found in the gastrointestinal tract of birds and disseminated widely in feces; therefore, birds are continuously exposed through contaminated feces, water, dust, and the environment (Charlton, 2006).
In addition, (Nolan et al, 2013) stated that Colibacillosis in neonatal chicks can also be a consequence of poor chick quality and sanitation in the hatchery, leading to early chick mortality.
fever and lethargy, difficulty in breathing, diarrhea, and coughing
Practice good sanitation, especially during hatching and brooding. Avoid overcrowding and stress. Stress from extreme temperature, air saturated with ammonia from the heavy litter can trigger stress in your chicks.
Although, there are still some effective drugs used in treating Colibacillossis you have to consult a veterinarian before use.
Chlortetracycline (Aureomycin), Chlortetracycline (Pennchlor), ditto, Erythromycin (Gallimycin PFC), Neomycin/Oxytetracycline (Neo-Oxy, Neo-Terramycin, Pennox), Tylosin (Tylan, Tylovet)
Source: Feed Addictive Compendium 2015
Also, research has shown that dietary supplementation of 150-300 mg vitamin E/kg increased protection against a relatively moderate (25-30% mortality) E. coli infection.
Note: Consult your veterinarian for direction before you make use of any of these drugs, or supplements.
Infectious bronchitis (IB) is an acute, highly contagious upper respiratory tract ( viral )disease in chickens. Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is an avian gammacoronavirus that only causes disease in chickens.
IBV is shed by infected chickens in respiratory discharges and feces, and it can be spread by aerosol, ingestion of contaminated feed and water, and contact with contaminated equipment and clothing.
Heavy breathing, gasping, mucous discharge from eyes, and sneezing and coughing for 10 -14 days. Chicks may look depressed, and huddle under a heat lamp. You may also observe a reduction in feed consumption and a reduction in weight.
Administer antibiotics and increase the room’s temperature will help to reduce mortality and cold.
The prevention of infectious bronchitis (IB) in chickens is achieved through the use of live and inactivated vaccines, which provide protection against virulent field IB viruses (IBVs) in the event of exposure.
So, there is no actual medication that could change the course of the infection. Antibiotics given will only help to treat opportunistic diseases usually caused by bacterial infections and reduce mortality. Proper management and sanitation is the key to surviving it.
Necrotic enteritis ( Rot gut) is an infectious disease that affects chickens (chicks) in their first few weeks of life. It is characterized by rotten-smelling diarrhea and weakness.
It is a bacterial infection that usually spreads through congestions and overcrowding. Other risk factors may include: rough handling by farmworkers, consuming mycotoxin through feeds, poor sanitation practices, protein deficiency, etc.
Necrotic enteritis primarily affects 2-to 5-week-old chickens.
rotten-smelling diarrhea and listlessness are the major signs. Other signs include ruffled feathers, depression, reduced appetite, and slow weight gain.
For treatment, you can give supportive care and administer antibiotics like Neomycin and other supplements like probiotics, amino acids, and Thyme.
Silent difficult breathing is a major sign of Aspergillosis
Aspergillosis is a fungal disease that normally causes pneumonia in chicks, thus the name, “ brooder pneumonia” The fungus responsible for Aspergillosis is known as Aspergillus.
This fungus can be seen growing in feed, bedding, and in extreme cases in animals tissues.
It is usually spread by aerosol of spores, which are common in the hatchery. And spread less commonly by contaminated dust and litter in the house.
Difficulty in breathing, tremor, sleepy, emaciation (very thin). In extreme cases, conjunctivitis, high mortality, and cloudy eyes can be seen
Proper Sanitation like fumigation of eggs, machines, and air dust, etc, should be carried out in the hatcheries regularly. Reduce water spillage by using clean dry litter and dry cups or nipples. Also, add antifungals in the feed or water.
For the treatment, there is no effective treatment. The key to control is to minimize exposure of chicks to contaminated materials.
Omphailits are a condition that primarily infects the yoke sac of a baby chick, often noticed by unhealed navels. It is infectious but noncontagious and is associated with poor regulation of incubation temperature or humidity.
The major cause of omphailitis is the contact of an open navel with contaminated surfaces that may harbor opportunistic bacteria. Extreme cold or heat can also increase losses.
open and inflamed navel, depression and anorexia, huddle near a heat source, drooping head, slow weight gain.
No specific treatment for omphailits; an antimicrobial drug given is to prevent further damage by opportunistic bacterial. Even at that, treatment may not result in satisfactory outcomes, due to the severely affected chicks often die, and unaffected chicks are unlikely to be aided by antibiotic treatment.
The disease can be prevented by careful control of temperature, humidity, and sanitation in the incubator.
chicks suffering Pullorum
Pullorum in chickens (chicks) also known as bacillary white is caused by Salmonella enteric Pullorum. It is characterized by very high mortality in young chickens.
Transmission can be via direct or indirect contact with infected chicks or contaminated feed, water, or litter. Hatchery contamination usually results in death between 2-3 weeks of age.
pasty white fecal material on the vent, depressed and weak, huddle near a heat source. In some cases, the chick may have respiratory disease, blindness, or swollen joints.
Avoid all means of contamination and eliminate any affected birds, and flocks are the key to control. Treatment will have little or no effect and is never recommended.
In conclusion, From all indications, you will agree with me that proper sanitation and management is the key to keeping your chicks safe and healthy.
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1. Charlton, B.R. ed. Avian Disease Manual. 6th edition. Athens: American Association of Avian Pathologists (AAAP), 2006.
2. Nolan, L. et al. Chapter 18: Colibacillosis. Diseases of Poultry. 13th edition. Ames: Wiley-Blackwell, 2013.
3. Rajes, C. et al. Mucosal, Cellular, and Humoral Immune Responses Induced by Different Live Infectious Bronchitis Virus Vaccination Regimes and Protection Conferred against Infectious Bronchitis Virus Q1 strain. 2015. ASM Journals/Clinical and Vaccine Immunology/vol.22, No.9
4. Aspergillosis in Poultry (Brooder Pneumonia, Mycotic Pneumonia, Pneumomycosis)
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