Mundane Chicken Diseases

Everyday chicken diseases, with which one could come into contact on a regular basis, can be largely avoided, if one follows a few simple rules. Hygiene in particular will be a recurring topic here. If the barn is kept clean, many of these “small” diseases can usually be avoided.

Eye Inflammation in Chickens

Eye inflammation in chickens can be caused, among other things, by too moist bedding or poor stable ventilation. If the stable is not sufficiently ventilated, the concentration of ammonia in the air can increase and cause conjunctivitis.

But even the opposite (of too much ventilation) can be harmful. If there is draught in the hen house, a cold can quickly develop.

If the eyes of the chickens are reddened or swollen, they start to water and secretion comes out – One should act quickly!

Solutions for eye inflammation:

  • Prevent draughts or install a ventilation system in the hen house
  • Completely remove manure from the barn and make sure that the bedding is dry
  • Carefully dab off eyes with camomile tea or two percent boric water
    (even hot water can help)
  • If there is no improvement, consult a veterinarian

(Source: Book “Keeping chickens: kind-fair and natural” by Katrin Juliane Schiffer and Carola Hotze)

Sniffles in Chickens

The common cold in chickens is an infectious and bacterial disease and is most common in the autumn/winter months. Chicken sniffles is usually aggravated by vitamin deficiency, humid air and poorly insulated barn.

Similar to humans, the chicken makes loud breathing noises and forms mucus at the nostrils. It can also lead to an inflamed conjunctiva with swelling around the eyes and nose.

Solutions to sniffels:

  • Ensure a clean and draught-free barn
  • Homeopathic remedies can help with a mild cold
  • If all this does not help, it is best to get antibiotics prescribed by your vet

(Source: Book “Keeping chickens: kind-fair and natural” by Katrin Juliane Schiffer and Carola Hotze)

Reader’s Tip

Give vinegar water to drink (1 tablespoon in 1 liter of water).
Chop onion and garlic into small pieces and mix them with normal chicken feed.

Feather and Toe Pecking in Chickens – Cannibalism

Causes for feather and toe pecking can include a too large population of chickens (related stress), a too warm barn, poor ventilation and too quickly satiating feed.

The chickens peck after back and tail feathers of the others, but also at other places as for example the anus. Once certain parts of the hen are picked and bloody, it can very quickly come to real assaults from the attackers. Chickens are omnivores, so blood and flesh are a welcome change in the diet. If one chicken has set its sights on another one as a source of food, this can lead to the death of the injured chicken.

Solutions to the pecking:

  • Loose and high straw bedding
  • Sufficient coulter space
  • Less light
  • Fewer animals or more exercise
  • More flour-containing food, more mussel shells
  • Select conspicuous animals and treat them

Parasites in Chickens

Parasites can be divided into two groups.
On the one hand in the kind of parasites that occur inside the body (often in the intestines): Endoparasites. On the other hand, the type of parasites that can be found on the skin or in the plumage: Ectoparasites.


Ectoparasites include mites, featherlings, fleas, lice and ticks. But flies and beetles can also transmit diseases in chickens.

Mites belong to the group of arachnids. The calcareous mite and the red bird mite are most frequently found in chickens. Cause for mite infestation are usually unclean, dark, damp and old hen houses.

The Lime Mite in Chickens

The lime mite settles under the scales of the chicken legs. Inflammations and swellings develop. This makes the scales stand out and the chicken feet look as if they had a crusty lime coating.

(Source: Book “Keeping chickens: kind-fair and natural” by Katrin Juliane Schiffer and Carola Hotze)

Solution to lime mite infestation:

  • Ensure a clean, bright and hygienic stable
  • Disinfect stable
  • Legs can be rubbed with glycerine, which suffocates the mites, or treated with soft soap and a five percent soda solution
  • Wash legs with lukewarm water
  • Or keep the chicken legs in warm water
  • Then treat the legs with a calcareous ointment

The Red Mite in Chickens

The red mite hides in the cracks of the barn during the day and comes to the chicken at night to suck blood, sometimes in considerable quantities. Weak constitution, a decrease in laying activity, general restlessness up to leaving the nest are some clear signs of an infestation by the red bird mite.

Solution to red mite infestation:

  • Build or buy a good hen house: with few cracks, smooth surfaces and possibilities for easy cleaning
  • Stable cleaning and lime removal
  • Renew perches from time to time
  • Provide the chickens with a clean and constant dust-bath
  • Treatment with acaricides in powder form (carbamates, pyrethroids, pyrethrum)
  • Coating the perches with vegetable oil (clogging the mites’ hiding places)
An overall solution is to always take care of the cleanliness in the stable!

The Feather Lice in Chickens

Feather lice are small notch animals (Chicken lice/pine lice, from the group of insects). With its biting mouth-tools, they feed in the plumage of the chicken of its skin-dandruff and parts of the feathers. An accumulation of nits (white eggs) can be found on the feather shafts and the cloaca. The general well-being is disturbed and in serious cases it can lead to a reduced laying performance.

Solution to feather lice infestation:

  • Reduction through frequent sand bathing
  • Mix tea tree oil in a mixing ratio of 1:10 with water and spray the chicken with it
  • PadVital BioMaxan, a biological insecticide for spraying
  • Remedies for feathers are available in specialist stores and at the vet

Chicken Fleas

These skin parasites are also hygiene pests, meaning, that they often occur if there is a lack of hygiene in the barn. Chicken fleas feed on the blood of the host animals and prevent coagulation with a so-called anticoagulant. This substance causes inflammation and allergic reactions, combined with severe itching and formation of wheals and erythema.

Solution to chicken fleas infestation:

  • Burn old nesting material and do not deposit it in landfill
  • If necessary, install a flea light trap
  • Means against fleas, also with chickens, are available in specialist markets and of course at the veterinarian


Endoparasites include unicellular parasites, also called protozoa, and worms, also called helminths. Chicken diseases such as coccidiosis or blackhead disease are caused by such parasites.

Worms in Chickens

As with most chicken diseases described here, worms in chickens can usually be traced back to unclean stalls. If the hen houses are clean and, above all, dry, it does not provide a breeding ground for the development of worms.

Tapeworms can be divided into large and small tapeworms. The large tapeworm prefers beetles, ants, earthworms and also snails, while the small tapeworm prefers nudibranches. It is therefore important to keep the intermediate hosts away from the hen house in order to minimize the risk of worm infestation in the chickens. The most noticeable symptoms of worm infestation are diarrhoea and emaciation of the chickens.

Roundworms live in the small intestine of the chicken and can cause great damage to the intestinal wall. Due to their length of 4-7 cm and their whitish colour, these worms are easy to recognize in faeces. As with tapeworms, diarrhoea and emaciation of the chicken are quite clear indications of worm infestation.

Hair worms are barely visible to the naked eye. They bore into the intestinal wall in the small intestine, sucking blood and thus causing enormous damage to the intestinal wall. In addition to the typical symptoms of worm infestation (emaciation and diarrhoea), anemia, lassitude and lameness also often occur in the case of hairworm infestation.

Solution to worm infestation:

  • Avoid the multiplication of intermediate hosts by keeping a clean barn
  • Have a worm treatment prescribed by a vet

The Egg Eater

When the hen eats its own or foreign eggs, slaughtering does not always have to be the only solution. Every problem usually has a cause. If a hen is only slaughtered and no solution is sought, another chicken may start eating eggs.

Therefore, one should first think about the housing conditions of the chickens, if behavioural disorders of this kind occur.

Once all disturbance factors in the barn have been eliminated, it is possible to deal with a wide range of possible causes and their elimination:

Deficiency Symptom
What food do the chickens get to eat? Do they lack lime? One solution would be to add more mussel grit to the feed.

Are the hens busy enough? Do the chickens have enough possibilities to deal with scraping and foraging?

In the worst case, it could just be a lazy chicken who doesn’t want to bother looking for food. It can help to find the laid eggs quickly and replace them with artificial eggs. The hen will try to eat the eggs again, but soon realizes that they are not edible.

Solution to egg eating:

One of the most interesting solutions we had read so far was to blow out a chicken egg and fill it with mustard (or pepper paste). The prepared egg is now put back in the nest of the culprit. According to ÖKZ-Magazine, the mustard should be so unpleasant that this method often only needs to be used once.

It can also be helpful to let the hens lay their eggs in unrolling nests. This way it is not possible for them to get to their eggs after laying. However, other problems could arise with this kind of laying nest.

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