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Poultry Diseases and Health Problems

There are several health problems and poultry diseases that you may encounter at one time or another while keeping backyard poultry. This section contains seven Health Categories, which contain articles grouped according to the area they affect—for example, the respiratory or digestive system.

Waterfowl tend to be fairly disease tolerant. Chicken diseases are far more common, but you can often avoid the most serious problems with good husbandry, biosecurity, and a holistic approach. There are, however, many less serious health problems that you are likely to encounter as a poultry keeper and can often resolve yourself armed with the correct knowledge. 

From external parasites like lice or red mites to internal parasites like worms, at some point, you are likely to come across these, so knowing how to spot the signs and deal with them early is always useful.

If you would like more detail and a ‘reference’ to use, then there are two books worth mentioning that I am always using. Diseases of Free Range Poultry by Victoria Roberts and The Chicken Health Handbookby Gail Damerow; both are excellent books covering just about all diseases and disorders in a non-technical way.

In particular, Victoria Robert’s book contains information aimed at UK enthusiasts. It is now on its third edition, whilst Gail Damerow’s book, now in its second edition, would be my recommendation if you raise chickens in the US. It has a little more information on the medications you are likely to see there. 

Health: Categories

Where would you like to start?

External Problems

External Problems

Feathers, beak, skin, scales, spurs, eyes, comb, nails, legs and wings. Problems such as lameness, feather loss, external parasite infestation, frostbite, blindness, cuts and wounds.

Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory System

Respiratory problems including Avian Influenza, Aspergillosis, Gapeworm, Infectious Bronchitis and Mycoplasma.


Digestive System

Typical digestive system problems include internal parasites, loss of appetite, swollen crop, bad or sweet-smelling breath, diarrhoea, or messy bottoms.

Reproductive System

Reproductive System

Reproductive system problems include egg-laying problems (but not egg problems) in chickens and other poultry.

Wrinked Egg

Egg Quality

Common quality problems with eggs, such as soft or missing eggshells, wrinkled or misshaped eggs, watery whites, double yolks or blood spots.

Skeletal and Muscular problems

Skeletal, Muscular & Nervous System

Skeletal, muscular and nervous system problems.

Diseases such as Marek’s or Toxoplasmosis.

Cardiovascular and Organs

Cardiovascular & Organs

Diseases and disorders relating to major organs or the cardiovascular system include acute heart failure and Avian Leukosis.