Poultry Health Management

Poultry health management to be effective, a primary aim must be to prevent the onset of disease or parasites, to recognize at an early stage the presence of disease or parasites, and to treat all flocks that are diseased or infested with parasites as soon as possible and before they develop into a serious condition or spread to other flocks.

To be able to do this it is necessary to know how to recognize that the birds are diseased, the action required for preventing or minimizing disease and how to monitor for signs that the prevention program is working.


A disease is any condition that interferes with the normal functioning of the cells, tissues, organs and the whole body systems. Diseases of poultry have many causes and include:

  1. Deficiencies of essential nutrients such as vitamins, minerals or other nutrients.
  2. The consumption of toxic substances such as poisons.
  3. Physical damage e.g. environmental extremes and injury.
  4. Internal and external parasite infestations such as lice and worms.
  5. Infectious disease caused by micro-organisms such as bacteria and viruses.

Direct transmission occurs when one diseased bird passes the cause of the disease via direct contact to a susceptible healthy bird.

Indirect transmission occurs when the causal organism is passed from one bird to another via an intermediate host such as insects, earthworms, snails or slugs.


Viruses are the smallest pathogens and can only be seen through an electron microscope. Viruses consist of an outer layer/s surrounding special protein material similar to the genetic material of the cells they invade.


Bacteria are single cell organisms with a nucleus and multiply by simple fission, which means that one divides into two, and some can do this very quickly inside the host or in a suitable environment.

Common Diseases;

a). Newcastle Disease (NCD)

  • Its a viral disease of poultry that spreads very fast via airborne droplets through coughing or sneezing of infected birds.
  • The virus can be carried by wild birds, through contaminated eggs, clothing, shoes and contaminated equipment
  • As mortality is often 100 percent in young chickens, NCD is probably the most important constraint to family poultry development.
  • The disease effects birds of any age but young ones are more susceptible. Mortality in older chickens is usually lower.
  • Incubation period- three to five days is followed.


  • Dullness, coughing, sneezing and gasping
  • Nasal discharge and excessive mucous in the trachea
  • Rapid breathing is accompanied by a gurgling noise in the throat.
  • Nervous signs, characterized by twisting of the neck, some times combined with dragging wings and legs.
  • Early loss of appetite results in a greenish diarrhoea.
  • The most obvious diagnostic sign of NCD is very sudden, very high mortality, often with few symptoms having had time to develop.

b). Fowl Cholera

  • This is a contagious disease that affects all types of fowls. It is often transmitted by wild birds or other domestic birds, and spreads by contamination of the feed or water and by oral or nasal discharges from infected birds.
  • The incubation period is four to nine days, but acute outbreaks can occur within two days of infection.


  • Sudden death within a few hours of showing the first signs
  • The respiratory form is characterized by gasping, coughing and sneezing
  • In the localized form, the signs are lameness and swelling of legs or wing joints
  • In acute cases, the head and comb change color to dark red or purple. If the infection is localized in the region of the ears, a twisted neck an sometimes be observed.
  • Fowl cholera is common everywhere among the free-range village flocks, because they are comprised of different species and are in continuous contact with wild birds.

c). Fowl Pox

  • It is a viral disease of poultry that can be transmitted by mosquitoes and other blood-sucking insects.
  • The disease tends to be seasonal, occurring after mosquito breeding times


  • Difficult breathing, sneezing, gurgling noise in the throat, breathing though open mouth
  • Loss of appetite
  • Eye and nose discharge
  • Death mainly due to suffocation by mucous( cheesy growth in the trachea)
  • Pox lesions also occur
  • Mortality rate can be 100% in growing chicken but lower in adult birds

d). Coccidiosis

This disease is caused by a protozoan parasite of the intestine and can cause very heavy losses in poultry particularly up to the age of 12 weeks. The disease affects mostly young birds


  • The chicks lose weight and their appetites
  • Their feathers become ruffled and soiled
  • Combs are pale and they tend to huddle together in corners
  • Droppings are watery and greenish or brown in color often containing blood

Control measures;


  • Use Bifuran/ coccidiostat in feed at all times
  • Keep the litter dry and loose and keep chicks isolated in freshly sterilized pens

Curative measures;

  • Use Bifuran in the water according to the manufacturers instructions
  • Isolate sick birds
  • When the attack dies down, disinfect litter and sterilize pens


AGE                                   DISEASE                            MODE OF ADMINISTRATION                            REMARKD

One day old                       Mareks                              Sub-contagious                                                Done at the hatchery

2nd week                           Gumboro                           Drinking water                                                  Repeat after 2 weeks

2nd week                           New castle disease            Eye drop or drinking water                               Repeat every 6 months

8th week                            Fowl typhoid                      Intramuscular injection


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