Common Signs of Illness in Poultry

Small and Backyard Flocks May 24, 2013 Print Friendly and PDF

Signs of Respiratory Infection

A disease-causing organism can affect more than one system, leading to a variety of different clinical signs. There is considerable overlap in the commons signs of respiratory diseases, making diagnosis difficult without a necropsy.

Common signs of respiratory infection include the following:

  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • Rales (abnormal breathing sounds)
  • Gasping
  • Shaking head
  • Discharge from the eyes
  • Conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva of the eye)
  • Discharge from the nose
  • Swelling of the face and/or wattles
  • Bluish-purple discoloration of the face
  • Retarded growth
  • Inactivity
  • Dirty wings (birds tend to wipe their nostrils on their wings)

Less common signs of respiratory infection include the following:

  • Twisting of the head and neck (torticollis)
  • Paralysis
  • Diarrhea, which might be green and watery
  • Swollen joints
  • Lameness
  • Red or white spots on the legs and comb
  • Warts or scabs

Signs of Nonrespiratory Infection

Common signs of nonrespiratory infection include the following:

  • Labored breathing
  • Reduced water consumption
  • Dehydration
  • Reduced feed consumption
  • Weight loss or stunted growth
  • Emaciation
  • Bluish-purple discoloration of the face
  • Pale comb
  • Small comb
  • Abscessed wattles
  • Discharge from the mouth
  • Blindness
  • Enlarged abdomen
  • Navel infection
  • Swollen joints
  • Swollen foot pads
  • Lameness
  • Tremors
  • Paralysis
  • Twisting of the head and neck (torticollis)
  • Weakness
  • Diarrhea, which might be greenish
  • White feces
  • Bloody feces
  • Pasted vent
  • Watery droppings
  • Thin-shelled eggs
  • Shell-less eggs
  • Reduced egg production
  • Increased mortality
  • Helicopter wings (that is, broken or twisted feathers)
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Foul odor
  • Inactivity

NOTE It is not unusual for poultry to die suddenly without showing any signs of disease.

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USDA / NIFA

This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.