Top Problems in Chicken Health

Learn the top chicken health problems and how to take care of them.

  • Anytime you have a chicken that appears to be ill, it is important to quarantine it away from the rest of your flock.
    Photo by Jean Fogle
  • Know how to identify common problems in your backyard chicken flock.
    Photo by Sheri Anderson
  • Avoid cardboard and sheets of newspaper for brooder lining during the first few weeks.
    Photo by Sheri Anderson
  • Avoid cardboard and sheets of newspaper for brooder lining during the first few weeks.
    Photo by Sheri Anderson
  • Raising chicks is a very rewarding experience.
    Photo by Sheri Anderson

Chicken health

From the time they emerge from their eggs and throughout their adult lives, chickens can develop a variety of common problems. But don’t let the fear of any of these conditions deter you from the fulfilling pursuit of raising chickens for meat and eggs. Most often, when conditions in the brooder, coop and foraging ground are kept reasonably clean, the chickens will enjoy a life of very few problems, predation being the main concern. However, it’s nice to be prepared in the rare instance that your birds do in fact face a health condition that you, the steward, need to treat.

Curled toes

Curled toes in baby chicks appear as a clubbed foot. If both feet have curled toes, it is most likely from a vitamin deficiency passed on from the mother hen. On the other hand, curled toes that occur only on one foot usually develop from an injury during the hatching process or while in the brooder.


• Add poultry vitamins and electrolytes to their water supply. Follow the packaging directions.

• Gently straighten the curled toes and splint them by placing their foot into the padded portion of a Band-Aid and securing the sticky portion of the Band-Aid to the top of the foot.

Splayed legs

Chicks with splayed legs have difficulty standing, and their leg juts out to the side. Common causes of splayed leg include issues during incubation, trauma, nutritional deficiencies, and slippery bedding in the hatching tray or brooder.


• Add poultry vitamins and electrolytes to the drinking water.

• Change the brooder bedding to paper towels covered with pine shavings for the first couple of weeks.

• Try splinting the legs together with rubber bands, fabric tape, and so forth.

Pasty butt

Baby chicks can develop a condition called “pasty butt” or “pasting up,” which occurs when droppings remain attached to their vents. The droppings dry and cake onto the vent’s opening, preventing the chick from passing any other droppings. Pasty butt can be life threatening and can occur while chicks are in transit from the hatchery as well as during their first few weeks of life. Some breeds are more prone to pasty butts than others. If chicks continue to have pasty butt, consider changing to a higher quality chick feed.

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