How to Diagnose and Cure Paralysis in Chickens
Paralysis in broiler chickens has been a reoccurrence issue with broiler chickens, which has become a nightmare to farmers. The main reason why farmer dreads this condition is that paralysis in broiler is a multifactorial condition, and you need to fully understand these various causal factors for proper treatment of paralysis in broilers and management.
Paralysis in broiler is the inability of broiler chicken to walk due to diseases, toxins, injury, malnutrition, etc.
Before now, I always link the cause of paralysis in broilers to overweight, which might seem justifiable because the rate of growth in broilers is not proportional to the strength of the leg, so they tend to sit often on their hocks and, subsequently develop arthritis and then paralysis. But paralysis is just more than overweight in broiler chickens.
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However, I have had my own ugly experience with broilers having leg issues and this can be so frustrating even when the fault is not from you. Within the past few weeks, I have been treating and nursing two of my broiler chicks having leg issues. One of the chicks recovers after a few days, while the other is still in isolation.
So, in this post I am going to share with you some of the tips and treatment I used in stopping paralysis in broilers, although not all leg paralysis is fixable, some may remain permanent for life while some may recover if discovered early and treated.
What causes paralysis in broilers?
Paralysis in broiler has a wide variety of causes, this include
infectious etiology, mainly Marek, Newcastle, and Botulism
pododermatitis, and even
parasites- Paralysis in poultry due to the larval stage of Argas persicus (tick) has been reported.
Apart from signs and symptoms that could be specific to a particular disease/condition, you can also examine and use the age of the broiler chicken to narrow down the possible cause of the paralysis.
1Age of chickens
Whenever I am presented with a paralyzed broiler chicken, my first suspect is overweight, and Marek disease. However, most paralysis in broilers develops with age at various stages. Knowing the age at which a particular disease-causing paralysis starts to manifest will help you to eliminate other suspected options. For instance, Marek disease can be caught in the first 2-3 weeks and manifest at 10-24 weeks. So, if the paralysis is older than 24 weeks, it is unlikely to be Marek’s disease. Although, they are exceptional but rare.
2 Examine the bird
You have to examine the chicken for any abnormalities. Firstly, you have to know the recumbent of the bird (the way the bird is lying down). The way a paralyzed bird is lying may indicate the particular disease or condition responsible for the paralysis. For example, a broiler chicken suffering from Marek normally lies on its side with one leg outstretched, the same posture can be seen in broiler chicks suffering from Aspergillosis favus. While in broiler chickens suffering from curled toes, overweight or bumblefoot normally sit on their hocks for support with a lot of pains.
In some cases, you have to examine for an injury that may result from transportation or when trying to catch the bird. Check the wings and legs for any sign of pain, dislocation, or arthritis. Broilers with injury-related paralysis normally feed well when it can access feed and water.
I have to narrow these possible causes listed above into 3 categories for easy decision-making.
For proper diagnoses, you have to visit a Vet because most of these paralysis related diseases have some symptoms in common, therefore, there is a need for differential diagnoses
These are nutritional-related paralysis, mostly due to a condition known as avitaminosis- a condition resulting from a deficiency of a particular vitamin like Vitamin E, D3, B2, etc This category also includes paralysis due to lack of some elements like calcium, manganese, phosphorus, potassium. Etc.
Here, the broiler chicken can fully recover if discovered early and given the right medication and supplements.
paralyzes caused by viral, fungi, or bacterial infection
These are paralyzes caused by viral, fungi, or bacterial infection. Most of these infections are not curable, especially those caused by viruses. Viral infections are mostly prevented by vaccination and biosecurity, while some of the bacterial and fungi infections are curable and some are not, but can prevented with proper medications and biosecurity. Examples of these infections are Newcastle disease, Marek disease, mycoplasmosis, reoviral arthritis, and Staphylococcus arthritis.
Here, vaccination and biosecurity are the safest ways to prevent these viral infections. Some people might try to sell you into buying all sorts of medications just for their own selfish interest. Save yourself the stress.
paralyzes caused by external factors
this category includes those paralyzes caused by external factors such as injury, toxins, and parasites. The broiler chicken can fully recover with proper care and medication, except in some extreme cases.
Another cause of paralysis in broilers is the developmental etiology, which is mainly caused by poor hatchery management. Poor hatchery management could result in twisted legs, rotated tibia, and crooked toes in young chicks. Some of this poor management include substandard equipment, lack of proper medication, and high temperature at the end of incubation. Reducing temperature at the end of incubation will help prevent lameness issues.
On the other hand, overcrowding can also cause paralysis, especially when they are scared by noises, which may lead to a stampede and follow by paralysis and in some cases death. And it is harder to manage leg issues in a very large flock. Therefore, it is important to secure a manageable number of chicks from a reputable hatchery to avoid untold heartbreak.
Handbook of Poultry Diseases Important in Africa.
Edited by: Carol Cardona and Peter L, Msoffe. Handbook of Poultry Diseases Important in Africa.
Developed by: Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Sokoine Univ. Of Agriculture, Tanzanian
Department of Animal Science, University of Ghana, Legon
Faculty of Veterinary Medicine, Makerere University, Uganda
faculty of Veterinary Medicine, University of Nairobi, Kenya and
The School of Veterinary Medicine, University of California
Lotta Waldenstedt. Nutritional factors of importance for optimal leg health in broilers.