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Avian Cellulitis

Avian cellulitis is a bacterial skin infection of birds that is characterized by the presence of subcutaneous fibrinonecrotic plaques and inflammation of the outer skin layers. Cellulitis is primarily caused by avian pathogenic Escherichia coli (APEC), which is a particular strain of E. coli that causes systemic disease in poultry in the form of avian colibacillosis. The infection can occur in almost any area of the body of the chicken, but most often involves areas with loose subcutaneous connective tissue, such as on the abdomen, breast, and thighs.

Cellulitis usually occurs in association with a previous disruption of the integrity of the skin, such as an abrasion or open wound, providing a path for bacteria to enter the body and colonize the subcutaneous tissue. Avian cellulitis has been shown to be associated with previous outbreaks of colibacillosis in flocks.

Clinical Signs

Yellow or red-brown skin color
Skin lesions
Subcutaneous edema and exudate


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Lab testing


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Modification of diet with increased antioxidants, amino acids, and vitamins



  • Supplementing diet with Vitamin E at 300 mg/kg or Vitamin A at 60,000 IU/kg
  • Don't overcrowd birds
  • Use shavings instead of straw for bedding
  • Provide birds with an enriched environment to decrease chances of feather pecking and cannibalism among flock members.
  • Feed a balanced diet with quality protein and a balanced amino acid profile
  • Keep flock at a comfortable environmental temperature

Scientific References

Age Range

Older male chickens are more likely to develop coliform cellulitis.

Risk Factors

  • History of recent skin trauma, especially scratches, provides the main site of entry into the chicken
  • Poor feather cover
  • Overcrowded conditions
  • Increased relative humidity
  • High energy feed
  • Using straw for bedding litter - associated with 2.8 times more likely to obtain coliform cellulitis than flocks with shavings
  • 'Meat type' breeds such as broiler chickens are more susceptible
  • Stress