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Cellulitis

Other Names: Avian Cellulitis

Cellulitis is a potentially serious bacterial skin infection. It can occur in almost any area of the chicken's body, but most often affects the skin on their legs, feet, abdomen, and breast. The skin will appear swollen or puffy, reddened, and warm to the touch. If it is affecting the legs and feet, the bird may be reluctant to or have difficulty walking.

The chicken will often have a history of recent skin trauma. Most cases of cellulitis involve 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.

Clinical Signs

Swelling
Skin redness
Warmth
Lameness

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Lab testing

Treatment

NameSummary
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.
Antibiotics

Support

Prevention

  • 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 chickens with an enriched environment to decrease chances of feather pecking and cannibalism among flock members.

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