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Choline Deficiency

Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient that serves several important functions in the chicken's body. It is a metabolic essential for building and maintaining cell structure, and plays an essential role in fat metabolism in the liver. It prevents abnormal accumulation of fat (fatty liver). Choline is essential for the formation of acetylcholine, a substance that makes possible the transmission of nerve impulses.

Choline Deficiency in Chickens


Choline deficiency is more likely to be a problem in young, growing chicks. The choline requirement of growing chicks decreases with age as it is generally not possible to produce a deficiency at an age over eight weeks. Clinical signs most commonly observed include:
  • Stunted growth
  • Perosis, leading to slipped tendon


Choline Food Sources


All naturally occurring fats contain some choline, and thus, it is supplied by all feeds that contain fat. Egg yolk, germ of cereals, legumes and oilseed meals are good sources of choline. Corn is low in choline, with wheat, barley and oats containing approximately twice as much choline as corn.

Choline Nutritional Requirements


The choline requirements for chickens range from 200 to 700 mg/kg of the diet. Generally, adult chickens are thought to synthesize the vitamin in adequate quantities. Feeding young chicks a diet with excess dietary protein or high in fat increases their choline requirement.
Age/Life Stagemg/kg
Newly Hatched Chicks (0 - 10 wks)200-400
Young & Growing (10 - 20 wks)200-400
Laying hens (Actively laying eggs)300-500
Breeders (20 wks & older)*300-500
Broiler/'Meat' Breed Chicks (0-18 wks)350-700
Broiler/'Meat' Breeds* (19 wks & older)350-700

Clinical Signs

Stunted growth
Thick, short bowed legs
Poor feathering
Perosis

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Diet analysis

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.
Choline500-1300 mg/kg in feed; through oral supplements or choline-rich food source.

Prevention

  • Feeding chicks a balanced diet
  • Supplement with B-vitamins after hatching.

Prognosis

If caught early enough, prognosis is good.

Scientific References

Age Range

Newly hatched chicks are most susceptible to choline deficiency

Risk Factors

  • Feeding chicks a excess protein or high fat diet
  • Feeding chicks a corn-based starter feed
  • Folic acid or vitamin B12 deficiencies