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Choline Deficiency


Choline is a vitamin-like essential nutrient and a methyl donor involved in many physiological processes, including normal metabolism and transport of lipids, methylation reactions, and neurotransmitter synthesis. Dietary choline deficiency has been associated with an increased incidence of spontaneous liver cancer (hepatocellular carcinoma) and increased sensitivity to carcinogenic chemicals in animals. Choline is a necessary vitamin for chickens, especially for newly hatched chicks. Newly hatched chicks require approximately 0.1% of choline in their diet.

Clinical Presentation

Chicks fed a choline-deficient diet often develop leg deformations due to lack of ossification and perosis. If caught and rectified early, the chick has a good chance of recovering, otherwise the deformations will likely be permanent.

In adults, choline deficiency causes muscle damage and abnormal deposition of fat in the liver, which results in a condition called nonalcoholic fatty liver disease.

Choline Food Sources

Choline can be found in wheat germ, broccoli, skim milk, peanut butter, and peanuts.

Clinical Signs

Stunted growth
Thick, short bowed legs
Poor feathering


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Diet analysis


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.


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


If caught early enough, prognosis is good.

Scientific References

Age Range

Newly hatched chicks are most susceptible to choline deficiency

Risk Factors

  • Feeding chicks an unbalanced diet