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Niacin Deficiency

Vitamin B3 Deficiency, Pellagra

Niacin Deficiency Overview

Niacin is a water-soluble vitamin, which is also known as nicotinic acid or vitamin B3.
Nicotinamide is the derivative of niacin and used by the body to form the coenzymes nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide (NAD) and nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide phosphate (NADP). B vitamins help the body to convert carbohydrates into fuel, which is used to produce energy. They are important for healthy skin, eyes and liver, and for the nervous system to properly function. Niacin also assists in maintaining proper body circulation. The most common symptoms of niacin deficiency involve the skin, the digestive system, and the nervous system.

Dietary sources
Niacin food sources for chickens

The best food sources of niacin are animal and fish by-products, distiller’s grains and Brewer's yeast, various distillation and fermentation solubles and certain oilseed meals. In addition, foods that contain tryptophan, an amino acid the body coverts into niacin.

Nutrition Requirements
The availability of niacin in grain and grain by-products is very low. However, when chicks hatch they have considerable tryptophan contained in the protein of the yolk, if fully absorbed; thus a niacin deficiency will not readily occur unless the feed is low for both the amino acid and the vitamin. The NRC (1994) recommends from 10 to 65 mg of niacin per kg (4.5 to 29.5 mg/lb) of feed for various classes of poultry. However more recent studies confirm that the niacin requirement for chickens, especially newborn, growing chicks, is 80 mg/kg (36.4 mg/lb) feed.

Good Sources
Foods with highest amounts of niacin include:
  • Tuna (light, canned, packed in water) - 3 ounces (8.6-11.3 mg of Niacin)
  • Peanuts, dry roasted - 1 oz (3.8 mg of Niacin)
  • Lentils, cooked - 1 cup (2.1 mg of Niacin)
  • Clinical Signs

    Poor feathering
    Enlarged hock joints
    Twisted legs
    Bowed legs


    • History
    • Clinical signs
    • Physical exam
    • Diet evaluation


    Brewers yeast: 75 g/kg added to feed daily : K Marx



    If caught early enough, before tendon slips from its condyles then recovery is good.

    Scientific References

    Age Range

    Newly hatched chicks are more at risk of niacin deficiency

    Risk Factors

    • Inadequate dietary intake of niacin and/or tryptophan
    • Malnutrition
    • Poor quality protein diet