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Pullorum Disease

Bacillary White Diarrhea, Salmonella Pullorum, Salmonella Infection

Pullorum disease (PD), also referred to as bacillary white diarrhea, is an acute septicemic disease affecting primarily chickens and turkeys. It is caused by the Salmonella enterica subsp. enterica Gallinarum-Pullorum bacterium. It is one of several different diseases that are collectively referred to as Salmonellosis. PD rarely occurs in commercial poultry anymore, however it is quite common in backyard flocks.

PD primarily affects young chicks, between 2 to 3 weeks old. Chicks that were passed the bacteria vertically from the breeder birds, usually will begin to develop clinical signs within a couple weeks upon hatching. Chicks may be seen huddling under heat sources, making continuous faint chirping and peeping noises, weakness, loss of appetite, poor growth, difficulty breathing, and droopy wings. Affected chicks may have white chalky diarrhea pasted to their vents ('pasted butt'). The diarrhea can quickly lead to dehydration, and the accumulation on the vent can potentially cause a blockage unless it is cleaned off so chicks can continue to defecate.

Many chicks will not survive the course of the disease. Some chicks may recover, however they will remain carriers of S. pullorum, and during times of stress may shed the bacteria in their feces. If the chickens are used for breeding or egg laying purposes, they will pass S. pullorum vertically through their eggs, and to their offspring or to people that may consume the eggs.

In the United States, many commercial chicken breeders participate in the National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP). The program was established in the early 1930s to coordinate State programs aimed at eliminating PD and other egg-transmitted diseases of chickens and other poultry, to offspring. Flocks that participate in NPIP are required to conduct periodic blood testing on adult breeding birds, to ensure that they aren't carriers.


S. pullorum can be transmitted to chickens multiple ways.
  • From laying hens to their offspring
  • Direct or indirect contact with infected flock members (bird-to-bird contact, cannibalism or feather pecking of infected flock members, contaminated wounds, shed in feces that contaminates the environment, feeder, and waterer)
  • Contamination of incubator or associated equipment
  • Wild birds, rodents, wildlife, and insects (such as flies)

Clinical Signs

Poor appetite
Stunted growth
Faint chirping and peeping noises
White, chalky material on vent
Huddling behavior
Droopy wings
Difficulty breathing
Swollen joints


  • Bacterial culture - The only method to obtain a definitive diagnosis.
  • Serology - Macroscopic tube agglutination test, rapid serum test, microagglutination test
  • Necropsy


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.
Zinc-bearing clinoptilolite0.2% ZnCP to feed for 7 daysWang et al, 2012
Poteniated sulponamide
HomeopathyFor chicks with white foamy diarrhea administer Calc carb + Cala phos, and for adult birds with greenish brown diarrhea administer Sulphur and



  • Do not buy chicks from mail-order hatcheries or feed stores, instead adopt birds from animal shelters, rescue organizations, sanctuaries, or buy from breeders.
  • Always disinfect incubator and all associated equipment prior to use
  • Minimize exposure to environments contaminated by rodent or wild bird feces.
  • Practice good insect control
  • Properly dispose of any dead animal carcasses, do not allow birds contact with dead or decaying animals.


Scientific References

Good Overviews

Age Range

It most frequently affects young chicks between 2-3 weeks of age

Risk Factors

  • Chicks from mail-order hatcheries are frequent carriers of Salmonella spp. In fact, the proportion of mail-order hatchling boxes which tested positive for Salmonella was higher in 2015 (27%) compared to 2014 (17%).
  • Poor sanitary management procedures
  • Presence of rodents
  • Stress
  • Lack of biosecurity procedures
  • Presence of large populations of wild birds
  • High fly populations