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Zinc Toxicity

New Wire Disease

Zinc toxicity is a serious condition caused by ingestion of excessive amounts of zinc (Zn). Zinc is an important chemical element, mineral, and metal, that is required to maintain proper health function in chickens. However, ingestion of high amounts of zinc is harmful, and potentially fatal to chickens. Zinc and zinc compounds are used in numerous commercial applications (galvanizing steel or iron, production of brass, bronze, and other alloy metals) and various, frequently used and common products. Common sources of zinc for backyard chickens include:
  • Improperly mixed chicken feeds
  • Soil
  • Hardware cloth
  • Chain link fencing
  • Powder coated metal cages used for small animals
  • Metal water or feed bowels
  • Temporary housing cage clips or staples
  • Snap fasteners, padlocks, and some toy snaps or hangers
  • United States pennies made after 1983 (one penny contains ~ 2440 mg of zinc)
  • Keys
  • Nails, washers, nuts and bolts
  • Zinc oxide cream or ointment (such as Desitin or generic diaper rash ointment)
  • Deodorant
  • Anti-dandruff shampoos
  • Antifouling paints
  • Fertilizers
  • Zippers
  • Monopoly game pieces
Chickens that are allowed to free range may potentially pick up and ingest buried metal, coins, galvanized nails and other zinc produced products.

Clinical signs most frequently observed in chickens with zinc toxicity include reduction in feed intake, diarrhea, lethargy, depression, and greenish tinged urine and/or urates.

Symptoms

Lethargy
Depression
Loss of appetite
Diarrhea
Greenish tinged urine and/or urates
Increased thirst
Ataxia
Paralysis
Seizures
Blue or purple comb/wattles
Pale comb/wattle
Shallow, labored breathing
Weak, altered or absent voice

Diagnosis

  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiography
  • Blood test

Treatment

MethodDetails
Chelation therapy with edetate calcium disodium CaEDTAAt 30 to 50 mg/kg once to four times daily by intramuscular or intravenous injection, depending on the severity of signs and amount of toxin ingested by the birdS Gelis
Dimercaptosuccinic acid
D-PenicillamineGiven orally at 55 mg/kg twice daily, can be used in conjunction with CaEDTAS Gelis
Supportive care
Concurrent parenteral fluid therapyVery important to prevent dehydration and to aid in getting rid of the toxic metals from the bird's systemS Gelis

Prevention

  • Do not provide chickens access to objects containing high levels of zinc
  • Thoroughly scrub any newly purchased metal items that have been galvanized, (such as galvanized hardware cloth) and will be in contact with birds, with a mildly acidic solution such as vinegar, then carefully let dry.

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Letting chickens free range
  • Chickens kept inside as house pets