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Rickets is a disease of growing bones that is usually seen in young, growing chicks which have a deficiency, imbalance or an inability to utilize calcium, phosphorus, or vitamin D3. The basic abnormality is a failure of mineralization of osteoid and cartilaginous matrix, especially in growth plates. This is most obvious as a thickening and irregularity of growth plates in long bones. If chickens are confined indoors without exposure to sunlight or supplemented, the cause is most likely related to inadequate amounts of vitamin D3. It results in softening of the bones and increased likelihood of bone fracture and leg deformities.

Clinical Signs

Beaks are soft and rubbery
Bowed legs
Stiff-legged gait
Stunted growth
Resting in squatting position
Decreased egg production
Thin egg shells
Eggs stop laying
Sitting on hocks


  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Diet analysis

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Rickets in a Backyard chicken Rickets was diagnosed in a live, 3-month-old, backyard hen. The bird was submitted to the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory (TVMDL) in Center, Texas. The bird was depressed and showing respiratory distress. The findings at the necropsy examination included moderate emaciation, fragile bones with increased width of the bone growing plate, and S-shaped deformed sternum. The histopathological examination of bone sections revealed that the growing plate was wider and disorganized, with persistent zones of prehypertrophy and hypertrophy with invasion of blood vessels. Misshapen sternum and bones with wider and disorganized growing plate are lesions characteristic of rickets. Ref

  • Case 2: Rickets in a Ducks Rickets due to calcium to phosphorus ratio imbalance in the feed (normal 2:1, actual 10:1) was the cause of weakness and reluctance to walk in 3-week-old ducks in a small flock of 10 ducks. Radiographs of the long bones revealed bilaterally symmetrical fractures of the proximal tibiotarsus. Two birds submitted for necropsy had very soft bones and microscopic fractures of the proximal tibiotarsus. Ref

  • Case 3: Rickets in a Patridges Rickets caused clinical signs at about 4-weeks of age in more than 2% of the chukar partridges in a commercial flock. Birds were down on their legs, reluctant to move, stumbling and trembling. Mortality was mild (2-4 birds per day). Necropsy examination revealed extreme bone flexibility and elasticity, especially femur, tibiotarsus, wings and beaks which would bend without breaking. Histology of the femur and tibia revealed lesions consistent with rickets. Calcium and phosphorus concentrations were in the expected range in the submitted feed. Ref


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.
Nutritional managementProvide an appropriate commercial poultry feed suitable for the bird's age and species
Homeopathic medicineFor leg weakness, soft bones and beak administer Calc phos and Alfa alfa
For thorax ribs that curve inwards administer Calc phos + Calc flour + Aboratum + Rhus tox
For soft shelled eggs administer Calc phos



  • Feed a balanced diet.
  • Provide oyster shell bits or limestone as a supplement.

Scientific References