I Want My Free E-Book On Egg Laying Chickens

Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

fatty live syndrome in chickens

Fatty liver syndrome, known as hepatic lipidosis, is a common metabolic disorder in chickens.

It is particularly seen in commercial poultry farming systems and with well-meaning, ill-informed backyard chicken keepers.

This condition is characterized by the abnormal accumulation of fat within the liver tissue, which can lead to impaired liver function and a string of potential health complications.

Fatty liver syndrome poses significant challenges to poultry farmers, impacting bird health, welfare, and productivity.

This comprehensive guide discusses the causes, symptoms, prevention strategies, and treatment options for fatty liver syndrome in chickens.

Let’s get into it!

Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens: Causes

Several factors contribute to the development of fatty liver syndrome in chickens.

These can be stand-alone issues or, more likely, several problems together at once.

Poor Dietary Options

Poor dietary management is one of the primary causes of fatty liver syndrome.

Diets high in energy, particularly from fats and carbohydrates, can predispose chickens to excessive fat deposition in the liver.

Overconsumption of energy-dense feeds, such as corn or soybean meal, without adequate nutrient balance can exacerbate the risk of hepatic lipidosis.

Chickens also need fiber, adequate-protein, plenty of water, vitamins, and minerals.

A major imbalance over extended periods of time will contribute to fatty liver syndrome.


Considering the name of the syndrome, I’m sure this one is no shock to you.

Overweight or obese chickens are more susceptible to fatty liver syndrome.

Excessive body fat increases the likelihood of lipid accumulation within the liver, impairing its normal functions.

Intensive breeding for rapid growth and high meat yield has contributed to obesity-related issues in commercial chicken breeds.

Inactive or Cramped Birds

Sedentary behavior and limited physical activity can exacerbate the development of fatty liver syndrome in chickens.

Confinement in overcrowded or restricted environments, common in intensive farming systems, restricts chickens’ natural movement and foraging behaviors, promoting obesity and metabolic disorders.

Each chicken needs at least four square feet of space in the coop and at least six square feet of outdoor space.

If your chickens have enough room but aren’t moving enough, place their water on one side of the enclosure and their feed on the other.

Toss the feed out into a grassy lawn or pasture to encourage your chickens to forage more.

This will make them move around and hunt for their food, making them more active and self-sufficient.

Serious Hormonal Imbalances

Hormonal disturbances, such as insulin resistance or elevated estrogen levels, can disrupt lipid metabolism in chickens, predisposing them to hepatic lipidosis.

Certain conditions, such as fatty liver hemorrhagic syndrome in laying hens, are associated with hormonal fluctuations during the egg-laying cycle.

Commercial chickens are more susceptible to these imbalances because they are fed feeds that are optimized for economics rather than health.

The diets lack the vitamins and minerals needed to regulate their food intake in a healthy way.

And no, commercial chickens are not given hormones or growth hormones.

Cattle are allowed hormones, but chickens are not.

This causes some confusion among consumers, which is discussed in more detail in this article, Chickens Do Not Receive Growth Hormones, So Why All the Confusion?



Environmental stressors, including heat stress, overcrowding, poor ventilation, excessive noise, inadequate lighting, dirty conditions, and poor living conditions in general, can compromise chickens’ overall health and exacerbate metabolic disorders like fatty liver syndrome.

Chronic stress activates the release of stress hormones, which can disrupt metabolic pathways and exacerbate liver dysfunction. As mentioned above, it may cause serious hormonal issues.

clean chicken coop ventilation

Symptoms of Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens

Read and learn these signs so you can easily identify a chicken suffering from fatty liver syndrome early on.

This will make it easier for you to care for your birds and remedy the situation sooner.

Common symptoms associated with hepatic lipidosis include the following:

Reduced Appetite

Chickens affected by fatty liver syndrome may exhibit decreased feed intake and reluctance to consume their regular diet.

This anorexia can contribute to weight loss and decreased productivity in affected birds.


Affected chickens may appear lethargic, weak, and reluctant to move.

Reduced activity levels and reluctance to engage in normal behaviors, such as foraging or perching, indicate underlying health problems.

Abdominal Distension

As fatty liver syndrome progresses, chickens may develop abdominal distension or “pot belly” due to fat accumulation within the abdominal cavity.

The distended abdomen may feel firm upon palpation.

Pale Combs and Wattles

The combs and wattles of affected chickens may appear pale or blanched, indicating poor circulation and potential anemia secondary to liver dysfunction.

Reduced Egg Production

Fatty liver syndrome can lead to declining egg production or quality in laying hens.

Affected hens may produce smaller eggs with thin or soft shells or cease laying altogether.

Fatty liver disorder also impairs the bird’s calcium metabolism, affecting eggshell quality.

Increased Mortality in the Flock

Severe cases of fatty liver syndrome can result in increased mortality rates within your flock.

Chickens may succumb to complications such as liver failure, ascites (fluid accumulation in the abdomen), or secondary infections.

The only way to accurately diagnose fatty liver syndrome is to do a postmortem examination.

Check the liver for enlargement, hemorrhaging, or engorgement with fat.

It will be difficult to remove each lobe of the liver in one piece.

How to Prevent and Treat Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens

Prevention is key to managing fatty liver syndrome and promoting overall flock health.

Implementing the following preventive measures can help reduce the risk of hepatic lipidosis in chickens.

Routine health monitoring protocols help assess flock health and detect early signs of metabolic disorders like fatty liver syndrome.

Monitor feed efficiency and consumption, body condition, and egg production parameters to identify potential issues immediately.

Prevention and treatment for fatty liver syndrome are remarkably similar, so we’ll cover both in this section.

Provide a Balanced Diet with Good Nutrition

The 5 Best Chicken Feeders_ Chick and Chicken Feeders

Provide chickens with a well-balanced diet formulated to meet their nutritional requirements at each life stage.

Avoid excessive supplementation of energy-dense feeds and ensure proper nutrient balance, including essential vitamins, minerals, and amino acids.

For treatment, adjust the diet to provide a lower-energy, higher-fiber feed formulation to support liver health and promote weight management.

Try to supplement the diet with specific nutrients known to support liver function, such as:

  • lipotropic agents (e.g., choline, methionine)
  • antioxidants (e.g., vitamin E, selenium)
  • B-vitamins

These supplements can help alleviate liver stress and promote better fat metabolism.

For a better feeding guide, take a moment to read through at least a few of these guides for even more help.

Implement controlled feeding practices to prevent overconsumption of feed, particularly high-energy diets.

Monitor the feed intake regularly and adjust feeding levels based on individual bird requirements and environmental conditions.

Some chickens are naturally prone to overeating, and giving them free-choice feed is not practical.

Encourage Movement

Provide ample space, environmental enrichment, and opportunities for foraging and exploration to encourage physical activity and natural behaviors.

Avoid overcrowding and provide adequate space for chickens to move freely.

If possible, let your chickens free-range under your supervision for an hour or two in the evening. This will help their minds and bodies.

Clean Up and Make Amendments to the Coop

Maintain optimal environmental conditions within the coop and run, including proper ventilation, temperature control, lighting, and litter management.

Minimize stressors and provide a comfortable, stress-free environment for the flock.

ALSO READ: How to Clean and Disinfect Your Chicken Coop

Get Professional Help

If you’ve tried all of the above and are still having trouble, consider seeking advice from a more experienced chicken keeper or, better yet, a veterinarian.

They have probably already seen cases like yours and will know other tips and tricks to regain your chickens’ health.

Until your trusted expert can visit your flock to help, try using supportive care to tide your flock over until help arrives.

Provide supportive care to affected chickens, including maintaining hydration, administering vitamins and electrolytes, and addressing any concurrent health issues such as infections or parasites.

Also, make sure your chickens always have access to clean water at all times. Clean and fresh water will fix many minor issues.

If you have a vet, they may be able to give your chickens some prescription medications or injections to support liver function.

disinfecting a chicken coop

Fatty Liver Syndrome FAQ

What Causes Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens?

Fatty Liver Syndrome in chickens is primarily caused by factors such as poor dietary management, obesity, lack of exercise, hormonal imbalances, and environmental stressors.

How Do You Treat Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens?

Treatment for Fatty Liver Syndrome in chickens may involve dietary modification like:

  • reduced carbs
  • increased vitamins and minerals
  • supportive care
  • nutritional supplements
  • increased exercise
  • veterinary intervention
  • rehabilitation programs

Can Fatty Liver Disease Be Reversed?

Fatty Liver Disease in chickens can potentially be reversed with timely intervention, including appropriate dietary adjustments, supportive care, and targeted treatment strategies to alleviate liver stress and promote fat metabolism.

That said, most flock owners don’t know about it until the chicken dies of the condition.

What Deficiency Causes Fatty Liver in Poultry?

A deficiency in essential nutrients such as methionine, choline, and vitamin E can contribute to the development of Fatty Liver Syndrome in poultry, highlighting the importance of balanced nutrition in preventing metabolic disorders.

How Do You Remove Fat From Chicken Livers?

While the bird is alive, the best way to do this is with a better-balanced diet, reduced feed intake, and increased exercise.

For processing meat birds, removing fat from chicken livers can be achieved by trimming excess fat, soaking the livers in cold water (so the fat becomes stiff and easy to peel), or cooking them in a way that allows the fat to render and drain away, resulting in much leaner and poultry products.

Fatty Liver Syndrome in Chickens: Final Thoughts

Fatty liver syndrome poses significant health risks to chickens in commercial poultry production systems, impacting welfare and productivity.

Understanding the underlying causes, recognizing clinical signs, and implementing preventive measures are essential for managing this metabolic disorder before it’s too late.


Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *