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Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens: A Complete Overview of Enteritis in Poultry

necrotic enteritis in chickens

Are your chickens not looking well? Are they experiencing diarrhea and not moving as much?

It could be a symptom of an underlying condition. One common sickness is necrotic enteritis in chickens.

Enteritis in poultry is a controllable disease increasing in number, causing about $6 billion loss worldwide in poultry production. A warning sign that your flock has this disease is a rising mortality rate.

The best way to manage and avoid enteritis in chickens is to understand what it is, its causes, signs and symptoms, and the treatment of necrotic enteritis in poultry.

In this article, you will learn what necrotic enteritis is, the factors behind it, and how to lessen its effect on your flock.

Unlike other poultry diseases, enteritis should not be taken lightly.  It can heavily affect most of your broilers.

Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens: What Is It?

Enteritis in poultry is an enteric disease prominent among chickens, incredibly juvenile broilers. It is characterized by scars of necrotic tissue on the intestines’ lining.

Necrotic enteritis in chickens is a severe illness that happens only briefly. What most owners see as enteritis signs and symptoms are that chickens have a significant drop in energy levels. Their depression can be quickly followed by sudden death.

This disease is also multifactorial, which means there is more than one cause for it to happen. One of the significant enteritis causes is the anaerobic bacteria Clostridium perfringens.

There are two primary types of Clostridium perfringens in chickens: types A and C. Toxins produced by this bacteria cause damage to the intestinal wall and later impair digestion.

contaminated water as necrotic enteritis causes

What Causes Enteritis in Chickens

As mentioned, the primary culprit for necrotic enteritis is Clostridium perfringens in chickens. It badly affects the intestines, liver lesions, and mortality when it starts to produce toxins.

However, there is one thing you should know about Clostridium perfringens in chickens. They are already in the chicken’s gut!

They are a typical inhabitant in the intestines of a healthy chicken. Unfortunately, many factors in the chicken’s upbringing trigger the bacteria to be dangerous. 

Diet with a High Amount of Protein

Please do not underestimate the composition of their feed. Enteritis diet is often induced with high protein, primarily composed of animal by-products.

Low Immunity

One of the triggers for Clostridium perfringens in chickens is their health. Hence, you need to make sure your birds get all the nutrients along with the supplements and vitamins they need.

Imbalanced or Damaged Gut Health 

When the intestinal environment is favorable, Clostridium perfringens in chickens will not become a bother at all. However, if the gut flora is disrupted with too much fat or other bacteria, it creates a detrimental space for C. perfringens to begin producing toxins.

Disruption to the Intestinal Mucosa

The intestinal mucosa refers to the internal lining of the intestine, comprising microbes that fight off bacteria and aid in digestion. When the intestinal mucosa is damaged, it allows C. perfringens infection.

High Viscous Diets 

This kind of enteritis diet means high consumption of rye, barley, and wheat. When there is high intestinal viscosity, bacteria will thrive and later result in necrotic enteritis in chickens.

Contaminated Water or Feed

Once the chicken takes in contaminated water or feed, it has a high chance for bacterial growth and toxin production in the gut. Not only will this cause enteritis in poultry, but also other illnesses related to contamination.

Existing Diseases like Coccidiosis

Coccidiosis is one of the enteritis causes, and it carries bacteria that trigger the disease. Control and preventing coccidia helps you avoid necrotic enteritis in chickens.

Stress

The digestive system is quite sensitive to stress. This usually refers to high temperatures, changing feeds, or high stocking densities.

ALSO READ: Beginner’s Guide to Raising Backyard Chickens

How is Necrotic Enteritis Transmitted?

Enteritis in chickens usually happens when C. perfringens produces toxins that damage their gut health. This bacteria is spread through dust, soil, litter, and feces. 

Clostridium perfringens in chickens are usually present in the feces. Due to their pecking behavior, it’s no surprise that these birds will easily take in this bacteria and spread throughout the flock. 

However, if you think about it, C. perfringens is already inside the chicken’s gut. There are just certain situations that trigger the bacteria to become dangerous to your birds. 

Signs and Symptoms of Enteritis in Poultry

The most common necrotic enteritis symptoms include depression, ruffled feathers, and low energy levels among chickens. However, these signs could signify any disease in chickens since they’re too general.

The enteritis signs and symptoms would also depend on its severity. For mild cases of necrotic enteritis, your chicken will experience a decrease in weight and an increase in food conversion. 

For acute yet severe cases, death can occur within hours from the onset of the disease. You will see the chicken’s reluctance or inability to move before they lose their lives.

Mortality may be significant, and you might lose as much as 30% of the untreated flocks. It’s not precisely contagious.

But if your community has acquired the same kind of bacteria, they are most likely to develop necrotic enteritis.

Generally speaking, this disease also causes damage to the intestinal system. Necrotic enteritis in poultry symptoms would include:

  • Diarrhea
  • Dehydration
  • Lack of appetite
  • Intoxication
  • Ruffled feathers
  • Ataxia (abnormal, uncoordinated movements)
  • Reluctance or inability to move
  • Dysbacteriosis of nutrient deficiency
  • Loss of life

intestinal enteritis in chickens

Post-Mortem Lesions of Necrotic Enteritis

As the chickens lose their life because of necrotic enteritis, a medical examination is conducted to look into their bodies and see the damages. Some of the post-mortem lesions are:

  • Darkened skin due to dehydration
  • Congested liver
  • Burnt intestinal mucosa
  • Thickened, swollen intestines
  • Dark, brown intestinal material with necrotic residue
  • Bile-stained fluid in the crop

Necrotic enteritis in poultry symptoms may be similar to the post-mortem lesions. However, these are not readily seen as enteritis signs and symptoms in the internal organs.

Hence, it is only after the death of the chickens that most people would see how enteritis in poultry can heavily affect their digestive system.

ALSO READ: Chicken Parasites: The Complete Guide Part 2

Treatment of Necrotic Enteritis in Poultry

The main focus of necrotic enteritis treatment is the predisposing factors, primarily the Clostridium perfringens in chickens. So, medications are aggressively targeted to treat and mitigate this bacteria.

Treatment of necrotic enteritis in poultry is often administered in their feeds or drinking water. Antibiotics that have been proven to be effective include oxytetracycline, virginiamycin, bacitracin, lincomycin, and penicillins.

Here are the dosage of these antibiotics and the duration of how long they should be taking this necrotic enteritis treatment:

  • Penicillin: 1,500,000 u/gal. for 5 days
  • Bacitracin: 200 to 400 mg/gal. for 5 to 7 days
  • Lincomycin: 64 mg/gal. for 7 days

If you put it in their drinking water, make sure that it is their only water source to ensure the efficacy of the treatment of necrotic enteritis in poultry. You may keep up with the medicated water for 3 to 5 days during the in-feed medication for 5 to 7 days. 

enteritis in poultry with sick chick

Prevention of Enteritis in Chickens

Necrotic enteritis in poultry takes a toll on your entire chicken production. To avoid that from happening, you need to take measures to prevent necrotic enteritis in poultry.

With Clostridium perfringens in chickens as the leading cause of enteritis, most preventive methods require maintaining this bacteria at low levels and ensuring the gut flora is balanced. 

So, here are a few ways to prevent enteritis in chickens:

Antibiotics

You can add antibiotics in their feed or water. Some trusted medications include bacitracin, lincomycin, and virginiamycin.

You can also put penicillin since it’s an effective prevention of necrotic enteritis in poultry. Just make sure to consult with your vet about these antibiotics.

Vaccination

A reliable vaccine protects your chicken from necrotic enteritis and other related illnesses like coccidiosis. Have your chickens checked and regularly vaccinated to ensure their efficacy.

It would help if you administered the vaccination the right way. Otherwise, it might cause a reaction to your birds that would still lead to enteritis in chickens.

Diet

One of the triggers of harmful Clostridium perfringens in chickens is having too much fat or viscosity in their diet. To prevent necrotic enteritis, you should be more mindful about the feed you’re giving to your chickens.

Avoid drastic enteritis diet changes and lessen the number of animal by-products, wheat, barley, and rye in their diet. Instead, give your chickens high-quality feeds and more vegetables.

Probiotics 

Having these live microbial supplements can help balance and maintain a healthy gut flora in your chickens. It also limits the production of the bacteria and lessens the number of toxins.

You can also administer exclusion cultures to add more of the good bacteria into their gut and inhibit the growth of pathogenic ones. This also promotes and improves the immunity of chickens to necrotic enteritis.

Biosecurity

This refers to isolating infected birds and possible strains of C. perfringens from healthy birds. Once there is an infection of necrotic enteritis in chickens, have the infected ones separated from the flock for at least 14 days.

Observe strict biosecurity measures by using separate clothing and boots when handling your poultry. It’s also ideal to designate an area for disinfection.

mortality due to necrotic enteritis

Frequently Asked Question about Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens

You may be hesitant or confused whether your chickens are suffering from necrotic enteritis in poultry or not. You may also have a few questions about its severity and what you can do about it.

To know more about enteritis in chickens, here are common questions that people ask about it:

Is Necrotic Enteritis Infectious?

This is an enteric disease primarily due to Clostridium perfringens in chickens. Necrotic enteritis in chickens is transmitted through feeds, soil, or feces.

Infection happens when these chickens have pecked through the contaminated ground and got this bacteria. So, if the condition continues to be in the soil and feces, enteritis in chickens is contagious.

It does not transfer from one chicken to another unless one has contacted the other’s contaminated feces or feeds. That is why it’s essential to isolate the infected chickens. 

Make a thorough clean-up in the coop at the first sign of enteritis in poultry.

Is Enteritis in Chickens Serious?

Necrotic enteritis can infect a chicken, causing signs of depression which later results in sudden death just hours from the onset of the bacteria. With that said, enteritis in chickens can be a severe condition for poultry production.

The mortality among enteritis in chickens ranges from 5% to 50%, depending on the severity. Either way, this disease causes severe intestinal damage and low energy level among these birds.

Can Enteritis in Poultry Go Away On Its Own?

Necrotic enteritis in chickens with mild symptoms may resolve on its own. However, necrotic enteritis symptoms included diarrhea and dehydration, which need some care of.

Observe your chicken’s activity and energy levels and see if they appear depressed. If they get weaker, you might need to administer necrotic enteritis treatment.

necrotic enteritis causes depression in chickens

Necrotic Enteritis in Chickens: Conclusion

Enteritis in poultry is a severe and acute disease that causes damage to the intestines and later results in high mortality. It is initially characterized by depression among chickens.

Often partnered with necrotic enteritis symptoms of diarrhea and dehydration.

Necrotic enteritis is caused by Clostridium perfringens in chickens, and the bacteria start to produce toxins due to a high-fat, viscous enteritis diet.

Fortunately, you can administer a treatment of necrotic enteritis in poultry with antibiotics, a healthy diet, and a clean coop. 

Even though there are mild cases of necrotic enteritis in chickens, you should not underestimate its effect on your birds. Know that you often lose many chickens with this disease.

It pays to focus on preventing necrotic enteritis in poultry rather than having to deal with it firsthand.

If you are worried about your birds, you can consult a vet or expert about necrotic enteritis in chickens. You will prevent enteritis in poultry more effectively and be better prepared when it happens to your flock.

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