Fowl Pox in Chickens: Cause, Treatment and Prevention

You will hear it called fowl pox or avian pox, but either way, fowl pox becomes a catalyst to disease in all avian species, including the chicken. When you have a growing flock of chickens, don’t underestimate the health of your bird. You want to keep them as healthy as possible because the meat will taste better, and the bird will have a higher quality of life.

Some of the other birds susceptible to fowl pox include:

  • Turkey
  • Ducks
  • Pheasants
  • Wild birds

Fowl Pox: What You Need to Know

This disease characterizes itself through lesions on the unfeathered parts of the bird. Experts call this dry pox. When you have mucous membranes in the oral cavity, trachea or larynx, they call this wet pox.

Usually, fowl pox’s mortality rate sits between one to five percent. This depends on the severity of the disease, and you have cases where wet pox will have a much higher mortality rate.

This viral disease spreads slowly, and you have three types of fowl pox to be aware of. First, you have the fowl pox that impacts chickens and turkeys. Next, you have pigeon pox virus, and finally, you have the canarypox virus. With each viral disease, it only targets the specific species of birds. Chickens, for example, can’t catch the pigeon pox virus.

Wet and Dry Pox

avian pox in chickens

You have two forms of fowl pox: wet and dry. The dry form happens more often, and luckily, it poses fewer dangers to your chickens than wet pox, but either one can threaten your herd if you don’t handle it with care. Dry pox causes lesions to the legs, body and head in places that don’t have feathers. While it begins as a small blister, it progresses to wart from where you will have many risks. The warts first appear as small yellow bumps, but they will continue to grow with time. As the pox lesion grows in size, it might change to a dark brown color. In particular, cases close to the eye can cause many problems.

Next, you have wet pox. Most chicken farmers consider this the deadlier form of the two. Wet pets will cause problems within the throat and the respiratory tract as white nodules. Eventually, it grows into a large mass that might even appear to be cheesy. The danger comes from how as it grows, the chickens stop drinking water, eating food and altogether breathing. In severe cases, you can usually figure that it will result in the death of your prized birds.

You do have cases where chickens might have wet pox and dry pox at the same time. With either type of infection, it leads to a loss of appetite, and you get a lower production of eggs. In most cases, birds that suffer from this will recover within two to four weeks, but you could see where it takes several weeks or even months for the bird to recover. Part of the reason for the slow recovery comes from how this viral infection spreads slowly throughout the pack.

Origin of Fowl Pox

Fowl Pox originates from mosquitoes that bite one of the flock. They carry this disease and introduce it to the bird. Normally, this happens because the mosquito previously fed on a chicken that had fowl pox, and this led to them being a latent carrier of the disease.f

After a mosquito feeds on a chicken with fowl pox, it will keep the disease in its salivary glands for up to eight weeks. When the mosquito bites another chicken, it spreads the illness to the uninfected chicken.

Once the chicken catches the illness, it can spread fowl pox to other members of the flock through scratches, mucous membranes and broken skin. This gets spread, and it can easily transmit to the other birds.

What Age Can Birds Catch This?

fowlpox

The age doesn’t matter much, and birds can catch this no matter what age they might be. Along with targeting no particular age, fowl pox can happen at any time of the year. This virus spreads around from skin dander, dried scabs and feathers.

Signs of the Disease’s Presence

  • Weight loss
  • Eye swelling
  • Scabs and wart-like lesions
  • Yellow canker lesions
  • Lower water consumption

Treatment Options

While you don’t have available treatments for this disease, luckily, it doesn’t have a high mortality rate. If you want to control this disease from causing an outbreak among your chickens, you might vaccinate them to it. You have several pox vaccines available for birds. Because this virus doesn’t spread quickly, you can typically still vaccinate your chickens even if 20 percent of the flock exhibits signs that they might have this disease.

The Good, the Bad and the Ugly

Your birds will contract fowl pox, and they will never experience a second case of it again that’s the good. You might consider it like chicken pox with humans. Lower the risk through vaccinating them.

The bad is that fowl pox can and will return to the flock and infect those that may not have had it previously. This can be an ongoing problem that you hope you never have to go through again. The ugly comes from how as your bird catches this disease, they will be vulnerable to secondary infections that can worsen the condition of your flock. They could get cutaneous or systemic infection. You can handle the dry form relatively easily, but if your flock contracts the wet form, it can be more difficult for them to manage.

How Do You Care for Birds with a Pox Infection?

fowl pox treatment

Once fowl pox infects your birds, you need to reinforce their immune systems. A stronger immune system can help them to fight the infection and to stay healthier for longer. You might give your birds vitamins to strengthen their immune system. Some of the common vitamins given include Vitamin E, Vitamin D and Vitamin A. These oil vitamins will work best when you give it to them in liquid form.

You won’t pay much for vitamins, and it goes a long way to protecting the flock.

Can This Spread to Humans?

Luckily, fowl pox can’t spread to humans. The pox found in humans happens because of a different virus. Nevertheless, the virus could still be brought to your birds through the virus is on your equipment or your shoes. You should always wash your hands thoroughly after you have handled your birds, and you need to sanitize your equipment as well. Usually, this virus will have an incubation period of between four to 14 days before it fully manifests.

Conditions Rife with This Virus

In particular, this virus will have an increased chance of happening when you have flocks enclosed to a small area. Either that or the large and unsanitary commercial settings have become an equally dangerous breeding ground for this type of virus.

In some cases, however, you can’t avoid it because of how your flock needs to stay inside for the winter. That becomes another risk, but you can’t do much about it. Any birds that might have fowl pox should be put on quarantine to prevent its spread to other birds. While this virus spreads slowly, you want to do what you can to contain the infection.

How Would a Veterinarian Handle It?

fowl pox in chickens

Veterinarians will usually prescribe antibiotics to deal with this illness. This helps to defend the bird from secondary illnesses as it recovers from the initial disease. No medication exists for the fowl pox virus because you technically can’t treat viruses, but the vet will put its primary attention on helping to keep it from harming the bird.

Prevent It

As the saying goes, an ounce of prevention is better than a pound of the cure. To prevent it, you might take proactive measures to vaccinate your chickens for fowl pox. You want to do whatever you can to wage war against insect pests. For example, you might spray the area to kill off the mosquitoes. In this way, you lower the risk that one of your chickens will get bitten with fowl pox. After it has happened, you can’t do much other than to wait it out.

Summary

In general, if you want to prevent fowl pox from ever taking hold of your flock, you need to check your chickens for it. Do what you can to keep it from happening. Treat any abnormalities that you notice as quickly as possible because this will keep your flock in the healthiest condition possible. Luckily, this virus isn’t the worst one that your chickens can get. The most dangerous include Marek’s disease, Infectious Coryza and Coccidiosis. Still, you want to take active measures against fowl pox because it can still cause a lot of harm to your chickens.

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