Newcastle Disease – Backyard Chickens’ Health and Care

Illnesses in chickens

What is Newcastle Disease?

Newcastle disease is a highly contagious viral disease that affects domestic and wild birds. The virus can cause respiratory, nervous, and digestive symptoms in infected chickens, and in some cases, it can be fatal. Understanding the symptoms, causes, diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of Newcastle disease is crucial for backyard chicken owners to maintain the health of their flocks and prevent the spread of the disease to other birds.

Newcastle Disease Symptoms

The symptoms of Newcastle disease can vary depending on the severity of the disease and the strain of the virus. In chickens, symptoms can include respiratory signs such as coughing, sneezing, and nasal discharge, nervous signs such as tremors, paralysis, and twisted neck, and digestive signs such as diarrhoea and reduced egg production. The mortality rate in infected flocks can be high.

Newcastle Disease Causes

Newcastle disease is caused by the Newcastle disease virus (NDV), which is a member of the Paramyxoviridae family. The virus is highly contagious and can be transmitted through direct contact with infected birds, their poop or secretions, or contaminated equipment or materials. Wild birds can also carry the virus and spread it to domestic birds.

Newcastle Disease Diagnosis

Diagnosing Newcastle disease in chickens involves a combination of clinical signs, laboratory testing, and post-mortem examination. Samples can be taken from infected birds and tested in a laboratory to confirm the presence of the virus.

Newcastle Disease Treatment

There is no specific treatment for Newcastle disease in chickens, and infected birds should be culled to prevent the spread of the disease to other members of the flock. Symptomatic treatment can be provided to infected hens to reduce the severity of clinical signs and improve their welfare.

Newcastle Disease Prevention

Preventing Newcastle disease in chickens involves implementing strict biosecurity measures, such as controlling access to the flock, disinfecting equipment and materials, and using protective clothing and footwear. Vaccines are available for Newcastle disease and can be administered to birds as a preventative measure. Vaccination can be given in the form of live or inactivated vaccines, depending on the specific strain of the virus and the age of the birds.


Newcastle disease is a serious disease that can have significant impacts on the flock. Backyard chicken owners need to be vigilant in monitoring their flocks for signs of infection and implementing effective biosecurity measures to prevent outbreaks. Early detection and quick response are crucial in controlling the spread of the disease and minimising its impact. Vaccination is an important tool in preventing Newcastle disease, but it should be used in combination with effective biosecurity measures.

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