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Vitamin A Deficiency in Chickens

A lack of vitamin A in a chicken’s diet can lead to problems with its mucous-producing glands and egg-laying abilities.

By Jose A. Linares, DVM, and John El-Attrache, PhD


Vitamin A is required for the well-being and function of chickens’ mucous-producing glands, like those inside the eyelid, nose or lining of the esophagus. Vitamin A deficiency results from a lack of vitamins in the diet. This is common in caged birds that do not have access to green forage.

Vitamin A Deficiency Symptoms
Vitamin A-deficient chickens develop a crusty material in the nostrils and eyelids, progressing to the accumulation of a cheesy material. In the initial stages, it mimics respiratory diseases. Similar damage in the throat makes swallowing difficult. Deficient chicks fail to grow, are severely depressed and die of organ failure. Adult hens experience a drop in egg production, and breeding birds experience a drop in hatchability.

Can it spread?
This vitamin deficiency can affect an entire flock. It is not spread from bird to bird, but it can spur other communicable infections. Flock owners derive satisfaction from mixing their own feed, but consultation with a nutritionist, a poultry nutrition book or an extension-service agent [LINK: /farm-resources/farmer-resources/cooperative-extension.aspx ] would reduce the risk of deficiencies associated with poorly balanced rations.

Vitamin A Deficiency Prevention
Free-range chickens get their vitamin A from leafy greens, but chickens in an enclosure require it in their feed.

Vitamin A Deficiency Treatment
Treatment consists of changing the chicken’s feed and of supplementing feed with vitamin A at two to four times the normal level for two weeks. A water-soluble vitamin A supplement is available for ease of administration.

About the Authors: Dr. Jose A. Linares, DVM, ACPV, is the Resident Director of the Texas Veterinary Medical Diagnostic Laboratory, Poultry Diagnostic Laboratory in Gonzales, TX. Dr. John El-Attrache, PhD, is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Veterinary Pathobiology in the College of Veterinary Medicine at Texas A&M University.

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