Chicken eye problems are some of the common challenges experienced by poultry farmers. These usually lead to blindness thereby affecting the chicken’s ability to forage. The result is often malnutrition which can be detrimental. As such, farmers should constantly be on the lookout for any diseases that can cause chicken eye infections. Also, adequate knowledge about different forms of chicken eye problems is necessary to ensure that proper treatment is availed timeously. Note that most of these problems are contagious therefore appropriate care should be taken to make sure that the diseases does not spread.

Causes of Chicken Eye Problems

Chicken eye problems are caused by injury or diseases including:

  • Viral infections
  • Bacterial infections
  • Fungal infections
  • Respiratory infections
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Nervous system disorders
  • Developmental disorders
  • Genetic problems
  • Discord and fights amongst the flock
  • Attack by predators

Conjunctivitis

Chicken eyes problems include conjunctivitis which is also referred to as ‘pink eye.’ Conjunctivitis is the irritation and inflammation of the inner eyelid membrane known as the conjunctiva, hence its name. It can also affect the inner corner of the eye’s surface. In some cases conjunctivitis occurs unilaterally (in one eye), however sometimes it affects both eyes. The main cause is usually bacteria or fungus. It can also be due to trauma, exposure to irritants in the air like smoke and chemical fumes, foreign bodies in the eye such as sand, dust and feather particles. Other causes are parasites for example eye worms like Oxyspirura mansoni, Thelazia spp. and Ceratospira spp, or related to a viral infection. Conjunctivitis can also occur as a secondary complication from a respiratory infection, systemic illness, and other eye disorders. Signs of conjunctivitis include, but are not limited to eye discharge, inflamed eye, crusting over the eyelid and rubbing eyes frequently. The result can be blindness, especially if it is not treated timeously. Blindness in both eyes can lead to malnutrition as chicken are unable to find food and water. Treatment of conjunctivitis is determined by the cause. Cases of unilateral conjunctivitis that do not respond to antibiotics should consider the presence of a foreign body. As such, a veterinary should be engaged in order to remove the object. This is usually achieved through an anesthesia whereby the object is flushed out using saline solution or an equivalent eye solution with the aid of sterile cotton swabs. Note that such chicken eye problems can be highly contagious therefore should be treated soon after manifestation.

Cataracts

Cataract is also one of the common chicken eye problems. It is clouding of the eye’s natural lens. Aged birds are highly susceptible to this problem. In such age related cases, it eventually affects both eyes. The lens in a healthy chicken eye is clear, light can easily pass through them to the back of the eye to the retina where images are processed. When a cataract is present, light cannot get through the lens as easily therefore resulting in chicken blindness. Causes of such chicken eye problems include trauma, infections and inflammation problems. The main common cause is however genetics. Chickens of the light and dark Brahma breed are predisposed to developing cataracts. Cataracts can also be a consequence of other diseases like avian encephalomyelitis or Marek’s disease. Poor dietary plans, especially those low in antioxidants and omega 3 fatty acids can also cause cataracts. These form of chicken eye problems are easily identifiable as they cause visible whiteness in the pupil, sensitivity to light and loss of eyesight. Chicken should be taken to the veterinary for treatment.

Eye Worms

Chicken eye problems also include eye worms. These are caused by contact with an infected host for example chicken eating worm infected cockroaches, snails and slugs among other feeds. The ingested worm eggs hatch inside the host bodies. Upon consuming the infected host, the worms migrate up through the chicken’s oesophagus and the ducts to the eye. Eye worms can also be caused by contact with infected dirty litter, wild birds who are infected and exposure to any infected animal faeces, such as an infected dog, cat, turkey or other livestock. Symptoms of eye worms include red, swollen as well as watery eyes; white substance appear inside the eyelid and the chicken begins to scratch which can cause blindness. Pus usually forms in the corner of the eye where the worm is located. Chicken eye problems caused by worms can be prevented by sanitising the living area, cleaning and disinfecting the area on a regular basis. It is advisable to place chickens on wire placed above ground level to keep the birds from being exposed to infected hosts and contaminated droppings. A veterinary should be engaged for treatment whereby the worms are removed from the eyes. Appropriate medication can also be used for treatment.

Disease Related Eye Problems

Chicken eye problems can possibly be due to certain diseases, the most common ones being chronic respiratory diseases and coryza. These have symptoms that include rattling, coughing, sneezing, foaming from eyes, discharge from nostrils and pus begins to form. Specifically to corzya, face swelling can be extremely severe causing blindness.  The eyelids become irritated and may stick together. Another effect of respiratory diseases on chicken eyesight are foamy eyes. Farmers should always be on the lookout for such infections as they are highly contagious and have approximately 50% death rates in severe cases, though it is usually about 20%. These diseases also cause rapid decline in productivity. For this reason, chickens with the mentioned symptoms should be isolated from the flock to prevent spread of diseases. In order to prevent the occurrence of such diseases, chickens should be vaccinated from as early as 5 weeks of age with at least 4 weeks between injections. Vaccination should also be done at 10 months of age and twice yearly thereafter. Other diseases that cause chicken eye problems include the fowl pox which causes lesions on the head, legs, and body. These lesions begin as small blisters and then progress into wart-like growths on the skin of any featherless area (face, comb, wattles, eyelids, feet, and legs) eventually leading to blindness. Marek’s Disease is another disease that leads to chicken eye problems.  It is a form of herpes virus resulting in a type of cancer. Tumours can grow in the iris causing blindness. Good management, proper sanitation, and a nutritious diet are additional means of protecting the flock from respiratory diseases that can cause chicken eye problems. Treatment comprises of water soluble antibiotics. If antibiotics prove ineffective, sulfadimethoxine can be used. Sulfa drugs are not recommended for pullets older than 14 weeks of age or for commercial layer hens. A veterinary can be engaged for advice on appropriate medication depending on the severity of the case.