Omphalitis: Preventing Mushy Chicks

  1. GPS1504
    Omphalitis is a disease responsible for a lot of chick deaths during the first week of life. Also referred to as Mushy Chick Disease or Navel Ill, Omphalitis is essentially a navel-yolk sack infection in which a plethora of bacteria could be present wreaking havoc on affected chicks. Affected chicks may die as soon as 24 hours after the infection sets in or can live up to 7 days with bacteria such as Streptococcus, Staphylococcus, Proteus, and others ravaging their bodies.

    The reason this disease is often referred to as Mushy Chick Disease because affected chicks will actually feel mushy to the touch. The reason for this mushiness is due to subcutaneous edema, which is the presence of a large amount of fluid collecting in bodily tissues. Edema usually occurs between cells or in the circulatory system. Also present will be qualities such as drooping heads, depression, lethargy and listlessness. Discoloration around the navel area may be visible as well as a bulge and foul odor.

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    Photo Source: Backyard Chickens

    When chicks hatch, they have fully healed navels in most cases. Every now and then, however, a chick may hatch with a navel that is still somewhat open. While natural closing of the navel is likely and ideal, sometimes a deformed navel presents itself. It is largely deformed navels that are unable to close on their own that are an open invitation for disease causing bacteria to move themselves in. Once this happens, the body temperature of the chick combined with remaining yolk nutrients make a hospitable environment conducive to bacterial growth against which the weak immune system of a chick cannot fight. To give your chick the best chance of a properly developed navel, check your incubator temperature; if it is too hot or humid, the navel of chicks can be affected.

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    Photo Source: Poultry Hub

    To avoid a disease such as Omphalitis, a sterile environment is necessary for hatching chicks. If the environment is sterile, the bacteria that cause this disease should not pose a threat to young chicks. However, if such bacteria are present, all they need is to gain access to the yolk sac to do damage. The higher your standards of cleanliness, the better off your chicks will ultimately be, both in the case of preventing Mushy Chick Disease and other illnesses as well.

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    Photo Source: Backyard Chickens

    As with all illness, an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure. This is especially true with Omphalitis as there is no adopted form of treatment and it is usually fatal. To prevent the onset of Omphalitis, stay on top of cleanliness regardless of whether you incubate with a hen or a machine. Keep eggs dry and only transport them in clean, dry containers and disinfect incubators between uses. Allow chicks to fully dry in the incubator as this aids in navel closing and feed your chicks as soon as possible; the sooner they begin eating on their own, the sooner the yolk sac will reabsorb and the less likely it will be that they will fall victim to Mushy Chick Diseases.

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