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Do Backyard Chickens Need Vaccines?

Do Backyard Chickens Need Vaccines?

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In this article, we’ll answer your questions regarding backyard chicken vaccination. We’ll also show you which diseases are most common among such birds and do backyard chickens need vaccines?

If you’re raising chickens, then their health should be your top priority. Without question, healthy chickens live longer and are more productive. 

Vaccination is a popular and effective way of helping chickens fight diseases and infections. Although vaccination is often recommended for those raising chicken for commercial purposes. Backyard chickens may also need vaccines.

Should You Vaccinate Backyard Chickens?

Should You Vaccinate Backyard Chickens?

The decision to vaccinate chickens depends on several factors, including:

  • The kind of chicken you’re raising 
  • Your purpose for raising the birds
  • Your geographical location

Let’s examine each point in a bit more detail.


Firstly, you need to know the type of birds you have and what diseases they’re more likely to get. For example, Leghorns and light-egg breeds are more susceptible to infections and outbreaks compared to other breeds. 


Then comes the purpose. Your purpose for raising the birds determines if vaccination will be necessary. 

For instance, if you’re raising broilers. It might not be a good idea to vaccinate them close to the time you’re thinking of killing them. That’s because chickens can’t be killed if they’ve just been vaccinated. You’ll have to wait for 15 – 60 days before butchering a vaccinated chicken. 

Geographical Location

You also need to keep tabs on your environment. If chickens are raised in an unhealthy area, they’re prone to metabolic and nutritional diseases. So if you notice an outbreak of certain chicken diseases in your area. Your best bet is to get your birds vaccinated as soon as possible. 

Now let’s look at the common diseases that afflict your backyard chickens.

Common Chicken Diseases

Below are three of the most well-known diseases that can empty your hatchery. We’ll also delve into their symptoms and preventive measures. 

Newcastle Disease

Anyone who’s ever raised poultry, whether in small or commercial quantities, has heard or knows about Newcastle disease. Caused by the paramyxovirus, this viral and highly contagious disease can wipe out large numbers of birds in no time.

If your birds have Newcastle. You’ll see signs like coughing, droopy wings, swollen combs and wattles, watery eyes, sneezing, and nasal discharges. When the disease advances, your birds might even begin to experience convulsions and paralysis. 

In addition, the disease causes layer chickens to reduce egg production. Even if they do, their eggs are often thinly-shelled or poorly-formed.

Fortunately, there’s a vaccine to help prevent a Newcastle disease outbreak. The vaccine is usually given to chickens when they’re between 14-21 days old. On commercial farms, the vaccines are often administered every 21-90 days.

Marek’s Disease

Marek’s disease is by far one of the most deadly diseases among chickens. Caused by the chicken herpes virus, this disease can cause death in up to 80% of an infected flock. 

Marek’s disease leads to symptoms such as paralysis, blindness, head tremors, and tumors in internal organs. No wonder the disease is popularly referred to as “fowl paralysis.” Infected birds often die from starvation and loss of weight. Sometimes they might even be trampled upon to death by other birds. 

The sad news is that there’s no treatment for Marek’s disease. In some cases, chickens carry the infection around for years without showing symptoms. If any of your chickens show signs of the disease, we recommend isolating them from your flock. 

Your best bet, however, is to vaccinate your chickens against the disease. Administer the vaccine once your chicks are a day old. Afterward, you’ll need to isolate them for about 4-7 days before introducing them to the flock.

Do Backyard Chickens Need Vaccines?

Fowl Pox

Fowl Pox is another common infection among chickens, especially backyard chickens. Although it’s slow-spreading compared to other chicken diseases, it causes scab-like lesions on unfeathered parts of the chicken like combs and wattles.

While Pox doesn’t typically result in death, it can be fatal when oral cavities or air passage gets infected. Overall, Fowl Pox leads to stunted growth, poor feed conversion, and low egg production in chicken. 

Because the disease is transmitted from one flock to another by mosquitoes, it’s important to find ways to get rid of these insects. 

Thankfully, there’s a Fowl Pox vaccine to reduce the chances of an outbreak. Doses are administered when chicks are 12-16 weeks old. However, because the vaccine produces a mild form of the disease, only healthy chickens should be vaccinated. 


If you see blood or mucus in the droppings of your birds, there’s a good chance they have Coccidiosis. Other symptoms are diarrhea, blood at the vent side of the bird, listlessness, ruffled feathers, and weight loss.

As one of the deadliest diseases that can afflict your flock. Coccidiosis is caused by a parasitic organism (Eimeria) that destroys the intestinal lining of your chickens, making nutrient absorption difficult. 

Treating Coccidiosis can be rather tricky. Because there are six species of the parasite that cause the disease, your chicken might build immunity towards one and not the others. You’ll need to check with a veterinarian if you’re not sure which antibiotics to use. 

For prevention, there are vaccines available to help you. Note that some vaccines can cause mild illnesses in chickens, so you should vaccinate healthy chickens.

Last Words

Whether you’re raising chickens as a hobby or to sell, you’ll need to keep them in top shape. One of the best ways to prevent disease outbreaks is to use vaccines.

However, deciding to vaccinate depends on factors such as the kind of chicken you’re raising and where you live. Vaccination can help you avoid common chicken diseases like Newcastle’s disease, Marek’s disease, and Coccidiosis.

Continuously observe and monitor your flock so you can spot any issue before it gets worse. Also, if you’re ever in doubt concerning what to do when your chicken starts to show signs of sickness, consult a veterinary doctor. 

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