How to protect your chickens from Newcastle Disease

by James Kamuye Kataru
Healthy free-range chicken on a farm. Photo by Kataru Concepts

Chickens are the most honored birds in East African communities. A ceremony is not complete if the chicken is not served either as a stew, fried, or roasted. Young children visiting their maternal grandmothers are served chicken to show them love and are given chickens as presents to rear them back in their homes. Chicken is served at weddings, funerals, and other functions where meals are provided. In some Kenyan communities, failing to serve visitors with chicken is considered rude and an offense.

The love for chickens has made them a ‘must-have’ in our society. The need to keep them safe and healthy is key for families that rear chickens. Rearing chickens is simple to practice households are expected to do, however poor they may be. Chickens provide families with eggs and manure for their farms besides the meat and extra income from their sales.

While raising chickens, guinea fowls, turkeys, and other birds for their meat, eggs, manure, or for sale to generate income, it is important to keep them safe from Newcastle disease which is caused by a highly contagious virus that devastates flocks. The disease also ravages pheasants, partridges, and other wild and captive birds causing them to die in just a few days.

Scientific Animations Without Borders (SAWBO) is a University-based program that transforms extension information on relevant topics such as agriculture, health, women’s empowerment, peace and justice, and climate change resilience,  into animation videos that are then voice overlaid into the diversity of languages from around the world. SAWBO has been creating animations and delivering knowledge globally for over a decade. Visit the SAWBO website for more information.

Feed the Future Scientific Animations Without Borders Responsive Adaptive Participatory Information Dissemination Program (SAWBO RAPID) is a project of SAWBO. SAWBO RAPID has produced animations identifying critical food security topics and delivering knowledge to mitigate COVID-19’s secondary economic impacts, including disruption to trade, supply chains, and markets. The project is based at Michigan State University and Purdue University in the U.S. is funded by USAID under the Feed the Future initiative and is supported by the USAID Kenya Mission.

In the SAWBO RAPID Animated video: How to Protect Your Chickens from Newcastle Disease, we shall be looking at how the disease infects chickens, and ways to control it, including vaccination.

How Newcastle disease spreads

This disease occurs and spreads widely in a flock through:

Contact with an infected bird, which can look and act healthy

Contact with unclean farm tools including baskets, hoes, spades, buckets, and feeders

Contact with clothes and shoes of people who’ve been around infected animals

Drinking water and feed that has been contaminated with a sick chicken’s manure

The air from a nearby sick flock

Symptoms of Newcastle disease

There are many symptoms of disease or illness in birds with Newcastle disease which include:

  • Sneezing
  • A running nose
  • Coughing
  • Difficulty in breathing or gasping for air
  • Swelling around the eyes, neck, and head
  • Greenish and watery manure
  • Eating less or none at all
  • Sleepy, drooping wings
  • The bird’s coat looks like its dragging on the ground
  • Uncoordinated clumsy walk or movement
  • Unable to move legs, wings, or a twisted neck
  • If you detect Newcastle disease in your flock, consider the following actions to properly manage your sick flock:
  • Remove any birds showing signs of Newcastle disease from your flock and isolate them in cages far from your flock
  • Contact your veterinary or agricultural extension officer 
  • Slaughter birds that are showing severe signs of illness, including gasping for air
  • Bury or burn dead birds in a pit for proper disposal and to prevent the spread of Newcastle disease
  • Disinfect the tools you used to slaughter the sick birds

Prevention of Newcastle disease

There are four easy actions you can take to prevent or reduce the spread of Newcastle disease in your flock. They include:

  1. Vaccinate your flock regularly. Vaccines are very effective in preventing Newcastle disease.
  2. Keep new chicken that you’ve purchased and birds that have failed to sell on the market in a pen separated and far from your flock for three weeks to ensure they do not have any illnesses that can be transferred to your flock.
  3. Maintain good hygiene around your flock by washing your hands, clothing, shoes, and other tools used before and after handling birds. If possible, limit contact between your chickens and birds such as guinea fowl, turkeys, and pigeons. Keep your birds in an elevated, well-ventilated coop with a mesh wire or floor that will allow manure to fall through onto the ground.
  4. If your chickens wander freely (free-range) provide additional feed including maize, bran, ground grain, green leaves, ground seashells, insects, and meal scraps provide good nutrition and give the chicken a better chance of combating infections. Feeding your birds at specific times, like late afternoon can help your birds return home (to your land) each day thus protecting them from predators.


This video was made possible by the generous support of the American people through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID), under the terms of Contract No. 7200AA20LA00002. USAID administers US foreign assistance in more than 80 countries worldwide. The contents are the responsibility of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of USAID or the United States Government.

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