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Preventing Blackhead Disease in turkeys

Agriculture.com Staff Updated: 07/12/2010 @ 8:28am

R. Scott Bayer
Kansas State University Extension Specialist, Poultry Science

The state of Kansas is a major producer of turkeys, used for home use and restocking programs across the state, and Kansas State University often receives calls from producers who describe symptoms of their birds that may be related to a disease known as Histomoniasis, or Blackhead.  Although many of the symptoms described by producers are common to a number of diseases, it is likely that a large number of these flocks are indeed infected with Blackhead. Most flock owners have heard of this disease; however, few understand the cause and development of the illness.

Turkeys seem to be most susceptible to Blackhead.  In fact, Blackhead may be the most serious poultry disease confronting the small turkey producer.  However, chukkar partridge also are susceptible as well as pheasants, quail and other game birds.

Early signs of this disease may include drowsiness, drooping of the head and wings, walking with an unusual gait, soiled vent feathers due to diarrhea and bright yellow feces resulting from the infection of the liver.

The bird also may become anorexic leading to a consider- able loss of weight and a depressed, weak appearance.

Sometimes, the head of the bird appears to be cyanotic, which is a bluish or black discoloration of the skin due to deficient oxygenation of the blood, hence the name, Blackhead.

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