Defeating Dermatitis

Today we are going to shed light on a word that has struck many a grower with fear: Dermatitis. No doubt it’s a devastating disease, but the scariest thing is that it can hurt your farm quickly without much warning. 

stop dermatitis in chicken farms

How to get rid of dermatitis in poultry houses

What comes to mind when I mention the word Dermatitis? For most poultry farmers, this term means a threat to both their birds and their entire farm. Necrotic dermatitis, specifically gangrenous dermatitis, is a secondary bacterial infection usually caused by an infectious bursal disease.

Watch below for more on gangrenous dermatitis and how to fight this disease challenge.



Dead birds. Day after day. 

It happens like this... You begin walking to your house in the morning and as you make the turn at the end of the house, you see 5 dead birds in the corner. The next day in that corner there are 20 birds. The next day there are 70 birds. Depending on how bad the outbreak of dermatitis is, you could lose up to 500 birds in a house in one day!

An even more frustrating issue with gangrenous dermatitis is that it's actually a secondary issue and the result of underlying causes in the house and bird. With characteristic gross lesions, this clinical disease can turn your poultry house environment upside down.   

fight necrotic skin disease in poultry

Bacteria and infectious bursal disease

As we mentioned, infectious bursal disease and other contributing factors like inclusion body hepatitis are the cause of gangrenous dermatitis- it's a secondary disease. The initial disease can come from a variety of environmental conditions that predispose flocks to more serious conditions.

The factor of bacteria: Clostridium is a nasty bacteria that is the main culprit in causing this disease, along with and other disease organisms. Surprisingly these culprits are EVERYWHERE- the gut of the bird, the litter, dust in the air, feces, etc…  When the skin of the bird is damaged, it is like opening the door for these bandits to get into places that can do damage. 


An Important Sign to Look For

I’m sure many of you have picked up your dead birds and felt the spongy, fluid filled skin.  This comes from gas that is created by the bacteria between the muscle and the skin. If you can detect this happening in your flock before the mortality begins to increase then you have a good chance of minimizing the damage from gangrenous dermatitis.

Can you defeat dermatitis? 

fight gangrenous dermatitis in chickens

No matter what you do to deal with the bad bacteria, it is impossible to get rid of all of it. The goal is to manage the load levels. That is why helping your birds build their immune system is crucial. 

Giving your birds probiotics will help them fight off harmful bacteria, like Clostridium and staphylococcus aureus, in the gut. Probiotics also help with nutrient uptake. When birds pass feed, that's not just affecting their feed conversion, it's depriving them of the nutrients in the feed.

If your integrator allows you to run vitamins, apple cider vinegar, electrolytes and other treatments, try running those as well for added immune support. Along with keeping them hydrated, by inhibiting bad bacteria from overpopulating inside the gut, your birds have a better chance to fight against dermatitis. 

Address wet litter and litter moisture

Foot pad dermatitis is another form of dermatitis that can be deadly to a flock. When chicken feet have any cuts or openings in them, they can become very vulnerable to bacteria living in bedding material.

Many farmers need to do a complete clean out of litter material in order to increase their litter quality and get rid of harmful microbial growth. However, this may not be enough to address serious outbreaks.

Litter Treatments

litter life litter treatment

Using a litter treatment can address the bacteria involved in dermatitis and other diseases on a microbial level. Litter treatments like Litter Life can prevent repeat outbreaks by using beneficial bacteria to combat the harmful bacteria that causes these diseases. Check out our Grower Spotlight blog to learn about how Litter Life prevented a Georgia poultry farmer from losing his farm.

Contact Us

If you have any questions or if we can be of any help, feel free to call 800-608-3755 or email

About the Author

Allen Reynolds

Allen Reynolds

Poultry Sales Manager

This was written by Allen Reynolds, Southland Organics’ Poultry Sales Manager. Allen spent years working on poultry farms, from installing equipment to dumping chicks. He has been helping poultry farmers overcome obstacles since 2014, focusing on poultry farm strength in the antibiotic-free environment since 2017. He has traveled thousands of miles and worked closely with hundreds of farmers during his time with Southland Organics. Allen is known by even more farmers from the YouTube channel Poultry Biosecurity, where he regularly appears in videos that educate farmers on topics like bird health and farm business.

Learn more about Allen Reynolds

Isabella (Izy) Dobbins

Marketing Manager

This was edited by Isabella (Izy) Dobbins, Southland Organics' Marketing Manager. Izy has devoted her education and career to communicating science-related topics. With an enthusiasm for sharing accurate and honest content relating to science and agriculture, she ensures Southland Organics' publications are as informative as they are interesting. Izy graduated from the University of Georgia with a bachelor's degree in advertising, minors in both Spanish and environmental health science and a Certificate in Sustainability. She has been working at Southland Organics since 2021.

Learn more about Izy Dobbins

Izy Dobbins
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