Runt and Stunt: Deadly Poultry Virus

Runt and Stunt has got to be one of the best names for a disease.  But then again Kinky Back is a pretty good one too.  

These names don’t sound super scientific but they do a great job of describing the impact the challenge has on the bird.    Some of our videos on this channel deal with diseases.  But most of the time you as growers can’t do very much about them. We are not trying to give you extensive diagnostic skills so you can prescribe your own remedy.  But if you can recognize some symptoms, maybe you and your service tech can keep a bad thing from being a devastating thing.

Runt and Stunt is also known as Malabsorption Syndrome.  Just like many of the issues we talk about, a lot of it boils down to nutrient absorption.  This challenge actually prevents nutrient absorption so the problem is compounded.  Nutrient absorption is what is needed to help the bird fight the “virus/disease” but the virus prevents nutrient absorption. The symptoms and mortality commonly peak about day 11 so this is an issue that typically affects young birds.  

There are numerous signs of runt and stunt.  So much so that it would be hard to determine if they have runt and stunt or if they just have malnutrition, except that there are so many different signs.  Many of the birds will appear small and dwarfed.  The normal uniformity of 70% or so can decrease to 35%, slower feathering, pale beaks and legs, sometimes the tips of the wings seem broken or twisted (sometimes referred to as Helicopter Syndrome), feed in the manure, huddling.  It is not uncommon to see many of these symptoms as isolated situations but when you see them together then it could be a strong possibility that you are dealing with Runt and Stunt.  

Veterinarians conclude this syndrome is more than likely caused by a virus.  The problem is that it doesn’t seem to be one particular virus.  There are many virus’ that can cause this and can even be the culmination of more than one virus.  Basically the virus/viruses affect the cells in the intestine where the nutrients are absorbed by the bird.  The intestinal walls become thin and semitransparent.  It almost sounds like a scifi movie.  A virus that attacks the one place that could help the host defeat the virus.  

As if that is not enough.  Infected birds will not recover and they probably will not die.  At this time there are no confirmatory tests or effective retreatments.  Now that we are all depressed and feel no hope lets talk about how to move forward.  This is transmittable, which means that we can try to keep other birds from getting infected.  Many of the strategies are the things we know to do already:  biosecurity, keep stress low, air flow, plenty of water…. the usual.  Culling may need to be done more aggressively.  With the help of your tech, broiler manager, or vet you can try to identify this early and keep a bad thing from becoming a devastating thing.  It is a rough challenge but I’m sure many of you have seen it first hand.

We are starting to receive requests for certain topics for future videos.  If you have something you think would be helpful for your fellow growers please let us know and we will see what we can do.  And if you have any questions feel free to reach out to me at 800-608-3755 or

The Author
Allen Reynolds
Poultry Development
Allen has worked in the poultry industry for 15 years, gaining experience in raising birds, house operations, equipment and bird health. As our Poultry Development Rep, he is passionate about improving the lives of farmers through natural poultry solutions and education. In addition to outstanding customer service and superior poultry support, he is also involved in helping growers through our Poultry Biosecurity Youtube Channel. Allen works to stay up to date on the latest industry news to bring relevant topics to our subscribers. He is often seen as the host, sharing profitable tips and tricks to poultry farmers. Outside of the office, Allen enjoys working on the farm, scuba diving, and riding dirt bikes.