Nutritional Disease vs. Infectious Roup

February 1926
Dr George H Conn, Findlay, Ohio
January 01, 1926
By Dr George H Conn, Findlay, Ohio

Poultry owners have lately been experiencing a new disease among their poultry; it is observed mostly during the winter months but has occurred in some sections in late summer and early fall, if the weather has been dry and vegetation dry and fibrous. The strange thing about this disease is the fact that while it has the appearance of roup it is different than any other outbreak any of these poultry keepers have experienced. Many of them are at a loss to understand it.

This condition is spoken of as nutritional roup, but by others as nutritional disease, but the more correct term would likely be nutritional opthalmia of poultry; this is a disease due to improper feeding or nutrition; it should be classed with deficiency diseases, for that is what it is. By deficiency diseases we mean those diseases that are the result of the bird not getting all of the nutrients in sufficient amounts from its feed. The usual deficiencies are those of vitamins and minerals or both; it would be difficult if not impossible to tell which is most likely deficient as both of them are found quite closely associated in many of the common feeds used for poultry

Poultry owners will wonder why we have not bothered with this disease. In times past; this is a disease that is the result of greater domestication of our poultry; with improvement in production and housing, close confinement for heavy production and close breeding poultry are removed further from their natural habits, with the result that we have new problems of feeding or nutrition to contend with; this is one of them; problems that confront us now will possibly pass along and others appear to baffle us during the next decade. The poultry keepers’ problems are constantly changing because his methods of handling his poultry are constantly changing and because the habits and work that his poultry do are also changing.

The use of a large number of products of the modern milling practice has brought new problems for the nutrition expert; as still greater improvements are made in milling practices other problems will be solved; when poultry was fed on whole grains and seeds or upon feeds made from them there was not the same class of diseases that we have now. Few if any of these by-products that are so largely used in poultry feeds carry all of the commonly needed nutrients in sufficient amounts to enable one to make a balanced ration with them. The continuous cropping of the soil for many years without the return of ample minerals in the form of fertilizer or lime, or both, has deprived the soil of the usual amount of minerals with the result that the crops produced thereon do not have the usual amount of minerals and when used in poultry feeds result in improper nutrition.

The causative agent of nutritional disease is one of the vitamins. While vitamins have been discovered for several years we do not know much about them other than where they are found and what they do. The vitamins whose absence from the ration causes this condition is know as vitamin A (fat soluble A); it is found in such feeds as milk, yellow corn, green things, such as cabbage and chard, in egg yolks, in clover and alfalfa, etc. With a carefully balanced ration it is not difficult to supply this vitamin in sufficient amounts. During the winter months when green feed is difficult to obtain or during the late summer or early fall when it is dry and fibrous is when you can expect to have this disease in your flock. Since it is most often found during the winter months it is often mistaken for roup.

Nutritional disease makes its appearance in the flock rather slowly: the birds do not take down with it as rapidly as they do with roup and neither do they show so many signs of having a cold as they do with roup. The eyes swell and there is a white discharge accumulates in the eye, but this can be wiped out rather easily. The discharge from roup is brownish and clings to the eye; it can only be removed with difficulty.

The post-mortem shows the greatest difference between these two diseases. Upon opening the gullet of the bird affected with nutritional disease you will find a large number of small nodules which may be no larger than a millet seed; they are not raw on the surface or covered with a membrane; you will find a brownish membrane covering these patches in roup; the heart may be speckled with white as are also the liver and kidneys in nutritional disease; they look as though they have been sprinkled with flour; you will not find this with roup; the kidneys are greatly enlarged in the bird with nutritional disease; there is a characteristic odor affecting ropy birds that is not present in those that have nutritional disease. The birds with nutritional disease very frequently have a diarrhea in which there is considerable white material; this is not found associated with roup.

The characteristic things about roup are the brownish discharge of the eye which is clinging and cannot be easily removed; the characteristic odor and the patches in the gullet covered by a brownish membrane; also the rapidity with which it travels through the flock and its early association with a cold. It is necessary to differentiate between these two diseases if possible for the line of treatment that would satisfactory for nutritional disease would not be at all suitable for roup. The fact remains however that in instances the both type may be found in the same flock at the same time; this would not be expected very often but it is a possibility.

Both the curative and preventative measures for nutritional disease are one of supplying the proper feeds; with such feeds as yellow corn, middling, milk and green stuff there is little need to worry; if this is not sufficient then other green things such as spinach, if it is available, or clover or alfalfa hay may be used, together with cod liver oil; whole milk should be given when this trouble appears. Medicinal treatment would be of no help for this condition.

The handling of roup is quite another thing. It is a matter of sanitation and hygiene. The building must be cleaned and disinfected at once and should be kept dry; there should be no draughts but as much sunlight as possible. The badly infected birds should be destroyed and burned. For the others, 20 to 30 grains of potassium permanganate should be placed in each gallon of drinking water and this should be placed in crockery or glass containers (this can be purchased at most drug stores in 5 grain tablets); this should be kept before the birds at all times; 1 lb. of epsom salts dissolved in water and mixed with enough feed for 100 hens should be given once or twice each week, as needed. Keep the birds in the sunlight as much as possible. Over crowding is a beginning for roup in many instances.


An egg for hatching is an uncertain proposition, and it is, therefore, of utmost importance that we deal only with people in whom we can place utmost confidence. At the same time, nothing really complicated is involved in the ethics of buying and selling eggs for hatching.

On the seller’s part the eggs sent out should be fresh laid, nicely packed and well fertilized and from the exact mattings represented. In case of poor results from improper handling or chilling of the eggs in transit, the shipper is certainly ding his part when he duplicates the order at half price or replaces free all eggs that test out clear on the tenth day.

The buyer of eggs should not expect every egg to hatch, but should be satisfied with seven or eight chicks from fifteen eggs. In addition to that, he has a right to expect good quality in the majority of the chicks, and that is more important than quantity. Sometimes, it is true; every egg hatches even after being shipped long distances; but if such results were common the price per setting would of necessity have to be raised. The “law of compensation” must necessarily apply. It often occurs that one good chick on maturity is worth more than the price paid for the entire setting of eggs.

These are facts as we see them after considerable experience on both sides of the question. The buyer often feels that he did not get full value for his money, and it is also true that the seller is often imposed upon and blamed for conditions entirely beyond his control. If both parties will just use the Golden Rule everything will usually end quite satisfactorily.



Those who regard the production of eggs for market as a straight and easy road to wealth should remember the fact that the flock of hens which will produce eggs at a profit all the year round must receive careful, constant and skillful attention, early and late, week days and Sundays, for the full 365 days of the year.

More in this category:  |  How feed affects shell quality »

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