Anatomy Emergencies/Illness

Assessing Eye Issues In Chickens

If you’re like me you probably remember some snappy acronyms that are designed to trigger a response regarding health emergencies. I regularly see television commercials warning of the signs of a stroke using the acronym FAST (Face, Arm, Speech, Time). Regardless of hearing it countless times, I often wonder if I would recall the appropriate reminder when faced with having to determine the issue and the desired response.

More often than not, folks who post for help in online chicken groups fail to provide good descriptions or accompanying photos of what is going on with their birds. It’s not uncommon to see a post that goes something like “Help, my bird is sick” with no clues as to what they have done to determine the symptoms or how they have treated the bird so far.

I’ve previously written about how to do a basic health check to create a list of signs as well as a post about blindness in chickens with some tips on have to diagnose vision loss and what to do to accommodate your disabled bird. If you’ve got a bird who seems to have vision issues or has something obvious going on with its eyes this exercise might help you narrow the options for diagnosis.

I recently came across the acronym PERRLA that is used to deal with vision issues in people and thought it might be useful when dealing with your flock

Pupils: are the dark dots in the center of the iris, the coloured part of the eye. They shrink in bright light or widen in dim light, to control how much light gets into the eye.

Equal: Pupils in both eyes should be the same size, colour and in the same location.

Round: Normal chicken pupils are perfectly round.

Reactive: refers to how well a bird’s pupils react to the following:

Light: When there’s too much light, pupils constrict a little to protect a bird’s vision. To test this, shine a flashlight in their eyes and watch what their pupils do. They should get smaller.

Accommodation: is the eyes’ ability to change focus. Healthy pupils dilate (get bigger) when your chicken looks at something far away and shrink when they focus on something that is closer. If they don’t adjust at all, that’s considered an abnormal reaction.

Take your chicken into a dim room and do the following:

  • Swing a small flashlight back and forth in front of their eyes to see if they react to the light.
  • Move your index finger towards their eye then pull it back, then from side to side. Do their pupils react? Do they focus normally or not?

Examine your chicken’s eyes for the following:

  • Odd pupil shape or size
  • Crusts, tears, redness, discharge, blood
  • Swelling
  • Damage to the nictating membrane (inner eyelid)
  • Inability to open eyes
  • Cloudy or white areas on the eyeball
  • Prolonged dilation or constriction of the pupils
  • Squinting, twitching, blinking
  • Sensitivity to light
  • Asymmetrical appearance

Using PERRLA and a closer examination of your bird’s eyes can give you clues to their health and pinpoint signs of other conditions. It can be a good test to check for issues such as: ammonia toxicity, aspergillosis, blindness, cataracts, conjunctivitis, eye worms, injuries, lead poisoning, Marek’s Disease or a number of respiratory illnesses such as Coryza, ILT and Mycoplasma gallisepticum.

If you are posting online for help or taking your bird to a veterinarian examine their eyes and make a list of symptoms first, which will help rule in, or out, various conditions that affect chicken eyes. It’s also a good tool to use when doing routine health checks with your flock so you’re aware of what is normal and what changes might be occurring with your birds.

Featured photo credit: Katie Karssen

0 comments on “Assessing Eye Issues In Chickens

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bitchin' Chickens

Everything You Need To Know About Small Flock Chickens & More

%d bloggers like this: