Do Chickens Need Vaccination? Complete Guide

Yes! Chickens need vaccination just like other farm animals. Vaccination plays a critical role in keeping your flock healthy and productive. It also helps prevent infectious diseases that may affect your birds’ well-being. Usually, the vaccination of chickens is carried out at day-old chicks or even earlier.

Types of Vaccines for Chickens

There are numerous approved vaccines allowed under the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) organic standards. These vaccines are created to provide an effective means to reduce or prevent the adverse effects of some poultry diseases that may cause health problems in your chickens.

Here is a selection of different types of vaccines for your chickens:

– New Castle Disease Vaccine

If you are raising chickens and turkeys in your backyard, make sure to routinely vaccinate them against the deadly Newcastle disease. This type of vaccine has the attenuated virus, meaning that the virus is alive but in a dormant state, so its ability to cause disease in your chickens has been reduced.

New Castle Disease vaccine can be administered via drinking water or as drops through the nose and eyes. Killed virus vaccines should be given to the pullets by injection. Such an immunization process should be done before the start of egg production.

You may combine infectious bronchitis attenuated vaccine with New Castle disease vaccine to immunize young chickens aged between 10 and 35 days. On the other hand, you can give your layer and breeder chicken flocks the vaccine at an interval of three months to help them maintain sufficient levels of immunity.

Pullets are vaccinated against New Castle disease when they are transferred from their growing barn to the layer house. Normally such pullets are 18 to 20 weeks old. No other vaccination of this kind will be required thereafter.

This is because the higher levels of antibodies obtained during the repeated vaccinations will ensure that passive immunity is transferred to the developing chick inside the egg.

How about when you buy mature chickens or pullets to add to your vaccinated birds? In this case, you may have to vaccinate your new flock against New Castle disease using the B-1 vaccine.

The B-1 New Castle disease vaccine is given through drinking water, intranasal or intraocular routes (via the nose or eyes in the form of drops). At 4 weeks later you can give them the LaSota Newcastle disease vaccine.

If you have turkeys, make sure they are vaccinated against New Castle disease at 4 weeks old. Also, administer the same vaccine when your breeders are housed. For more information about the New Castle disease vaccination, contact your local veterinary officer.

– Infectious Bronchitis Vaccine

In most cases, chicken keepers combine the New Castle disease vaccine with the Infectious bronchitis vaccine to create a single vaccine. This combination is usually given to young chickens aged between 10 and 35 days old. The vaccination is done while these birds are still in their hatchery.

Infectious bronchitis vaccine is simply a modified live virus vaccine. As the name suggests, it contains a bronchitis virus, particularly that of the Massachusetts sero-type. For the vaccine to work effectively, it must have the right sero-type of a particular virus for a given location. However, do not vaccinate your chickens during an outbreak of an infectious disease.

– Infectious Laryngotracheitis Vaccine

As a chicken owner, you will need state approval before you vaccinate your flock against Infectious Laryngotracheitis (ILT). You are advised against carrying out Infectious Laryngotracheitis vaccination unless there is a major outbreak of the disease in your area or on your farm.

The infectious Laryngotracheitis vaccination is given to the chickens through the nose or eye-drop method. Ensure that your chickens are at least a month old. Chickens younger than that are usually less responsive to this vaccine.

Perform rapid diagnosis followed by intensive vaccination to stop an outbreak of Infectious Laryngotracheitis disease from spreading among your birds.

Should you decide to vaccinate chickens on your premises, ensure that any newly acquired birds are also vaccinated. You should also boost your chickens’ immune system yearly through Infectious Laryngotracheitis vaccination.

Since ILT uses an attenuated virus, all chickens should be included in this vaccination program. If not the virus will transfer between your flock and become reactive. Poor vaccination can lead to a serious outbreak of Infectious Laryngotracheitis disease.

– Marek’s Disease

Give your birds Marek’s disease vaccine as soon as they hatch. The vaccination process should be done right in the hatchery particularly on the day your chicks hatch. Administer the vaccine by injection on the back of the neck and under the skin of each chick.

If your chicks leave the hatchery without being vaccinated, they may be exposed, making Marek’s disease vaccine less effective. The main purpose of this type of vaccine is to suppress or prevent the emergence of Marek’s disease paralysis and tumors. This vaccine does not stop your chickens from getting infected with the Marek’s virus.

Typically, chickens below the age of 16 weeks are the most affected by Marek’s disease. Other poultry birds like turkeys and a number of game birds such as quail and pheasants can become infected with the disease, but they are not vaccinated against Marek’s disease.

– Fowl Pox Vaccine

Several pox viruses exist today and they include:

  • Fowl pox
  • Pigeon pox
  • Quail pox
  • Canary pox
  • Psittacine pox
  • Ratite pox

Pigeon pox infects birds such as pigeons, turkeys, chickens, geese, and ducks. Canary pox is common among chickens, sparrows, and other bird species. Exposure to any of the pox viruses can stimulate the development of a strong immunity to that virus and more of other viruses.

Some pox viruses that infect chickens, pigeons, and turkeys are preventable through vaccination although there is no known effective commercial vaccine that can prevent canary pox.

To vaccinate your chickens or pigeons, you need to use the wing-web stick method. In this regard, two slotted needles with an applicator are used. All you need is to dip the slotted needles in a vaccine and then thrust through your bird’s wing web.

Consider the thigh-stick method when vaccinating your turkeys. The wing web technique can cause conjunctival pox in turkeys since they sleep with the heads under their wings.

If your farm has different kinds of birds, it is advisable to vaccinate all of them to prevent severe fowl pox problems. Also, you should vaccinate your domestic chicks and poults when they are a day old.

Pullets need to be vaccinated when they are aged between 10 and 12 weeks while turkeys should be 8 to 14 weeks to undergo fowl pox vaccination.

Sometimes quail pox affects chickens but there is no cross-protection between fowl pox and quail pox. Immunization for the two pox cases is necessary, especially when they become endemic in a given location. You can give your flock fox vaccination to lower the severity of the outbreak.

Never carry out any vaccination unless you are sure of an outbreak in your area or on your farm. This is because the pox viruses are usually spread through the bites of insects such as mosquitoes or through open wounds. Scratches made by birds during the fight can also help spread the virus rapidly.

The presence of heavy mosquito infestation in your area should serve as a reminder to vaccinate your flock. Fowl pox vaccine should be administered as soon as possible if you are a small flock owner.

– Fowl Cholera Vaccine

This disease can affect a wide selection of birds including chickens and turkeys (domestic fowl), game birds especially pheasants, cage birds, ducks, birds in aviaries and zoological collections, and wild birds.

It is wise not to vaccinate your poultry against fowl cholera unless there is a problem in your area or on your farm.

Fowl cholera vaccine is available in two major types, which are the inactivated bacterins and live attenuated viruses.

The inactivated bacterins come in the form of oil-emulsion bacterins and require a series of about two injections in an interval of 4 weeks. The live attenuated viruses vaccine is given orally through drinking water.

– Infectious Bursal Disease Vaccine

You may as well vaccinate your chickens against Infectious Bursal disease. It is a viral disease that affects the bursa of the affected birds. This is the type of infection that interferes with your chickens’ immune system as they age.

Vaccination of Infectious Bursal disease is always given orally when your birds are aged between 14 and 21 days.

– Avian Encephalomyelitis

Avian Encephalomyelitis is commonly referred to as AE. It is also a viral disease for young chickens, pigeons, turkeys, pheasants, and Japanese quail. AE infections can be spread vertically, that is from the mother to the young ones, and horizontal or from one chicken to another.

Mostly, Avian Encephalomyelitis infections occur as a result of breeder flock inflection whereby the virus is passed to the eggs. The affected chickens display clinical signs during the first week following the hatching process.

Common symptoms include leg weakness that can progress to paralysis, and wobbly or clumsy walking (ataxia). Infected chickens are often culled and destroyed because they don’t recover.

Vaccination of breeder pullet is highly recommended and should be given at 10 and 15 weeks of age in order to stop vertical transmission. This type of vaccination provides your chickens with maternal immunity.

Immunization of table-egg flocks is also recommended to prevent low egg production. Typically, AE inoculations are combined with the fowl pox vaccine and given through the wing web.

What are Chickens Vaccinated For?

Chickens are vaccinated against infectious diseases that can wipe out your entire flock. They are also vaccinated to boost their immunity. Sometimes chickens are immunized whenever new birds are introduced to the existing flock.

Always remember that chickens or other poultry should not be vaccinated for diseases not present on the farm or in their local area.

When Can You Vaccinate Chicks?

The best time to vaccinate your chickens is during the springtime. This is traditionally a common time when chicken owners hatch out chics or buy new ones to increase their flock.

Vaccination is also recommended whenever there is an outbreak of certain infectious diseases in your flock or around your area. In this sense, you should consult your veterinarian before carrying a vaccination.

Is it Safe to Vaccinate Chickens?

Yes, vaccines are safe because they are tested and verified by professionals before being authorized to be used.

Their main function in your chicken’s body system is to introduce a mild form of a given disease with the sole purpose of eliciting an immune response. Most importantly, vaccines do not cause diseases or death if administered as instructed.

How do You Vaccinate Chicks?

When it comes to vaccinating chicks, you need to check each vaccine to know how it is administered. Different types of vaccines are administered at different times in a chick’s life through in vitro, as a day old, and in their drinking water or feed.

Most are given immediately after the chicks are hatched. Before vaccination, check to ensure that your birds are in good health, record details of each vaccination process, get all necessary materials ready, and use the right method to vaccinate each chick.

How Often do You Vaccinate Chickens?

For layer and breeder chickens, you need to do vaccination at an interval of 3 months. This is the recommended time to maintain sufficient levels of immunity in your flock.

You can also give your pullets a killed virus vaccine when they are being transferred to the layer house.

Do You Vaccinate Backyard Chickens?

Vaccination is not necessary for your backyard chickens. But you can vaccinate them whenever you encounter an infectious disease within your location or among your flock.

Also, you may vaccinate your backyard chickens if you are frequently buying or selling them.

Can Organic Chickens Be Vaccinated?

Normally, conventional poultry are vaccinated against different diseases. Since these diseases are likely to infect organic chickens, a routine vaccination should be conducted to keep them safe.

After all, there is no law that prohibits chickens from getting vaccinated against infectious diseases.


You need to protect your chickens right from their tender ages. The best way to do so is by vaccinating them when they are at least a day old. Different types of vaccines are administered to protect your growing birds against diseases such as those discussed above.

Use vaccination as your solid preventive measure to keep your flock healthy, active, and productive.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *