Vitamin Deficiencies in Backyard Chicks and Chickens

March 3, 2014

Chick season is upon us. This is such an exciting time of the year. It can also be one of the saddest too. Unfortunately, sometimes chicks suffer from various vitamin deficiencies that can lead to their demise. Vitamin deficiencies are easy to prevent and if caught quickly, treatable. They are also not contagious, so there is no need to isolate the affected chick. Often if chicks or chickens show signs of vitamin deficiencies and treatment is started, symptom improvement is seen in a couple of days.

The first step in preventing problems from arising is to feed your chicks and chickens a good quality chicken feed, specifically formulated for their age. Most feeds contain or are supplemented with all the proper nutritional requirements. It is also a good idea now and then to supplement your chickens with vitamins and electrolytes in their drinking water. This prevents nutritional deficiencies from occurring throughout their entire lives. As with us, a healthy, well-balanced diet is required for your flock to thrive and deliver delicious eggs to you each and every day.

If you believe that your chicks or chickens are suffering from a vitamin deficiency, the best way to quickly and properly replete the deficiency is to add the repletion directly to their drinking water. Chicks provided natural sources of supplementation listed below, will require chick grit to properly digest any food that is not chick starter feed.

Vitamin A

In adult chickens, vitamin A deficiency symptoms include weakness, lethargy, puffed out appearance, decreased egg production, and a watery discharge from their eyes that can develop into “milky cheesy” eye secretions. In baby chicks, symptoms can develop as early as 7 days of age. Symptoms in chicks include lack of appetite, stunted growth, sleepiness, weakness, imbalance and weight loss. If the deficiency is severe then walking difficulties can occur.

Natural Sources: dandelion greens, sweet potato, broccoli, kale, spinach, pumpkin, cantaloupe, peas, tomatoes

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea Kelp, Merrick’s Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes,  Durvet, Poultry Nutri-Drench, Rooster Booster Vitamins and Electrolytes

Vitamin B12

Vitamin B12 deficiencies can be responsible for lack of weight gain, decreased appetite, poor plumage quality, and nervous system issues. In addition often a decrease in size of egg laid, anemia, and fatty liver, kidney and heart disease can be seen too. Vitamin B12 is mostly found in fish and animal products. It is rarely found in plant materials, but sea kelp is high in vitamin B12.

Natural Sources: yogurt, milk, cheese, fish, eggs, meat, sea kelp

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea KelpDurvet

Biotin (Vitamin B7)

This deficiency can lead to dry flaking skin, also known as dermatitis, on the chicken’s face, around the eyes and on the feet. It can also lead to fatty liver and kidney syndrome.

Natural Sources: Peas, Broccoli, Cabbage, Cauliflower, Spinach, Strawberries, Raspberries, Oats, Soybeans, Peanuts

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea Kelp


Eggs are high in choline making choline repletion a must. This deficiency’s hallmark symptom in both chicks and adult chickens is perosis. Perosis, seen in many vitamin deficiencies, first develops as tiny bleeding spots near the chicken’s hock accompanied by light swelling that later develops into the contortion of the legs, the inability to bear weight, and finally complete immobility.

Natural Sources: soybeans, wheat, and fish meal.

Commercial Products: chicken feed, Poultry Nutri Drench


Vitamin D3

This deficiency can lead to osteoporosis, impaired bone development in chicks, rickets, soft weak beaks and toenails, as well as poor quality egg shells. In chicks the first sign of Vitamin D3 deficiency can be trouble walking.

Natural Sources: mushrooms (from the grocer), fish, eggs

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea KelpMerrick’s Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes, Durvet, Poultry Nutri Drench,Rooster Booster Vitamins and Electrolytes

Vitamin E

It is important to note that Vitamin E requires selenium (a mineral) for absorption in poultry. Wry neck, imbalance, and muscle atrophy can all be signs of a deficiency

Natural Sources: asparagus, broccoli, pumpkin, spinach, turnip, beet greens, collard greens, and dandelion greens, purslane

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea KelpMerrick’s Blue Ribbon Poultry Electrolytes, Durvet, Poultry Nutri DrenchRooster Booster Vitamins and Electrolytes

Folic Acid

Of all livestock, poultry are the most susceptible to folic acid deficiencies. Signs of deficiency include anemia-pale combs, wattles and mouth tissue, perosis, cervical paralysis (similar to wry neck), decreased egg production, poor feathering, impaired growth and discoloration of feathers.

Natural Sources: strawberries, raspberries, asparagus, spinach, dark leafy greens, broccoli, okra, brussel sprouts, peanuts, flax seeds, cauliflower, beets, corn, carrots, celery, squash

Commercial Products: DurvetRooster Booster Vitamins and Electrolytes

Vitamin K

Vitamin K is necessary for the normal blood clotting process. This is very important to keep chickens from bleeding to death even from a slight bruise. In addition, Vitamin K deficient chickens can also suffer from internal hemorrhaging. It is important to remember that the use of medication can sometimes impair the body’s proper absorption of Vitamin K. A Vitamin K deficiency is sometimes confused with coccidiosis in baby chicks.

Natural Sources: basil, sage, thyme, dark leafy greens, brussel sprouts, broccoli, asparagus, cabbage, cucumber

Commercial Products: Cluck n Sea Kelp, Durvet


Symptoms of niacin deficiency include diarrhea, loss of appetite and growth retardation. Chicks around 2 weeks of age can develop “black tongue” which is swelling of the tongue, inner mouth and upper digestive tract.

Natural Sources: peanuts, mushrooms (from grocer), sunflower seeds, peas

Commercial Products: DurvetPoultry Nutri Drench

Riboflavin (Vitamin B2)

Riboflavin deficiencies can first appear during day 10 in the incubating egg. Chicks born with riboflavin deficiencies can be seen with curled toes and laying down with their legs extended. They can be lethargic and seen walking around on their hocks using their wings as walking aids.

Natural Sources: spinach, soybeans, beet greens, asparagus, eggs

Commercial Products:  Durvet

Pyroxidine (Vitamin B6)

Pyroxidine deficiencies in chicks manifests with “fits”. For example, fits include running around aimlessly, flapping their wings which then is accompanied by falling down and jerking motions. Protein metabolism, reproductive issues, decreased egg production and partial molts are also signs of pyroxidine deficiency in older chickens.

Natural Sources: sunflower seeds, bananas, spinach, bell peppers, peas

Commercial Products: DurvetRooster Booster Vitamins and Electrolytes

Vitamins and electrolytes are added to the brooder’s waterer.
 Photo Credits: Tilly’s Nest


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29 thoughts on “Vitamin Deficiencies in Backyard Chicks and Chickens”

  1. Great information. I like the natural sources as well as commercial. I rely heavily on weeds and vegetables for both my chicks and chickens to keep their diet varied and full of vitamins, and add Sea Kelp to their daily feed, but always keep Nutri-Drench on hand for a quick boost.
    Fresh Eggs Daily

    • Glad you enjoyed the post, feel free to share it with others too. It's important to help spread information like this around to fellow chicken keepers.

  2. We have a two-week old Australorp chick who appears normal (eating, drinking, pooping, flapping, running, interacting with the other girls) except that she sits a lot. She wasn't doing it nearly as much last week (or maybe they all were because they were so tiny). In my online digging, it looks like it's possible that she has some sort of vitamin deficiency – have you experienced this with any of your girls?

    • Yesss…… My youngest looks like she’s having weak legs…. She’s not able to jump properly and her legs are not standing straight.. And she’s sitting most of them time. She’s 6 week old. From 3 days… She’s not able to stand well….. Can you share any experience how your girl got well?? Pleaseee

    • I haven't had that experience. I would suggest giving it time. Be sure they also have chick grit too. Could be normal chick behavior. As long as she is eating, drinking, pooping and interacting with the others, those are all good signs. See how things go over the next few weeks.

  3. We got baby bantams last Wednesday, 12 in total and they are were about 1 to 3 days old by our guess. We have now lost 3 and have 3 that are acting funny. They start by sleeping more than the others but perk up to eat. Then they just sleep more and more, then die. The first 3 ate and drank normal up to about a hour before they died. We are not new to chickens or bantams This is a first for us.

  4. I also needed to add they have fresh water, medicated chick feed, and on pine bedding. No paste butt on either of the chicks

    • I think that you should definitely let the place know where you purchased them from. I am so sorry to hear this news. It's hard to say what is wrong. Be sure they have a heat lamp and are at the right temperature as well as protecting them from chills or drafts. I'm not sure what else I could add to what you are already doing.

  5. Hi…currently have 25week old buff pullet that started with crooked neck symptoms (head always to the side/turned)…I have removed her from the flock, not sure if injured or mareks disease – but no other chickens showing symptoms, so now I’m starting to think vitamin deficiency. They do free-range, but I guess it’s safe to say that they may not get all vitamins necessary from free-ranging? (we have lots of wild life growth including herbs) hens is still eating and drinking…did lay a soft shelled egg yesterday. They do get oyster shells & a mixed grain that we pick up from the feed store…otherwise, they are foraging.

    • It is possible that she does have a vitamin deficiency or ate something bad. I would definitely add the vitamins and electrolytes to her water. Keep her home instead of free-ranging for a few days and see if she turns the corner. Has she always been like this? Like you say, it could be a chronic injury. If there is a vet nearby, you could always use them to assist with her. Keep me posted on how things go.

      • Thank you! I have kept her home, actually inside with us, away from the flock…we are quarantining the rest of the flock just in case, but she is actually looking much better! I gave her garlic & ACV in her water, some herbs & flax seed meal in her food. Actually before we got the flaxseed meal, I looked in all my food & vitamins to check for vitamin E…nothing. Then I looked at our catfood because I catch them eating it all the time & it was the only thing I had on hand packed full of vitamin E, so i gave her a TBLspn & it was almost immediately she perked up! To answer your question as well, no she’s never been like this before so it’s all new to me 🙂 I hope she continues to move forward!

  6. I have a 3 week old chick which is not able to move its legs .As i searched web i came to know that this could be due to vitamin B2 defficiancy.can this be cured by giving vitamin b complex liquid

  7. I have a rooster he’s about 7 months old and for about 3 weeks now he stumbles like he’s drunk he can walk pretty good forward, but when he’s eating or drinking he just stumbles backwards and just all over the place. Then I have a Rhode Island Red yesterday her wattles became swollen and has a like a knot in her throat.

  8. Hi! I have six ducks and one now developed wry tail three days ago. I believe it isn’t genetic, so that leaves me to believe that she has a vitamin deficiency. She is roughly 7 weeks old and just curious what brand and dosage of vitamins I can give her to hopefully correct the issue. Is it correctable if caught early enough? Any help would be great! Thanks! Joann

    • I do share links in the posts to some of my trusted brands. Click through for more information. I am unfamiliar with ducks as I have not personally had ducks of my own. When in doubt, always seek out the advice of a veterinarian.

  9. Hi I purchased 5 Americanos and one has a crooked neck with a small hump. She is 4 weeks old. I was told to get vitamin K and massage her neck. But not sure how much to give her and how to give it to her.

  10. If your chicken has a vitamin deficiency. How long once you start supplementing will it start responding?

    • It depends on how bad the deficiency is and what the deficiency is. I think you should start seeing improvement in a few days of repletion and recovery after a week or so.


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.