During this cold snap you may hear some strange sounds coming from your flock. All of a sudden you may hear a high pitched squeak which begins to sound like a sneeze. That is a red flag that one of your birds may becoming down with some kind of respiratory issue. Upon closer examination you may see that your bird has a runny nose or watery eyes. This is the time to take action and isolate that bird from the rest of the flock.
Respiratory issues in poultry can be either a minor problem or a major problem depending on the severity of it. Most of the time it can be easily dealt with. However, there are some deadly respiratory diseases that can effect your entire flock and medicine will need to be given.
One cause of sneezing and cold- like symptoms in poultry can be all of the dust that can collect in a coop. Chickens can cough, splutter and get watery eyes if they breath too much dust in. Dust can come from the pine shaving you use as bedding or just from the dander on the birds themselves. You may want to switch to a dust free bedding or use sand or straw. Use an air hose to blow out the dust in the coop periodically. Install fans to blow air out or the coop so that dust can’t collect. Let your birds free range when they can or be out in their runs all year.
When cleaning the coop and changing bedding it would be a good idea for you, too, to wear some kind of face or mask protection. Dust, dirt and chicken feces particles and not good for your lungs. People that work in the poultry industry routinely wear masks when cleaning.
Any kind of stress can also cause your chicken to start to display respiratory distress. Extreme temperatures , being transported and crowded conditions all add to a lowering of the immune system and coughing and sneezing can result. Make sure that your coop is not too crowded and that the coop is well ventilated. You need fresh air freely flowing through the coop.
The introduction of a new bird to the flock can cause stress as a new pecking order needs to be established. Chickens love routine and anything that is new or different can stress them out. That new bird could also be a carrier and be bringing in new viruses. Quarantine is very important when adding new birds. A minimum of three weeks is needed to protect the rest of your flock from incoming diseases. Buy chickens from trustworthy sources who you know have healthy birds.
Check your birds daily for signs of respiratory illness. Symptoms include sneezing or sniffling, runny nose or mucus coming out of the nose, watery eyes or swollen sinuses. Isolate the bird if you see these symptoms in a crate and if possible keep it where you can observe it. Your bird is contagious. Change the bedding in the coop to try and keep germs from spreading to the rest of your flock. Treat with some Vetrx around the nostrils or even in the water. Use some Terramycin or Vetericyn in the eyes if they are watery or are closing shut.
You can bolster your bird’s immune system by giving them probiotics and plain yogurt. Chopped garlic added to the water is good for the immune system. So is adding dill, oregano and thyme to the feed. I always add apple cider vinegar to my chicken’s water water to help with digestion and to improve health. Vitamins and electrolytes also work well for overall health.
There are some serious respiratory diseases:
|Disease||Occurrence in Backyard Flocks||Distinctive Signs of Illness||Average Mortality Rate|
|Mycoplasmosis||Common||Foamy eye discharge, more common in winter, roosters usually
show more severe signs
|Infectious coryza||Common||Swollen face or wattles, gunky eyes, foul odor, more common
summer and fall
|Infectious bronchitis||Common||Decreased egg production||Usually none|
|Newcastle disease||Mild strains are common. Highly deadly strains are absent from
chickens in the United States.
|May also cause diarrhea, staggering, paralysis, sudden
|Fowl cholera (chronic form)||Not so common||Swollen face, gunky eyes, rattling or difficulty breathing,
more common in late summer
|Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)||Not so common||Gasping, coughing up bloody mucous, dried blood around nostrils
and lower beak
|Avian influenza||Rare (Deadly strains are absent from chickens in the United
|Droopy birds, rattling breathing sounds, diarrhea, sudden
*taken from Chicken Health For Dummies
If you feel that your chickens have one of these diseases, you should probably call a vet. They will give you antibiotic for their water or antibiotics given with injections.
The problem with these more serious diseases is that the symptoms are the same as lesser illnesses. Unless you do a blood test you will never know for sure what you have. Treatment is the same for any respiratory disease. Complete recovery may take 2-4 weeks. Your bird may recover but become a long term carrier of the infection. A healthy looking hen could be contagious to others because she carries the disease.
It is important to know whether your bird is contagious if you are planning on selling birds or if you take them to shows.
Silkies have a hard time seeing with their large crests and muffs. Many times I will see eye issues because feathers had lodged themselves into their eyes and are acting as a irritant. Keep their crests and muffs trimmed if this is an issue.
Some people think that silkies need more vitamins than other breeds of chickens. You may want to feed them a better quality feed or give them vitamins in their water to help their immune system. Check out “When Something Is Wrong With My Silkie”