Raising chickens is one of the most mindful decisions. I mean, what’s better than getting a fresh supply of eggs and meat from your own backyard. In fact, for commercial purposes too, chicken raising is very profitable as a business venture.
However, you need to have the proper knowledge to raise them properly. You have to take care of your flock just like your babies otherwise they will not be able to grow healthily and survive for long.
One of the most challenging situations faced by poultry farmers is when their chickens fall ill. The situation worsens if the chicken raiser is a newcomer in this field. He fails to understand the causes and treatment for his birds and thus ends up losing them.
Respiratory problems are very common in these birds. If you’re noticing that some of your chickens are sneezing with or without other symptoms, then don’t panic as we will tell you everything about handling such situations. So, continue reading below!
Do Chickens Sneeze? (Can Chickens Sneeze?)
Chickens definitely sneeze. There can be specific reasons behind their sneezing but the most common one is respiratory diseases. As we already discussed, the respiratory system of chickens is very weak. They can be easily affected by the virus, bacteria and parasites.
You may commonly see them sneezing and coughing around. Moreover, there are some other reasons behind the sneezing of chickens such as dirt, allergic reactions and weather conditions. You can hear a soft “Achoo” sound from any of your birds.
Although you don’t have to be attentive if they’re sneezing due to a dirty environment or certain food, you must see a vet if the condition gets worse.
Why Are Baby Chicks Sneezing?
Baby chicks are delicate and have very weak immune systems. Due to this, they are very susceptible to a number of respiratory infections and diseases. This is the most possible reason behind their sneezing. Since they don’t eat and drink much, it is less likely they are sneezing because of environmental factors and food conditions.
The most common respiratory illnesses chickens suffer from are bronchitis, avian influenza, mycoplasma, and some other bacterial infections. Sneezing is a common symptom of such diseases and infections and can affect baby chicks quite badly.
If your chickens sneeze a lot, then the first thing you should do is to know the cause (s). It is very important because only after that you will be able to prevent or treat their sickness. To help you with it, here are some of the most common diseases that happen to chickens.
1. Upper Respiratory Infection
Why are my chickens sneezing? The reason could be an upper respiratory infection. This is the most common infection which is usually harmless. The symptoms of this infection include sneezing, wheezing, heavy breathing, ruffled plumage, nasal discharge, watering eyes etc.
This infection can be easily treated by the vet. Generally, a combination of antibiotics is enough to treat such infections.
2. Mycoplasma Gallisepticum
Mycoplasma gallisepticum (or simply MG) is usually the most expensive disease for commercial chicken growers. It is also known as Chronic Respiratory Disease in which the bacteria can not live without a host for some days.
The symptoms of MG include nasal discharge, air sacs, pneumonia, swollen heads, sneezing etc. In severe conditions, the laying ability of chickens is also affected. Moreover, sometimes there are no symptoms at all. To prevent this disease, certain vaccines are available and antibiotics are also used to treat this illness.
3. Mycoplasma Synoviae
Mycoplasma Synoviae is another respiratory disorder that further causes weakness in joints. Symptoms include slower growth rate, low egg production, sneezing, gurgling, wheezing, nasal discharge, swollen joints etc.
This disease is usually diagnosed by a blood test. Vaccines and antibiotics are also available to prevent it.
4. Infectious Bronchitis
Infectious Bronchitis (or IB) is mainly caused due to avian flu. Some of the most common symptoms include sneezing, coughing, poor laying abilities etc. In extreme situations, it can even lead to the death of birds especially little chicks.
5. Avian Influenza
Avian influenza is nothing but the common bird flu. It is usually caused by the type A influenza virus.
This flu can be sometimes transmitted to other birds. Avian influenza is of two types HPAI and LPAI and includes all the common symptoms like sneezing, swelling in the head, shaking, decreased egg production etc. Moreover, HPAI leads to higher fatality rates than LPAI.
Apart from these diseases, here are some other kinds of illnesses that are prone to chickens.
Gapeworms make their home in the trachea of birds and then move towards their lungs to cause respiratory disorders. The symptoms include coughing, sneezing and gaping in the mouth.
If you need to know more, you must take a look at my article on gapeworms here…
7. Fowl Pox
Fowl Pox is commonly known by other names such as chickenpox, bird pox and sometimes avian diphtheria. These poxes can form inside the mouths, tracheas, pharynx and larynx of the birds and block the air passage.
8. Newcastle Disease (Pneumoencephalitis)
The common signs of this illness are eye and nasal discharge, difficulty in breathing, shaking and trembling.
9. Infectious Coryza (roup, coryza)
This infection usually leads to swelling of the face, mucous discharge from the nose, gurgling sounds while breathing etc.
I’ve also made a complete list of respiratory problems in chickens you should see here…
Can You Eat Meat From Sneezing Chickens? (Meat Chickens Sneezing)
Well, it totally depends on the condition of your sick chicken. If the sneezing is mild and is due to certain environmental conditions like dirt and dust, then you may consider butchering the bird and eating its meat. However, if the chicken is sneezing a lot and if you don’t know the reason behind it, you should avoid eating it.
It will be a huge risk if you eat a sick bird. So, to be on the safer side, never process the diseased birds and also keep them separated from the rest of your flock. Further, if your chicken is physically damaged like a broken leg or something, then you can eat the meat in such situations.
Chickens Sneezing With No Other Symptoms
If you’re not noticing any symptoms when your birds are sneezing then it can be due to allergic reactions and dust. Sneezing in such cases doesn’t last for long and usually stops after some time. There is no need for external medications and vet visits.
You just have to take care of their hygiene and eating habits. For that, always keep their surroundings clean and properly sanitized and monitor what they’re gulping down. If your birds are eating something they are not supposed to then prevent it immediately.
Chickens Sneezing While Eating (Chickens Sneezing And Coughing)
Sneezing while eating or drinking is very common in chickens. This is not something you should be alarmed about. You should understand that these birds have smaller beaks and nostrils but still they eat and drink very fast. Sometimes the food particles or dust get in their nostrils and then they sneeze to unclog it. It is as simple as that. Similarly, when extra water gets into their nose, they sneeze it to get rid of it.
You may also hear them sneezing if the feed you’re providing them is not of good quality and is dusty.
Chickens Sneezing And Shaking Head
Sneezing alone is not a sign of any respiratory disorder. But when it is accompanied by several other symptoms, there could be some serious infection. Generally, sneezing and shaking heads are considered the symptoms of bird flu or avian influenza.
These systems are also followed by swollen eyes and heads, nasal discharge and dark combs. Other respiratory issue signs include coughing, gasping, rattling etc.
Chickens Sneezing And Wheezing
Sneezing chickens should be taken care of well otherwise they might end up infecting the other birds too. Sneezing along with wheezing are common cold symptoms. These symptoms cause heaviness in breathing and rattling in the birds.
As a matter of fact, sneezing and wheezing in chickens are not due to the same reason as humans. In fact, these symptoms are a result of bacterial infections like CRD (Chicken Respiratory Disease).
While the healthy birds fight these external agents and bacteria on their own, weaker chickens or baby chicks can not fight back and fall prey to various health problems. Moreover, if your chicken is subject to environmental stress then the disease will grow on it even more.
Some environmental factors that trigger the bacterial infection in the chicken are :
- Extreme hot or cold temperatures
- Dirty housing
- Contaminated food and water
Chicken Respiratory Illness doesn’t show symptoms very fast. You will start noticing the symptoms much after because they develop gradually.
In conditions like this, the only idea to prevent your chickens from getting further ill is by detecting their infection early.
Chickens Sneezing And Diarrhea
Diarrhoea in chickens is mostly caused by two reasons:
- Due to overeating, and secondly
- Due to an infection inside the body.
If any of your birds are continuously sneezing followed by diarrhoea, then it may be a sign of upper respiratory disease. In this condition, chickens usually urinate and have loose motions. Urinating excessive liquid is not normal for a chicken. So, if you are seeing a lot of liquid, know that something is definitely wrong with your bird and get her treated right away.
The worst situation is when you’re unable to find the cause of their illness. Whether it is due to a virus, bacteria or any other parasite. But you can use broad-spectrum antibiotics to treat such illnesses. These come very handily both in case of bacterial infection and other secondary infections due to any virus. Further, always give proper medication to your flock and make sure they are properly vaccinated.
So, if your chicken is sneezing along with loose motion, keep him in an open environment and provide him adequate fresh water and healthy food. Avoid feeding them foods that could trigger the diarrhoea such as nuts, yoghurt, pulses etc. You can also give him an electrolyte solution for about three days.
Treating A Sneezing Chicken
Providing proper treatment is very necessary not only to cure the diseased bird but also to prevent other birds from getting infected. If you ever find that your chicken is sneezing very frequently and is showing several other symptoms then first isolate the infected chicken so that it doesn’t transmit the infection.
After isolating the birds, follow the below steps :
Visit or call a vet. The most important thing is to know the cause behind the illness of your chicken. Only after that, you will be able to provide her with better treatment.
Keep the diseased chicken in a clean, well ventilated and properly sanitized area. The reason is, that sometimes the dust and dirt you ignore can cause sneezing in the chickens.
Make sure that the other birds are safe and not infected by this bird. If some other birds are also infected then you will need to quarantine them as well.
Quarantining has three major benefits :
- First, you can make sure that the other birds are safe
- It helps you to determine and trace the cause of sickness
- Gives a better healing environment to the sick bird
You can easily treat mild infections by using certain antibiotics and making some changes in their surroundings like cleaning the coop and replacing the bedding. You can also try out natural remedies like providing them clove water, and garlic to fight the infection.
After that, you should examine your chicken coop and make the necessary changes.
Here is what you can do :
- Make sure that the coop is safe and secure. This helps in keeping the predators away from your chickens. They will not be able to harm the birds if there is proper security.
- Make sure that the coop is well ventilated. The reason is simple, due to weak respiratory systems they tend to get affected by poor air circulation very fast.
- Make sure that the housing is clean and sanitized. In fact, make a rule of thumb, clean your chicken coop at least once every week and perform a deep clean once a month.
- Give each chicken enough room to move freely and happily. Never make the coops overcrowded.
- Keep your chickens well vaccinated and medicated.
Sneezing Chickens Antibiotics
As a responsible chicken owner, you should always keep some antibiotics ready to treat your sick buddies. The broad-spectrum antibiotics are very helpful in treating bacterial and viral infections and common flu. There is a wide variety of antibiotics you can stock for your chickens. Some of these include Baytril, Tylan, and Doxycycline are some of the common medicines.
However, always consult your vet or any other expert before starting any medication.
Some common antibiotics are as follows.
Baytril is an excellent antibiotic which you can safely provide your chickens. The best practice is to give one tablet (22 mg) per five times the body weight of the bird. Give it at least two times per day for about 10-15 days for better results.
However, the most common mistake people make here is stopping the doses in between thinking that the infection is cured. In doing so, the infection comes back stronger. So, always complete the medication for at least 15 days.
Metronidazole is another great treatment. The tablet is usually 250 milligram. You can give a whole tablet to your bigger birds and to your smaller ones. Give it for at least 5 days to see the effective results.
Special Considerations For Sneezing Chickens In New Zealand
- Always keep your flock vaccinated. Some of the most common vaccinations for chickens are fowl cholera, egg drop syndrome 76, fowl pox, infectious bronchitis, Newcastle disease, avian influenza etc.
- Keep their house clean and well ventilated. Make sure your chickens are not stressed.
- Always quarantine the new chickens before introducing them to the existing flock. This will give you enough time to monitor them.
- Isolate the sick bird as soon as possible to prevent the infection from spreading to the entire flock.
- Never overcrowd your chicken coop.
- Consult your trusted vet and get your bird treated soon.
Special Considerations For Sneezing Chickens In The UK
It doesn’t matter which part of the world you live in. You have to give the same treatment to your chickens. You have to take good care of their basic necessities like food, water and shelter to keep them safe and healthy.
Here are the following things you should keep in mind.
- Always get the chickens or hatching eggs from a reputed hatchery. Make sure that the dealer participates in the NPIP or National Poultry Improvement Plan. It is a USDA plan that monitors avian infections in birds.
- Keep chickens according to their age groups. This means, keeping younger ones separated from older ones. This is because different age groups have different requirements and habits.
- Don’t allow too many people inside your chicken coop and make sure to wear gloves and proper clothes while handling the chickens.
- Avoid eating the meat of an infected chicken. By doing so, you might end up risking your and your family’s health.
- When the infected birds are in quarantine, call your vet and get the birds tested through blood samples. Ask him to also perform a faecal parasite screening.
- Use good quality bedding that doesn’t get mouldy and soggy. Discard the wet and mouldy bedding as soon as possible.
- The quarantine period for chickens should be at least three weeks for better monitoring and treatment.
Chickens’ respiratory systems are very sensitive and thus they are prone to all kinds of infections. While sneezing alone is not harmless, it can be dangerous if it is followed by certain other symptoms like nasal discharge, coughing, heavy breathing, swelling, etc.
Although a majority of diseases can be treated, preventing them is what you should focus on. Follow the above-mentioned guidelines to ensure the health and well being of your flock!