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Chicken Wheezing: Identify Chicken Respiratory Disease.

Diagnose Chicken Respiratory Disease 

A sneezing chicken may indicate a serious health problem with your bird. Cold like symptoms such as wheezing, coughing, sneezing and also trouble breathing should not be taken lightly. 

Chickens do not suffer from colds or flus like humans. So chickens are unlikely to recover without medical intervention. In poultry, symptoms of sneezing or wheezing are caused by a bacterial infection, known as Chicken Respiratory Disease (CRD). Environmental triggers are the most common causes. These include

  • Extreme temperatures
  • Stress 
  • Poor Living Conditions

Symptoms of Chicken Respiratory Illness

Chicken Respiratory Illnesses, and CRD in particular, tend to develop fairly slowly. Catching the infection early can be key to a good recovery. So it is vital to be on the look out for ill-health in your flock.

Signs that your chickens might be suffering from a Respiratory Illness include:

  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Wheezing or laboured breathing
  • Discharge from the nostrils and/or eyes
  • Swelling around the eyes and/or beak
  • Poor comb or wattle colour
  • Decreased appetite
  • Lethargy
  • Loss of condition
  • Reduced egg production

If you think that your chicken may have a respiratory illness, listen to its chest. It is quite likely that you will hear a rattling, congested (phlegmy) sound when they breathe.

If chickens are having difficulty breathing (stretching their neck and coughing, or panting) but do not display other symptoms they may be suffering from gapeworm. For help diagnosing or treating gapeworm, click here 

How to treat chicken respiratory infections

Because respiratory illness in chickens is an infection it requires medical treatment. If untreated, CRD will eventually cause the death of otherwise healthy birds. In order to treat chicken respiratory infection, follow these steps:

Isolate the Disease

As with all social animals, disease spreads quickly between chickens. It is vital to isolate sick birds at the first sign of illness. This protects the rest of the flock.

Care for Sick Birds.

Hydration, nutrition and warmth will all contribute to a chicken’s recovery. Hydration is particularly important, and if CRD is severe, it may be necessary to use a spoon or dropper to give the sick bird water. This may be required until the bird has recovered enough to drink on its own. In serious cases, it is advisable to use an electrolyte solution such as AviLYTE.

Treat the Infection

The most widespread respiratory illness in chickens is CRD, caused by the bacteria Microplasma gallisepticum. However, laryngitis, bronchitis, tracheitis and even pneumonia, are also common and require similar treatment.

We recommend treatment with a broad-spectrum antibiotic recommended for chickens - there are antibiotics available over-the-counter for poultry or you may wish to consult a veterinarian. For best results, follow the antibiotics with a course of probiotics such as 2 Pak Avian Probiotic.

It may also be possible to treat CRD using natural methods, in particular where the infection is not very advanced. VetRx Poultry Remedy is often recommended for effective relief of respiratory illnesses in chickens.

Reduce the Risk of Reinfection

Good coop management is essential to prevent the spread of disease. After any illness, thoroughly clean the coop to reduce the risk of reinfection.

Ensuring that chickens are healthy will also prevent reinfection. Using a good probiotic such as 2 Pak Liquid Probiotic or BVM Pink Powder may help to boost chicken immunity.

As well as helping to treat CRD and other infections, VetRx Poultry Remedy can be used as a preventative in order to reduce the risk of bacterial illnesses.

Another essential for chicken keepers is Chicken Health For Dummies, a great resource on the prevention, diagnosis and treatment of illness and disease in the chicken coop.


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