We were sitting on our porch the other day and some of our birds were making weird noises that sound like sneezing and hiccups. That got me thinking, do chickens get the hiccups? What are those sounds? I wanted to know what my flock was experiencing and if there was anything I should worry, about here’s what I found.
Do Chickens Get The Hiccups? No, chickens do not have a diaphragm, if they are making noises right after eating, it’s most likely due to dust, dirt, pollen, mold, or fungus. Chickens have a complex respiratory system, that makes them susceptible to respiratory issues.
Let’s take a closer look at why chickens can’t hiccup, but first you need to know what causes hiccups.
What Causes The Hiccups?
Hiccups are caused when the diaphragm becomes irritated due to eating too quick, breathing too much air, nerves, carbonated beverages, stress, and etc. When the diaphragm becomes irritated, it will cause you to suck air into your throat, which results in hiccups.
When the diaphragm is working properly, it is relaxed and allows the air flow to flow smoothly out of the lungs and back through the nose and mouth. The great thing is most all cases of the hiccups las only a few minutes.
Chickens Don’t Have A Diaphragm
Chickens do not have a diaphragm, and their lungs draw air from their rib cage and breastbone aka keel. This means they can’t have a case of the hiccups like other animals such as squirrels, cats, dogs, horses, and otters.
So why do so many people on forums and other online sites say think their chickens have the hiccups? In fact, it’s not hard to find a video with a chicken hiccuping or making noises that sound like the hiccups.
This video even shows a chicken hiccuping, or is it really the hiccups?
To me, it sounds like Bertha is hiccuping. However, since chickens don’t have a diaphragm, what’s causing that noise?
In order to understand this, you first have to understand how a chicken breathes.
Understanding How A Chicken Breathes
All mammals breathe for their survival. This is how the blood is oxygenated through the respiratory system, but a birds respiratory system differs widely from other a humans and other mammals.
Birds have air sacs throughout their body that are an extension of their lungs. These air sacs, aid in providing these mammals with fresh oxygen, similar to how the diaphragm works for humans.
A chickens lungs have an unusual shape as they are designed to fit around the spine and rib cage. Birds have four pairs of air sacs that extend out from the lung tissue, as well as a cervical air sac that can be found in front of the neck.
The air sacs are responsible for circulating and regulating the air flow from the lungs to the organs, body, and special pneumatic bones. A birds air sacs are also responsible for regulating the body temperature, providing buoyancy in water, and helping a bird fly.
A chicken averages about 30 breaths per minute vs a human that averages about 8 to 16 breaths per minute at a normal resting rate.
Birds have a much more complex respiratory system than other animals, which makes them more susceptible to respiratory related diseases.
Those weird hiccuping noises, are likely not hiccups. Instead, they may be something more serious that may require a trip to a veterinarian that specializes in avian health.
Chicken Sounds Like She Has Hiccups – What Is It?
It’s weird when you hear a chicken sounding like she is hiccuping, only to realize they don’t have a diaphragm and can’t hiccup. It’s enough to drive a chicken owner crazy.
It could be several things, and we’ll take a closer look at what can be causing your chicken to make that weird hiccuping noise or other noises you may be confusing with hiccups.
Yes, chickens can sneeze, although it’s not normal is most likely a sign of an underlying respiratory illness. Many first time chicken owners get sneezes and yawns confused with hiccuping.
Gapeworm In Chickens
Many people automatically think these noises are related to Gapeworm in chickens. Gapeworm is the result of a parasitic infection of red worms that infect the trachea (sometimes lungs, bronchi) of a bird.
This will cause a chicken to make a weird sound like it’s gasping for air followed by a hissing sound. Your bird will also experience violent sounds of coughing while shaking their head quickly, or stretching their neck as if they are trying to clear their throat.
This is a very serious condition that requires medical attention, as it can cause death from suffocation, starvation, and dehydration. You can read more about gapeworm on this site.
While Gapeworm is scary and can be life-threatening if not treated, it’s actually not as common in backyard flocks. It only affects chickens that consume infected slugs, worms, and snails.
Like other animals, chickens can develop seasonal allergies. It could also be that their nasal cavity or throat has been affected by dry feed, dust, pollen, mold, or fungus.
Examine your chickens feed bags, feed dispensers, water area, and any other area. Look for fungus, mold, rot, or excessive dirt or dust. Mold is very bad for chickens and can trigger a series of respiratory illnesses that will start out sounding like hiccups, or sneezing.
No, chickens can’t hiccup, but they will make noises that sound like hiccups. Like us, if something gets stuck in their nasal passage or they are exposed to mold.
If your chicken continues making these noises and you’ve noticed a decrease in an appetite, you should contact your veterinarian immediately.
You may also want to separate your bird from the rest of the flock, until you find out what’s causing the issue.
References and Further Reading