Our backyard flocks are precious to us, and we do everything as good owners to keep them healthy. But for as much effort as we put in, things happen. Some are in our control, and some are out of our control.
Unfortunately, in addition to injuries from predators, chickens are at risk for several illnesses. And just like us, they sneeze and cough. But what does it mean when baby chicks and chickens sneeze? Should you be alarmed?
It’s not uncommon to hear chickens sneeze. It can simply be from dust, or something more serious, like a respiratory infection.
This article will explain why chickens, both babies, and adults, sneeze. I will also go over when you should be concerned and what you can do to treat it, and how to prevent it from happening.
A Chicken’s Respiratory System
Humans have quite a bit in common with chickens when it comes to the respiratory tract. Like us, chickens have two nostrils and a trachea.
We also have bronchi and a set of lungs. And like us, sneezing in chickens can be an irritation of the upper airway, or it can be something more serious.
Why Are My Chickens Sneezing?
There are a few reasons why you may hear your chicks or full-grown hens sneezing. I won’t lie; it is the most adorable sound.
Think of the tiny squeak on a dog toy. This is the closest I can think of to how it sounds when a chicken sneezes. However, it should be taken seriously as it can be a warning sign of illness.
- Change in Temperature
- Modly Shavings
Living in barnyards or on farms leaves all farm animals susceptible to dust. Even those backyard chickens can’t avoid it.
Like us, dust and pollen can get into their respiratory systems, causing them to sneeze. Because chickens scratch and forage constantly, they are kicking up dust whether they know it or not.
Dust bathing is another example of how dust can cause chickens to sneeze. And dust bathing is something they love to do!
When it’s coop cleaning time, the dust is aplenty, which will usually cause us to cough and sneeze right along with our chickens.
Change in Temperature
Have you ever walked out into the bitter cold and sneezed? Dry air and cold temperatures can make chickens sneeze as well.
When pollen counts are sky-high and things warm up, your chicken can sneeze in the early spring.
If you keep shavings in your coop and they get wet, mold can accumulate quickly, and with mold comes sneezing.
This is why it’s essential to change the coop bedding every 2-3 weeks or as needed.
When It Becomes Serious
I’ve gone over the less severe reasons your chicks or chickens can be sneezing. So now, let’s dive a bit deeper into the medical side and why you should be concerned.
- Mycoplasma Gallisepticum
- Bird Flu
- Infectious Coryza
- Newcastle Disease
- Infectious Laryngotracheitis
- Parasitic Gapeworm
Mycoplasma Gallisepticum is a bacterial disease that can cause chronic respiratory disease in chickens and other fowl. Symptoms include sneezing, wheezing, coughing, and discharge from the nose and eyes.
This disease is contagious and can spread through a flock.
If you suspect Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, you should immediately quarantine your bird and reach out to your veterinarian regarding an antibacterial medication.
We’ve been hearing about it on the news for years. Bird flu is a potentially deadly disease in fowl that can spread to humans. So it’s essential to be extra vigilant here.
Bird Flu presents as sneezing, nasal discharge, swollen wattles and combs, and a decrease in egg production. Your chicken will also be very lethargic.
If you notice any of these symptoms in your chickens. They need to be taken to an avian veterinarian as soon as possible. You will also want to reach out to your doctor if you need to be treated as well.
Like Mycoplasma Gallisepticum, Infectious Coryza is also caused by bacteria. The first symptoms are usually sneezing and coughing, or struggling to breathe. You may also notice that their eyes swell and get clogged with discharge.
Thankfully, this disease is not usually deadly, but it is contagious, so it’s best to separate the sick bird from the rest of the flock and talk to your veterinarian about the best treatment.
Yes, chickens do get bronchitis just as humans do. And it is highly contagious throughout a flock of poultry. You will notice wheezing, sneezing, and coughing.
You may see your chicken struggle to breathe, and she may have discharge from her nose and eyes. Be sure to contact your veterinarian as soon as possible for treatment.
While Colibacillosis is an E Coli infection that can cause problems with a chicken’s digestive tract, it also affects its respiratory system. As a result, sneezing and coughing are common, in addition to diarrhea and the chicken being unresponsive.
It can spread to chickens and humans and should be treated with antibiotics.
Newcastle Disease is an infectious disease that presents as other respiratory illnesses do. You will notice sneezing and coughing, discharge from the nose and eyes, and lethargy.
Newcastle Disease can be deadly if not treated, so it’s crucial to reach out to your avian veterinarian immediately.
Caused by the herpes virus, Infectious Laryngotracheitis, is a highly contagious disease seen in chickens. Symptoms can include coughing, sneezing, nasal discharge, and a severe struggle to breathe.
If not treated by a veterinarian, it can be deadly. However, if treated early on, the prognosis is usually good.
Parasitic Gapeworm is a nasty ailment that chickens can get in their trachea. Gapeworms will continue to grow and take up space in the windpipe. You will notice your chicken sneezing and coughing continuously to try to clear the mass.
Sadly, this does not help, and if Parasitic Gapeworm is not treated, it can eventually cause the chicken to suffocate. If you notice any of these symptoms in your chickens, get them to a veterinarian as soon as possible.
How Do I Prevent Sneezing and Illness in My Flock?
Many of these things can be prevented as long we do our due diligence. With proper care and being proactive, you increase the chances of your chickens staying healthy.
- Keep the Coop Clean and Dry
- Vaccinate Your Flock
Keep the Coop Clean and Dry
Nobody wants to live in a filthy house, including your chickens. If dust continues to build up, the greater the chances are that your chickens will be sneezing.
By not taking care of droppings, the chance of a respiratory infection increases as feces emits ammonia. Newcastle disease can also spread through feces.
A coop should always be kept dry to reduce the build-up of bacteria and mold.
Proper ventilation is also crucial as it will allow air to move freely, lessening the chances of your chicken getting ill.
Whenever you introduce new chickens, they should be quarantined for about two weeks. By keeping them separated, you will be able to see if they present with any signs of illness before you mix them in with the rest of the girls.
Vaccinate Your Flock
Vaccination is the easiest and most surefire way to keep your flock safe. You can vaccinate against Infectious Bronchitis, Newcastle Disease, and Infectious Laryngotrachetis.
By vaccinating the entire flock, you’ll save both them and yourself a lot of unnecessary worries.
While sneezing isn’t always a need for concern, it can be. But with proper care, you can prevent many illnesses. And if the time does arise for concern, make sure you see an avian veterinarian asap.