Many breeds of chickens are well adapted to survive even in very cold climates. Their feathers provide excellent insulation and birds can fluff their feathers to create an even warmer coat. They can even tuck their beak or feet into fluffy feathers to keep those bare parts warm.
On hotter days, chickens will position themselves to absorb the sun’s heat, and on cold nights, they will huddle in a tight group to share body heat. Chickens can even slightly lower their internal metabolism to better withstand cold spells.
One of the challenging aspects of raising poultry is knowing when they are sick. Fortunately, chickens don’t catch colds as we humans do, but they are quite susceptible to viral respiratory diseases, with two being the most prevalent.
Symptoms of a chicken cold can include:
- Clear discharge from nostrils
- A harsh or rattling sound on breathing (gasping).
- Keeping its neck stretched
- Egg-laying reduction
- Small, irregularly shaped eggs or soft eggshells
The most common causes of these symptoms:
- Avian infectious bronchitis (IBV)
- Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)
Avian infectious bronchitis
Avian infectious bronchitis (IBV) does not normally harm older hens, but mortality can be very high in young hens less than 5 weeks old. Vaccinated chickens are less prone to developing this disease, but there are many different strains of the virus, so it does not guarantee immunity against less common strains.
Typically, a hen with a cold recovers from the virus within 3-4 weeks, but if one of the chickens does get it, they will usually all get it. There are no 100% safe treatments for infected chickens, but they will benefit from good nutrition and added vitamins and minerals in their diet. Be on the lookout for any secondary bacterial infections that are common in IBV-affected chickens, as these infections may require an antibiotic for treatment.
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) shares many similarities with the IBV virus but tends to have a higher mortality rate. Hens that recover from ILT will be carriers for life, so keep this in mind when considering introducing new hens to your flock. Similar to IBV, the virus is quite fragile and can be killed by disinfectants, heat, and direct sunlight when present in your hen’s environment. However, ILT can survive up to 2 months on bedding and nesting materials, so good cleaning of bedding and sand is essential.
How to Respond to Respiratory Diseases in Chickens
If you notice that one of your chickens is showing cold symptoms, you should first quarantine it and then have your chicken coop inspected. Most chicken diseases can be controlled in this way because bird-to-bird contact is the most common way for the disease to spread.
After quarantining your sick chicken, you should follow these recommendations:
1. Consult an avian veterinarian
You must first find out exactly what disease your bird is suffering from. There are cases in which chickens have suffered from a chronic respiratory disease for life, but there are other diseases that can be treated with antibiotics or vaccines. Finding out exactly what you are up against as soon as possible is essential to prevent the spread of the disease.
If you are in the Philippines, you can use any of the following drugs. These can be on powder, tablet, capsule, or injectable.
- Baytril (Enrofloxacin)
- Amtyl 500
2. Make sure your quarantine area has adequate ventilation
Sneezing in chickens can be caused by something as simple as airborne dust due to improper ventilation. Check for more sick chickens. If you have multiple infected birds, the problem becomes worse.
Mild respiratory illnesses can be treated simply by cleaning the chicken coop, changing the bedding, or using natural remedies. More serious illnesses will need medical intervention to lessen or stop symptoms.
Quarantining and diagnosing sick chickens enables three critical things: You’ll know if your chicken’s disease is contagious, you’ll have a better chance of finding a drug that works, and you’ll know if a vaccine can help you manage the problem.
It is important to realize that some diseases, such as Chronic Respiratory Disease, infect chickens for life and can cause complications with secondary diseases.
How to prevent colds in my chickens naturally
For chickens that are coughing, sneezing, or gasping for air, you can massage their throat and give them a drink of water mixed with a little olive oil to soothe their throat.
Gently spraying the saline solution in your chicken’s eyes several times a day can help clear his sinuses.
Adding a fresh garlic clove and apple cider vinegar to your chickens’ drinking water can help prevent respiratory illnesses. Also, if they show respiratory symptoms, you can add more apple cider vinegar to the water. Typically, I would use 1 tablespoon per 1 gallon of water, but if the chicken shows signs of illness, you can use 2 to 4 tablespoons per 1 gallon of water.
Basil, cloves, dill, thyme, and cinnamon are a mixture that can be fed to your chickens to help prevent illness. You can serve it to the chickens alone or mixed with their food.
The key to keeping your poultry healthy is adopting biosecurity practices, this will reduce the chance that your poultry or yard will be exposed to diseases such as avian influenza or Newcastle disease. These diseases can be transmitted by people, animals, equipment, or vehicles, either accidentally or intentionally.
The following steps are important to keeping your poultry healthy and following good biosecurity practices:
- Keep your distance – isolate your birds from visitors and other birds.
- Keep It Clean – Prevent germs from spreading by cleaning shoes, tools, and equipment.
- Don’t bring the disease home – clean vehicles and cages too.
- Do not share diseases with your neighbor – Avoid sharing tools and equipment with neighbors.
- Know the Warning Signs of Infectious Bird Diseases – Watch for early signs to prevent the spread of disease.
- Sick Bird Report – Report unusual signs of illness or unexpected deaths.
You may also use an organic way of treating your chicken or see our top 10 lists of antibiotics for colds and coryza treatment.
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