Chicken Respiratory Diseases: Causes, Symptoms, Treatment & Prevention

Chickens are generally healthy creatures. However, if they’re not properly protected and fed, they can become ill.

Some of the most prevalent ailments reported by keepers are chicken respiratory diseases. To help you take necessary precautions, it’s always best to learn the causes, symptoms, treatment, and prevention of such illnesses.

Causes of Chicken Respiratory Diseases

chicken respiratory disease


Among avian viruses that infect chickens’ respiratory tracts include: Infectious bronchitis virus (IBV), infectious laryngotracheitis virus (ILTV), Newcastle disease virus (NDV), avian influenza virus (AIV), and pneumovirus.

The infectious bronchitis virus (IBV) is a gammacoronavirus that primarily affects chickens, though it has also been detected in pheasants and peafowl. This virus is found all over the world, and numerous antigenic variants can coexist in a given area. Some IBV kinds are widespread, whereas others are only found in specific areas.

On the other hand, pneumovirus and ILTV are found in respiratory tract tissues, but NDV, IBV, and AIV infect other organs and tissues, including the kidneys and reproductive system (IBV), the gastrointestinal tract (IBV, NDV, and AIV), and the central nervous system (NDV, AIV).

Other viruses, such as adenovirus and reovirus, are thought to be secondary invaders of their upper respiratory tract.


In domestic fowl such as chickens, bacteria play an essential role in causing respiratory diseases. Primary bacterial invasion and secondary bacterial invasion are the two types.

Generally, a bacterial component colonizes the respiratory system only after a first viral or environmental infection. This is called secondary bacterial invasion. An example is when Escherichia coli colonizes the air sacs of a chicken after an infectious bronchitis virus infection.

At other times, the respiratory disease’s bacterial component is the primary cause of the illness. Infectious coryza in chickens is an example of this.

chicken respiratory diseases


Chickens are susceptible to a range of fungal respiratory illnesses, the most frequent of which are aspergillosis, candidiasis, and mucormycosis.

Fungi come in the form of molds, yeasts, mildews, toadstools, and mushrooms. However, only molds and yeasts can cause respiratory infections.

Respiratory problems occur in two ways: by invading, damaging, and destroying the host’s bodily tissues, and they produce mycotoxins in feed and food grains.


Chickens might get respiratory problems as a result of stress. Poor environmental conditions, such as excessive heat and humidity, high ammonia levels, high stocking density, transportation, being carried to a poultry show, and new birds being introduced to an existing flock, may all cause stress.

Symptoms of Chicken Respiratory Diseases

Respiratory diseases in chickens are highly infectious. They can be so mild that they go unnoticed, or they can be so serious that the entire flock perishes in a short amount of time. They create a lot of trouble in infected flocks year after year, and they are a continual threat to uninfected flocks.

The severity of the disease is determined by the organism strain and the flock’s overall health at the time of infection. For a successful recovery, early detection of the illness is critical. So, keep an eye on your flock for any indications of disease.

Signs in live chickens

chicken pneumonia

If you suspect that your chicken may have developed a type of respiratory disease, listen to its chest. When they breathe, you will almost certainly hear a rattling, congested (phlegmy) sound.

Sneezing, wheezing, coughing, discharge from the holes in the beak, foamy eyes, and excessive head movement are all common symptoms. In extreme conditions, the chickens suffer from loss of appetite, enlarged sinuses, and fatigue.

You can’t catch a cold from your chicken, except for a few forms of avian influenza. In fact, unlike humans, chickens are immune to colds and flu.

You can find specific symptoms for common chicken respiratory diseases below.

Distinctive Signs of Chicken Respiratory Diseases

Disease Distinctive Signs of Illness
Mycoplasmosis Foamy eye, roosters usually display more severe signs, more common in winter
Infectious coryza Gunky eyes, swollen wattles or face, foul odor, more common in
summer and fall
Infectious bronchitis Reduced egg production
Newcastle disease Disorientation, diarrhea, paralysis, and sudden death
Fowl cholera Gunky eyes, swollen face, gasping,
more common in late summer
Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT) Coughing up bloody mucus, labored breathing, dried blood around lower beak and nostrils
Avian influenza Diarrhea, droopy birds, rattling breathing, sudden

Signs in dead chickens

respiratory infection in chickens

The following are indications that your pets may have respiratory diseases:

  • Swollen sinuses and heads
  • Subcutaneous head infection
  • Excessive fluid or puss in the sinuses
  • Severe tracheitis
  • Thick and opaque air sacs
  • Pericarditis
  • Red windpipe and nasal passage
  • A yellowish film covering the outer surface of the liver and heart

Treatment of Chicken Respiratory Diseases

respiratory problems in chickens

If your chicken gets a respiratory ailment, it is critical to treat it as soon as possible because recovery without treatment is unlikely. If not, it may develop into chronic respiratory disease (CRD) or spread to the rest of the birds in your flock.

Consider following the steps to treat respiratory disease in your backyard pets.

Immediately isolate the sick

Because chickens are friendly creatures, infectious diseases can quickly spread throughout your flock. To protect the remainder of the flock, unwell birds must be isolated and observed as soon as possible.

Provide the needs of the sick flock

Sick chickens should be supplied with drinking water and food sources.  Hydration, nutrients, and warmth are the most important factors in a chicken’s recuperation.

Pay special attention to hydration. If the disease is severe, let your ill bird drink water using a spoon or dropper. This care may be required until the bird has fully recovered and can drink on its own.

In severe situations, an electrolyte solution such as AviLyte is recommended.

Treat and medicate as necessary

respiratory diseases in chickens

You can make educated guesses, but you won’t know for sure which disease is causing your chickens’ problems unless laboratory testing is performed. Veterinary diagnostic laboratories and poultry veterinarians can assist you.

Antibiotics can help manage the condition, but lowering stress is an important part of controlling the disease once it has infiltrated the flock. Antibiotics for birds can be found in feed stores and on the internet. It’s always best to keep some on hand.

Carefully follow dosing instructions. You’ll usually dilute it in water and administer it to them via their water font.

Your sickest hens, on the other hand, may not be drinking. Pour the medicinal water down their throat with an eyedropper or a syringe.

Prevent reinfection

To prevent the spread of disease and reinfection, proper coop management is vital. The coop should be carefully cleaned after any illness.

Maintaining the health of the chickens will also help to prevent reinfection. Chicken immunity can be boosted by giving your pets excellent probiotics.

Prevention of Chicken Respiratory Diseases

respiratory illness in chickens

Acquiring healthy chicks

It’s always a good idea to start with healthy birds to avoid respiratory problems. So, it’s critical to get disease-free birds from reliable suppliers rather than from local markets.

The National Poultry Improvement Plan (NPIP) was formed in the 1930s as a cooperative state-federal effort. Its goal is to take advantage of newly discovered diagnostic capabilities to identify and reduce the occurrence of certain diseases in poultry.

Many commercial hatcheries and farms participate in this voluntary initiative, making them an excellent source for starter and replacement birds. Participation is frequently announced, but if it isn’t, don’t hesitate to inquire.

A 6-week quarantine will also give you ample time to see if any health issues occur before introducing your new pets to an existing flock.

Proper Housing

chicken respiratory

Appropriate housing can significantly reduce the incidence of respiratory diseases. So, before the new babies arrive, management issues must be addressed. This includes flock size, age distribution, drinking water sanitation, and rooster presence. Also, consider that frequent diseases in poultry are caused by housing that is difficult to clean.

Whether you’re converting an old shed or buying a ready-made coop, it’s critical to figure out how much ventilation it offers. During the summer, maintain opened windows to increase air quality and circulation. Fresh air is also obtainable to birds who have access to a run.

If there isn’t enough ventilation, the dampness created by the chickens and their feces will stick to the windows and walls. Also, when ammonia levels in chickens’ airways exceed 25 ppm, cilia are damaged, allowing respiratory infections to colonize and cause sickness.

Ensure that your pets are also protected from diseases like avian influenza, which can be spread by wild birds who have access to the coop. When chickens have free-range access, they may flock around their feeders, exposing themselves.


Vaccinated point-of-lay pullets are available from providers. Make sure to inquire about the immunization status of the chicks you’re buying.

You can also consider vaccination of your flock if you breed birds on your own especially if you’re dealing with a health issue.


If your backyard pets aren’t provided tender loving care, they may contract chicken respiratory diseases caused by viruses, bacteria, fungi, and stress. Vaccines, antibiotics, and other treatments may be required for some of the most serious diseases and health conditions. Always make their happiness and health your primary priority.


respiratory infections in chickens

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