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How To Treat A Chicken With A Cold

How To Treat A Chicken With A Cold

Chickens caught a cold? Here’s what might be the cause.

It’s not just the cold weather when you might see your hens showing signs of sniffles and runny noses. Fortunately, chickens don’t get “colds” like us humans but are quite susceptible to viral respiratory diseases with two being the most prevalent.

Symptoms that you might see in your hens may include:

  • A clear discharge from their nostrils
  • Coughing
  • Sneezing
  • A raspiness or rattling sound to their breathing
  • Stretching-out their necks
  • Gasping for breath
  • Reduction in egg laying
  • Drop in eggs size, irregularly shaped eggs or soft egg shells

The most common causes of these symptoms:

  1. Avian infectious bronchitis (IBV)
  2. Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)

Avian infectious bronchitis doesn’t normally harm older hens but mortality can be relatively high for young hens under about 5-weeks of age. Most layer hens, such as our Hy-Line Browns, have been vaccinated for local forms of IBV but there are many different strains of the virus so it does not guarantee immunity from less common strains.

Hens will normally recover from the virus within 3 to 4 weeks but if one of your hens catches it, they will normally all get it. There are no treatments available for infected hens but they will benefit from good nutrition and added vitamins and minerals in their diet. Vitality Booster and Mother Hen‘s Remedy are two relevant nutritional boosters that will support fighting-off and recovery from viruses. Keep an eye out for any secondary, bacterial infections that are common in hens affected by IBV as these infections may require an antibiotic to treat.

Infectious laryngotracheitis shares many similarities with the IBV virus but tends to have a higher mortality rate. Our Hy-Line Browns are also vaccinated for the common strains of ILT but again, due to the range of different strains in circulation, problems can still be caused if hens become infected by any of them.

Hens that recover from ILT will be carriers for life so be aware of this when thinking of introducing new hens into your flock. Similarly 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 for up to 2 months in bedding and nesting materials so a good clean-out of bedding and litter is essential.

10 thoughts on “How To Treat A Chicken With A Cold

    1. Hi Damian,

      If your other hens are vaccinated for IBV and ILT they’ll be fine. If not, they will likely pick it up but if they are healthy, they won’t necessarily die from getting infected.

      Hens are flock animals so don’t do wonderfully by themselves but you would need to provide a large distance between the flocks to ensure that IBV and ILT don’t travel to the non-infected flock. ILT can become airborne and travel over a kilometre!

  1. Thank you for the helpful information. Is there any way to treat the disease besides using the remedies, and are the diseases contagious?

    1. Once they have ILT or IBV they are carriers for life, unfortunately. The clinical signs tend to start showing and causing distress to infected chickens when they are stressed, receiving poor nutrition or in relatively poor condition.

      The best thing is to give them the best nutrition and provide extra supplements whenever signs start showing.

  2. If my chicken is sneezing and I have lot’s of other chickens do I split them
    Up because she doesn’t like being separated from her sister and mother

    1. Hi Ellira,

      I would want to diagnose exactly what is the cause of the sneezing. If it is ILT, IB or some other virus of poultry, it is likely that she would have passed it on to the other birds in the flock so separation won’t help.

      If the flock is in good condition and received good nutrition, if it is a virus, the strong will survive but the weak may not, unfortunately. Hopefully, it is just some dust in her nostrils if you have only noticed the sneezing for a short time.


  3. Hi! All my hen has is a rattling breath, could that still mean she has one of these diseases? She doesn’t have any of the other symptoms. Thank you!

    1. Hi Scarlett,

      Yes, these diseases are common in poultry so your hens could potentially have ILT or IB. If your flock hasn’t been vaccinated, there’s more of a chance that the clinical signs will start appearing.

      Give them the best nutrition available and avoid any scraps in the short-term until the signs (rattling), stop. You could also ask your local Vet, if they are experienced with poultry, who might have some ideas on local disease issues.

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