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Do chickens get allergies?

I’ve always been curious as to whether or not chickens develop allergies… I figured, just like any pet, cats or dogs, for example, chickens are able to develop allergies over time.  After talking with our poultry technical service members, I was informed that while it might be possible for chickens to develop symptoms similar to “allergies,” more than likely, it’s some sort of respiratory problem. With the temperatures rising and we begin to transition to more of the dry months, the stage is being set for respiratory diseases beginning to develop in your feathered-friends. 

Whereas in humans we associate allergies or upper respiratory diseases with sneezing, coughing, runny or itchy noses, specifically caused by pollen or seasonal changes, chickens experience something similar… Sinusitis, or a sinus infection, is inflammation of the air cavities located within the chicken’s nostrils.  When a sinus infection occurs, these areas, which are typically hollow, are filled with mucus, debris, liquid, etc. and are unable to drain.  As a result, eyes, and necks swell, noses drip, pus builds up (eye boogers), etc.  A few diseases that cause sinusitis, which may be confused as “allergies,” include…

–    Chronic respiratory disease (CRD)

  • Causes: Bacterium Mycoplasma gallisepticum that is spread through eggs, infected litter, feed or water, biosecurity
  • Symptoms: sniffling, sneezing, wet noses
  • Clinical signs: mild tracheitis (inflammation of the trachea), sinusitis (inflammation of the sinus glands), airsacculitis (inflammation of air sacs), conjunctivitis (inflammation of the conjunctiva or lining of the eye)

(Limited Liability Company Animal DVM, 2019)

–    Infectious laryngotracheitis (ILT)

  • Causes: Herpesvirus that is spread by direct contact with infected birds or through improper biosecurity measures – contaminated dead birds, equipment not properly sanitized, housing is unkept and unclean, humans do not follow proper protocol entering and leaving coops
  • Symptoms: Coughing, sneezing, eye discharge, wet noses
  • Clinical Signs: Tracheitis, conjunctivitis

(Infectious larynchotracheitis, 2019)

–    Fowl cholera (FC)

  • Causes: Bacterium Pasteurella multocida that is spread via nasal discharge, feces, contaminated bedding, humans, etc.
  • Symptoms: Coughing, swollen joints
  • Clinical Signs: Sinusitis, conjunctivitis

(Fowl Cholera, Pasteurellosis, 2019).

–    Avian influenza (AI) High Path and Low Path

  • Causes: Caused by the influenza virus Type ‘A’ and can spread through the feces and nasal cavities of diseased birds
  • Symptoms: bodily fluids, nasal/eye discharge, coughing
  • Clinical Signs: Conjunctivitis, sinusitis, hemorrhaging

http://www.oie.int/doc/ged/D13947.PDF

–    Infectious Coryza

  • Causes: Bacterium Haemophilus pargallinarum; transmitted directly from bird-to-bird contact. Airborne bacteria and contaminated food and water.
  • Symptoms: Foul-smelling, thick discharge from eyes and nose, diarrhea, decrease in egg production
  • Clinical Signs: Sinusitis, conjunctivitis, swollen wattles

(Overview of Infectious Corysa in Chickens, 2019)

Sick Chicken

What are some solutions?

Don’t freak out!

If your chicken sneezes once or twice, more than likely, it’s being caused by an excess amount of dust in the coop or bedding.  These are two common causes of sinus irritations.  However, if you begin to notice that a lot of your coop seems to be sneezing continuously, separate the sick from the healthy and seek your veterinarian’s advice.   Also, help reduce the stress that your birds are experiencing – this will help manage the disease once it is in the flock.

Antibiotics and vaccinations

There are antibiotics available that are highly suggested which are able to control bacterial infections.  Many of the vaccinations available for respiratory diseases involves using attenuated live vaccines – administering the disease live into the body.  If you are not able to get to your veterinarian quick enough, quarantine your chickens in a dry, warm place with food and water.

Prevention

Not only are there vaccinations available to prevent the onset and spread of disease, but there are measures that are able to be taken at the farm level too.  For example, when your birds aren’t feeling well they may be off their feed or not drinking like they should.  So, for starters, make sure that your birds have fresh water every day and their feeders are cleaned regularly.  Use of a high-quality nutritional supplement to support their immune system and maintain gut health may be of benefit.  Keep your chickens away from wild birds.  Make sure to properly dispose of carcasses of any kind as well as do your best to maintain the sanitation of property, house and equipment. Quarantine the birds that you notice are expressing signs of respiratory disease. 

If you notice that your bird is developing signs of respiratory disease such as a runny nose or running eyes, sneezing or snicking, or they have swollen sinuses such as around the eyes, it’s important to isolate the bird from the healthy birds and contact your veterinarian about a potential antibiotic treatment.  As the temperatures change, try and be more aware of keeping a controlled atmosphere in poultry houses; not only will this save you money and be more energy efficient, but you will be able to reduce the likelihood of diseases and protect your chickens’ vulnerability

Moral of the story; It’s probably nothing but it might be something so be alert to their behavior.

Fowl Cholera, Pasteurellosis. The Poultry Site. 2019 May 6 [accessed 2019 May 6]. https://thepoultrysite.com/disease-guide/fowl-cholera-pasteurellosis

http://www.oie.int/doc/ged/D13947.PDF

Infectious laryngotracheitis. Poultry Hub. [accessed 2019 May 6]. http://www.poultryhub.org/health/disease/types-of-disease/infectious-laryngotracheitis/

Limited Liability Company Animal DVM. Sinus infection (sinusitis). PoultryDVM. [accessed 2019 May 6]. http://www.poultrydvm.com/condition/sinusitis

Overview of Infectious Coryza in Chickens – Poultry. Merck Veterinary Manual. [accessed 2019 May 6]. https://www.merckvetmanual.com/poultry/infectious-coryza/overview-of-infectious-coryza-in-chicken

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