The 11 Reasons Why Chickens Sneezing and How to Prevent It

The 11 Reasons Why Chickens Sneezing and How to Prevent It

Sneezing Chickens: 11 Reasons Why it Happens

Introduction

Chickens are one of the most popular types of livestock to raise on a homestead. They provide a steady supply of fresh eggs, pest control for the garden, and entertainment with their quirky behaviors. However, as any chicken owner knows, there are times when chickens exhibit strange behaviors that can leave you scratching your head. One such behavior is sneezing. In this article, we will explore 11 reasons why chickens sneeze and what you can do about it.

1. Dust or Irritants

Chickens spend a lot of time scratching and pecking at the ground, which can stir up dust and other irritants. If your chickens are sneezing occasionally, it may simply be due to dust or allergens in their environment. This is especially common in dry or dusty climates. To minimize the chances of sneezing from dust or irritants, ensure that your chicken coop and run are clean and well-ventilated. Regularly clean out bedding and provide ample fresh air circulation.

Tips:

  • Use dust-free bedding such as straw or wood shavings.
  • Install proper ventilation systems in your chicken coop.
  • Keep the coop clean and free from excessive dust buildup.

2. Respiratory Infections

Sneezing can also be a sign of respiratory infections in chickens. Common infections include infectious bronchitis, mycoplasma gallisepticum, and Newcastle disease. If your chicken is sneezing persistently, has a runny nose, or shows other signs of illness such as coughing or difficulty breathing, it is important to take immediate action. Quarantine the affected chicken and consult a veterinarian for diagnosis and treatment options. In some cases, antibiotics may be necessary to treat the infection.

Tips:

  • Isolate sick chickens from the rest of the flock to prevent the spread of infection.
  • Keep a close eye on the sick chicken’s symptoms and behavior.
  • Contact a veterinarian with experience in poultry health for proper diagnosis and treatment.

3. Allergies

Just like humans, chickens can develop allergies to certain substances. Common allergens for chickens include mold, dust mites, pollen, and certain types of feed or bedding materials. If your chickens are consistently sneezing and there are no signs of other illnesses, it may be worth investigating potential allergens in their environment. Try eliminating or changing one component at a time, such as switching to a different type of bedding or feed, to see if the sneezing subsides.

Tips:

  • Keep track of when the sneezing occurs and if any patterns emerge.
  • Gradually introduce changes to the chicken’s environment to identify potential allergens.
  • Consult with an avian veterinarian for guidance on managing chicken allergies.

4. Dust Bathing

Chickens love to take dust baths to clean their feathers and keep parasites at bay. This involves vigorously shaking and rolling in loose dirt or sand. While dust bathing is a healthy behavior for chickens, it can sometimes cause them to sneeze. The dust particles can irritate their respiratory system, leading to sneezing. If your chickens are sneezing after dust bathing, provide them with a clean, dry area to take their baths and consider using diatomaceous earth, which is a natural parasite deterrent, in their dusting spot.

Tips:

  • Designate a specific area in the chicken run for dust bathing.
  • Ensure that the area is dry and free from excessive dust or dirt buildup.
  • Consider adding diatomaceous earth to the dusting spot as a natural parasite control method.

5. Environmental Changes

Chickens are creatures of habit, and any sudden changes in their environment can cause stress and sneezing. This can include changes in temperature, humidity, feed, or even the addition of new flock members. Take note of any recent changes that may have triggered the sneezing behavior and try to address it. Gradual introductions and maintaining a stable environment will help minimize stress-related sneezing in chickens.

Tips:

  • Avoid sudden and drastic changes in the chicken’s environment.
  • If changes are necessary, introduce them gradually to allow the chickens to adjust.
  • Monitor the flock’s behavior and health closely after any environmental changes.

6. Drafts and Cold Temperatures

Chickens are susceptible to drafts and cold temperatures, which can lead to respiratory issues and sneezing. Make sure your chicken coop is well-insulated and free from drafts. Consider using insulation and sealing any gaps or cracks in the coop. Provide adequate bedding and consider adding a heat source during extreme cold weather to keep the chickens warm and reduce the chances of sneezing.

Tips:

  • Inspect the chicken coop for any areas where drafts may be entering.
  • Seal cracks and gaps with appropriate materials to prevent drafts.
  • Provide a thick layer of bedding to insulate the coop.

7. Foreign Objects

Chickens are curious creatures that love to explore their surroundings. Sometimes, they may accidentally inhale or ingest foreign objects, such as grass, feathers, or small insects. This can lead to sneezing as their body tries to expel the objects. If your chicken is sneezing excessively and there is no other apparent cause, gently inspect its nostrils and mouth for any obstructions. If you see anything lodged, try removing it carefully with tweezers, or seek veterinary assistance if necessary.

Tips:

  • Handle chickens gently and with care when inspecting their nostrils or mouth.
  • Use clean tweezers to carefully remove any visible foreign objects.
  • Do not force anything out if it is deeply lodged or causing distress to the chicken; seek veterinary help in such cases.

8. Dusty Feed or Moldy Food

Chickens can develop respiratory issues and sneeze if their feed is dusty or contaminated with mold. Ensure that the feed you provide is clean and free from any signs of mold or mildew. Store feed in dry, airtight containers and use it within the recommended expiration dates. Additionally, consider feeding your chickens fermented feed, as the fermentation process can help reduce the risk of mold and improve their overall gut health.

Tips:

  • Inspect your chicken feed regularly for signs of dust or mold.
  • Keep feed containers clean and dry to prevent contamination.
  • Consider fermenting your chicken feed for added health benefits.

9. Irritants in the Bedding

The type of bedding you use in the chicken coop can also contribute to sneezing if it contains irritants or allergens. Straw, hay, and certain types of wood shavings can release particles that irritate the chickens’ respiratory system. Consider switching to dust-free bedding options such as sand, shredded paper, or hemp bedding. These alternatives are less likely to trigger sneezing and provide a healthier environment for your chickens.

Tips:

  • Experiment with different types of bedding to find the one that works best for your chickens.
  • Avoid using bedding materials that are known to release dust or irritants.
  • Keep the bedding clean and dry to minimize potential irritants.

10. High Humidity

High humidity levels can increase the moisture content in the air and make it harder for chickens to breathe properly. This can result in sneezing and other respiratory issues. If your chickens are sneezing more frequently during humid weather, consider providing additional ventilation in the coop. Use fans or open windows to circulate the air and reduce humidity levels. However, make sure to balance the need for ventilation with the need to keep the chickens warm during colder months.

Tips:

  • Monitor the humidity levels inside the chicken coop using a hygrometer.
  • Use fans or open windows to improve air circulation and reduce humidity.
  • Ensure that the chickens have access to fresh air without exposing them to drafts.

11. Stress or Excitement

Chickens can sneeze when they are under stress or experiencing excitement. This can happen during events such as predator sightings, loud noises, or when they are being handled. While occasional sneezing due to stress or excitement is normal, persistent sneezing in these situations may indicate underlying health issues. Ensure that your chickens have a calm and low-stress environment and monitor their overall well-being closely.

Tips:

  • Minimize stressors in the chicken’s environment, such as loud noises or excessive handling.
  • Observe how your chickens react to different situations to identify triggers for stress or excitement.
  • Provide hiding spots or areas of refuge where chickens can retreat when they feel stressed.

Conclusion

Sneezing in chickens can have various causes, ranging from minor irritations to more serious infections. It’s important to pay attention to the frequency and duration of the sneezing, as well as any accompanying symptoms, to determine the underlying cause. By addressing potential irritants, maintaining a clean and well-ventilated coop, and providing a low-stress environment, you can minimize the chances of your chickens experiencing excessive sneezing and keep them in optimal health.

My 2 Cents

While occasional sneezing in chickens may not be a cause for concern, persistent or severe sneezing should be taken seriously. It is always better to be safe than sorry when it comes to the health of your flock. If you notice any worrisome symptoms or behavior, don’t hesitate to seek professional advice from a veterinarian with experience in poultry health. Remember, prevention is key, so implementing good hygiene practices, providing a well-balanced diet, and keeping your chickens stress-free will go a long way in maintaining their respiratory health.