Saturday, April 13, 2013

Chronic Respiratory Disease in Chickens

If one of the kids begins to sneeze, it's no surprise. But the sound of a chicken sneezing turned my head a few times.

It started with just one of the Buff Orpingtons, the ones I picked up at the small post office a few miles down the rode. When they called to say that my twenty-five day-old chicks had arrived, I was elated. My youngest son wanted to tag along for the trip to pick up the chicks. School could wait. This was an epic field trip.

The chicks warmed our hearts with their fluffy cuteness and teeny tiny chirps and cheeps.

I was their momma - the only thing they had to take care of their needs.

But a single sneeze was cause for alert, and soon enough, there were more chickens sneezing. A thorough internet search left me confused as to what was causing the sneezing and loose stools in the coop critters, so I went on to chat with an expert bird veterinarian. For the cost of a typical vet visit (and there are no chicken vets in our area), I was able to correspond with someone who could help me isolate the problem.

Dr. Bob asked me about the health of my Buffs prior to this event. They had been happy and healthy. His next question was if I had added any new chickens to the coop lately.!!!! Just a few weeks ago, I had purchased some chickens from a farm an hour away. Grrrr. Surely he knew his chickens were carriers, yet he ships thousands per year. Shame on me for not researching this first.

The Little Culprits and one of the Big Buffs
The new chickens, however, were the only chickens NOT ill. Dr. Bob mentioned that they were most likely carriers of an illness. Based on the symptoms listed below, Dr. Bob suggested that my chickens had been exposed to Chronic Respiratory Disease:

  • Sneezing or coughing sounds
  • loose stools
  • ceased or reduced egg production
  • bad odor from the chickens' face area (and yes, it IS a terrible smell!)

The prognosis is fair, depending on how a person looks at it.  Because the chickens are two years old, they most likely won't die like a younger group could. They will get over their colds, but the virus lives in their system forever, so if my chickens should ever get stressed, they will become ill once again. (Honestly, they have a wonderful life. Not much stress around here. LOL)

They don't look sick! (#denial)
They are still laying eggs, at a reduced rate though. And they still have energy to eat and run around the farm. I can wait it out until the chickens all need to be replaced, or I can replace them now. This means losing my first-born group of chicks, sterilizing the entire coop, ordering new chicks, and waiting six months for egg production to begin, AND hoping the virus hasn't lingered in some little corner of the coop.

For now, I will wait for the answer to come. I'm not ready to cull them all yet, but I suspect I'll know what to do when the time comes.

Lesson learned: Never be too quick to buy chickens from another location. Order chicks or hatch your own, if possible.

If you know anything about CRD in chickens, I'd love your feedback and/or advice on the subject. 



  1. Awwww. Sharon!!! That is terrible. Poor chickies. I don't have any advice. But hatching your own is super cool. I love to hatch chickens. The experience of hearing them pip to seeing their wet tiny feathers is awe inspiring. Even my big lug of a husband gets giddy when they start hatching.

    I hope your ladies all survive and fair well. My thoughts will be with you and your brood.

    xoxoxxo, Tiff

  2. Most chickens are carriers of some disease. The key is quarantine, and culling at the first sign of disease. Those are two things people are hesitant to do for some reason.


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