Do Chickens Get Colds?

A respiratory infection in chickens (also turkeys) caused by mycoplasma gallisepticum bacteria is often incorrectly referred to as a cold. Mycoplasma is a common illness in winter and at times of stress, it is contagious and transmitted by wild birds, footwear, clothing and feeding equipment. The first time chickens succumb to the infection the symptoms will be more severe, subsequent outbreaks are often milder.

Early symptoms to look out for are:

  • Bubbles or frothiness in the eyes (visible in the photo)
  • Sneezing
  • Nasal discharge
  • Facial swelling

Left untreated this can progress to rattles in the chest and eventual respiratory distress.

Treatment of antibiotics such as Tylan soluble/injectable or Denagard prescribed by your veterinary surgeon will help keep symptoms to a minimum but won’t cure, usually there’s no egg withdrawal but do check with your vet. Individual cases should be quarantined and kept warm, if the whole flock is affected then treat together. As always good hygiene is important to prevent disease or illness with poultry, however new birds brought in can already be carriers, becoming ill soon after arrival due to the stress of being rehoused or integrated within a new flock. Stress is a trigger.

Most affected birds do recover with treatment but will remain carriers, becoming mildly ill again during stressful situations or during winter. Some birds never get ill at all having a higher resistance than others. Avoid overcrowding and keep up strict hygiene, it is important to treat at the first sign of illness.

I hope this post has been helpful for spotting the early signs of mycoplasma respiratory infection in chickens.

If you are concerned about your chickens always seek advice from your vet.

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