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Chicks sneezing for more than 2 weeks, what is wrong with them?

post #1 of 11
Thread Starter 

Okay so someone placed an add for incubating eggs, I thought this sounded fun and I wanted to optimize this year's hatch, so I gave them 40 silkie eggs and 10 hatched. I went to pick them up and he took me in back to collect my chicks, the incubator was in a shed next to where his chickens were housed and some seemed sick. I had enough sense to be the one to take the chicks out of the incubator and disinfect my shoes but I did not have enough sense to consider airborne pathogens and quarantine the chicks, instead they went with a hen and her newly hatched brood outside along with all my other birds.


A week later, April 1st, the chicks began to sneeze and flick their heads and since they had been around my other chicks they now all sneeze, I have nearly 50 sneezy silkie chicks now. I should note that I have yet to see enough sneezing from my adult birds to suspect they are sick though it is possible they are ill and just so asymptomatic that I am not seeing them as sick.


I have been raising chickens for 20 years so I can safely say that there was nothing about their housing to account for sneezing, they are housed exactly like all my past broods. So I knew they were sick and not allergenic, I have dealt with a lot but never respiratory disease before, so I hastily sought help from a vet.


I took them to the vet the very day they started sneezing, the vet prescribed duramycin-10 for the entire flock for 2 weeks (a tablespoon per gallon) and gave me some pink antibiotic liquid to give twice a day for anyone that was sicker. Of the 10 incubator chicks 2 would mouth breath on occasion but only for a few moments at a time and only after a hefty sneeze or when trying to sleep, they were also the only ones to sneeze loudly, so they got the pink stuff; I should note that both chicks seemed a touch weaker from the start and one had a rough navel.


On April 6th I saw some red mucus in their otherwise normal poop, a fecal test revealed nothing and the problem quickly subsided, we suspect intestinal shedding from the antibiotics.


After a full course of antibiotics and daily feasting of scrambled eggs and lots of TLC I have seen zero change, they are just as sick as day 1.


It is now April 17th and they are exactly the same as April 1st, just sneezing, head flicking and sometimes slight heavy breathing with their beaks closed. Aside from occasional open mouth breathing from the 2 chicks I have seen no other symptoms, not even droopy wings or being puffed up, no one ever actually acted sickly. There is no nasal discharge, no facial swelling, no neurological symptoms, no eye problems, no coughing, no wheezing, no droopy behavior, no abnormal poop beyond that odd occurrence April 6th. All of the chicks have been growing and developing perfectly normal, they jump and play, they are little piggies about food, aside from these consistent sneezy symptoms they otherwise seem perfectly normal.


The vet seems unable to tell me what the heck this ailment is beyond being "likely a virus that has to run its course" does anyone here know what this could be? Can anyone here tell me I can quit worrying about my birds now??? I have been extremely upset with myself for not quarantining the incubator babies and worried sick I that I may have brought something deadly home.



TDLR: 50 chicks under a month old have been sneezing and head flicking for 17 days, the only other symptom seen is occasional slight heavy breathing with their mouth closed and 2 weaker chicks doing some open mouth breathing, otherwise they are active and eating and perfectly fine, what is wrong with them?

Edited by BeastyBird - 4/17/16 at 10:07am
post #2 of 11

Since they didn't respond to the antibiotics, it probably is a virus, probably IB since it spread to most of the chicks. Infectious bronchitis is one that lasts around a month, and includes sneezing. It is much harder on chicks than grown chickens. One good thing about the antibiotics is that they may have prevented secondary infections. IB will make carriers of all chickens who recover for 5-12 months afterward, so don't hatch any eggs until 1 year later. If you lose a chick, a necropsy by the state vet could probably identify the illness. Here is some info about IB and other respiratory infections:

Edited by Eggcessive - 4/17/16 at 10:53am
post #3 of 11
Thread Starter 

Thank you for the reply! My next question is should I get them back on the duramycin-10 until they quit sneezing? I cannot find anywhere online if it is safe to use it beyond the 14 days stated on the label, and the vet is closed today so I cannot call and ask. I really do not want them to get sicker :C

Edited by BeastyBird - 4/17/16 at 11:05am
post #4 of 11
No, I wouldn't treat them any longer than 14 days on the Duramycin. If any look particularly sick, you can use some Tylan 50 injectable, but give it orally to each chick, 1/4 ml twice a day for 3-5 days. Again if it is IB, the antibiotics may not help, so I would just give it if they are much worse. There is also Tylan Soluble Powder for use in the water if you want that, but it is pretty expensive. Dosage of that is 1 tsp. per gallon of water for 3-5 days.
post #5 of 11
Thread Starter 

I can now say the adults are defiantly sneezing too, and I am not sure for how long they have been sneezing, but I certainly noticed more than the incidental sneeze today as I did maintenance on the pen and was around them longer than usual. I also noticed a bit more red mucus in what is otherwise normal baby chicken stool, which I assume is intestinal shedding?

I am desperately hoping that since no one has gotten worse at this point that I am in the clear for the worst of ailments??? Can I clam down now or do I still need to stay guarded on the outcome of this???


I took some photos of the chicks today, as you can see no one actually looks all that sick, the close up is of "Sickie-Chike" patient zero in this outbreak and who showed the worst symptoms (again this was the weakest chick and was born with a rather rough navel)




Edited by BeastyBird - 4/19/16 at 10:29am
post #6 of 11
If you can post a picture of the red mucus in the droppings it might be helpful. Intestinal shed looks more like strings of orangey red tomatoes than blood, which is usually red or pinkish. Blood can look like red berries, and is a sign of coccidiosis. Not all strains of cocci cause blood in droppings.
post #7 of 11
Thread Starter 

A fecal test done the 6th came up clean, and I am thankful it did as I was told to take them off the medicated feed from the 1st to the 10th while on the pink antibiotic and I had been keeping them in a very sanitary brooder, they have now been back on the medicated feed since the 10th and went outside into the big brooder just today.


I will get a picture the next time I spot a bit of red, what I have been seeing is a gooey string or little glob of red, sometimes pinkish red, in what is otherwise a normal poop.

post #8 of 11
Thread Starter 

Well the chicks are still mildly sick, I am not sure if some have recovered or not as it is hard to keep track of who is who in a flock of 40 preteen silkies, there is still enough sneezing and slight heavy breathing going on to not be allergies.


No one has gotten worse, at first glance there seems to be nothing wrong at all, you have to observe them for a moment to notice the symptoms. The adults are also still mildly sick if sick at all. Also no one in my nearby aviary of 30 finches have gotten ill so this has to be a chicken-only issue.


The only thing is I do still see red in the baby poops, I do have a picture this time, I would say it is "strings of orangey red tomatoes" in appearance which would mean intestinal shedding correct? While I cannot say I have ever seen this in chicks poop before I also cannot say I have ever inspected a chicks poop so intently before, and you have to pick it apart to see this much red as it is well mixed in (note: this poop was fished out of the water dish hence how wet it is, their poops are not watery)



PS as pet owners we study poop an awful lot don't we o__O;

Edited by BeastyBird - 4/28/16 at 4:59pm
post #9 of 11
Thread Starter 

After just over a month symptoms subsided to mere occasional head flicks.


All chicks born since exposure have caught it and are currently just exhibiting the head flicks and mild occasional sneezing. So whatever this bug is it's quite contagious, but the symptoms are few and very very mild, and the chicks never slowed down or acted sick at all, and they have also all matured perfectly.


Edited by BeastyBird - 5/8/16 at 10:37pm
post #10 of 11
What cuties! I'm glad they seem to be getting over what may well be infectious bronchitis. IB is easily spread to 100% of the flock. I would'nt breed any more or hatch eggs for a year, and it provably will be ended. The literature says that IB exposed birds remain carriers for 5 months to a year.
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