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Respiratory Distress

post #1 of 9
Thread Starter 

Help! I have a chicken that had a sudden onset of respiratory distress. She is stretching her neck out to breath and occasionally gasps. She is very lethargic and docile right now. None of our other birds are showing any signs of distress, but if it is contagious I want to stop it if we can. They are housed in a coop with very good ventilation. There is no visible discharge nor foul smell. She does seem to have some white substance on the feathers on the underside of her neck, but it is dry, not wet or smelly.

My kids think she may have eaten something and is choking on it, but I don't know if that is possible.

Any ideas?


Edited by Yakker99 - 9/14/11 at 7:21pm
post #2 of 9

If there's no nasal discharge or coughing, it could be an impacted crop.

More copy and paste from poultry pages -

Crop Problems

Before you can decide if your hen is unwell because of a crop problem you need to know what a normal crop should be like.

Hens only have a small gizzard (stomach) for grinding up their food which is quite a long process for them as they have no teeth to chew it up first.  The food eaten during the day is stored in their crop which will gradually become distended. They can eat so much they become quite bosomy in a singular sort of way.  During the night they will gradually grind the food up in their gizzard and their crop will become deflated by morning.  If the hen has a lump on her chest in the morning feel it to try to determine what the problem may be.

Blocked or Impacted Crop

If the lump is hard, then it is called impacted or blocked crop. This can happen when they have eaten long, tough, fibrous grass, or something similar, and it has got into a tangled mass that is too large to pass further down.

Some keepers recommend giving the hen live white maggots (the fisherman's type) to eat.  These may dislodge the blockage. A more standard treatment is to syringe a lubricant into the crop and massaging it to try to help break up the blockage and the contents can then pass out of the chicken's crop and on down the digestive system. Do not try to make a chicken sick as the hard lump will be too big for the hen to regurgitate ! 

Olive oil is good option as a first aid measure, but do not to use it for more than a day or two, as it may overload the chickens liver. Another option is liquid paraffin (from chemists or vets) which, does not go through the liver passes out with the droppings.

Use 2-3ml of oil or liquid paraffin twice a day, and massage the crop quite firmly for a few minutes afterwards. Use a syringe to give the lubricant, being careful to put it past the hole at the back of the chicken's tongue. This hole leads to the lungs and if anything other than air gets down there this can be dangerous. You may need to use a syringe with a narrow tube attached.

Avoid letting the chicken eat anything which might add to the impaction.  Feed soft, highly nutritious food.  If this treatment does not reducing the size of the lump, or has not resolved the situation after a week, or the chicken's health is deteriorating in any other way, the only other options are to consult your vet or dispatch the bird.

Sour crop

If the crop is very soft and feels like a water filled balloon, this is called a sour crop. It is caused by a fungal infection and all the extra liquid is the body's reaction to the fungus.  In this case the crop contents will smell awful, so another way to confirm this is the problem is to smell the chicken's breath, which can be done at anytime of the day. Sometimes a hen my regurgitate some of the contents of the crop.

You can get rid of some of the fluid by making the chicken sick. If you do this you need to be very careful so the chicken doesn't choke as the fluid comes back. You should hold her upside down away from you, head downwards, and gently pushing with your hand from the bottom of the crop upwards towards the chicken's head. Do several small attempts, rather than one big one.

Then feed you hen live, bio yogurt. Most chickens, given the chance, will eat this directly. If she will not eat it give a teaspoon or two (5-10 ml) by syringe daily. And feed soft nutritious food.  If this treatment does not help after a few days, or if the chicken's health is deteriorating in any other way, a vet can prescribe an anti-fungal drugs.  If sour crop is left undetected or untreated long term there can be irreversible damage to the lining of the crop.

Putting Apple Cider Vinegar in the drinking water and garlic in their feed are very good for the digestion and can help to prevent problems.

post #3 of 9
Thread Starter 

Good thought, but her crop seems empty. I cannot feel that she has any large lump.

post #4 of 9

Huh. That is really odd. If there aren't any other signs of respiratory distress I'm honestly not sure what it could be. I'd keep her isolated from the rest just in case. Try adding vitamins/electrolytes to her water maybe?

post #5 of 9

Could the white stuff be a fungus or mildew of some sort??  In humid weather birds can get a respiratory fungus/mildew thing.  I have read some good threads, try to search for it.  Oxine in a nebulizer or cool mist vaporizer seems to be the treatment of choice.  Unless it is bacterial, antibiotics wont help.  Vit/electrolytes or poly-vi-sol are always a good thing.

post #6 of 9

Just had another thought.  What about gape worm??  I have read that if you look down their throats you can see a worm if it is there.

post #7 of 9

I just went through the same thing.....gasping for breath,,,,no other signs....crop ok.  there seems to be fungal infections going around.  I started Oxine treatment but I was about two weeks too late to help my hen, she passed.
Gape worms can be seen in the throat, open mouth wide and look with a light... they are about the size of a horse hair and can get to be an inch long.  I thought my may have gape worm and treated for that , then realized she didn't, by the time I began treatment for fungal infection it was too late.

4-EasterEgger, 3-Blk Australorps, 2-Silver Laced Wyandotts, 1 - gold laced Wyandott, 3-RIR, 1-Light Brahma, 2- Buff Orpingtons, 1  -Blue Rock, 1 - Delaware,  1 - Wheaten Maran, 2 - Cockoo Marans , 5 - Blk Minorcas, 1 - Buff Minorca, 3- Barred rocks, 2- White Giants, 2-great danes, 1-GSH, about 200+ Mexican Free Tailed bats


4-EasterEgger, 3-Blk Australorps, 2-Silver Laced Wyandotts, 1 - gold laced Wyandott, 3-RIR, 1-Light Brahma, 2- Buff Orpingtons, 1  -Blue Rock, 1 - Delaware,  1 - Wheaten Maran, 2 - Cockoo Marans , 5 - Blk Minorcas, 1 - Buff Minorca, 3- Barred rocks, 2- White Giants, 2-great danes, 1-GSH, about 200+ Mexican Free Tailed bats

post #8 of 9
Thread Starter 

Thanks for all the feedback. I thought gape worm maybe, I can't see any, but she doesn't give me long to look. I hate to stress her as she is already struggling for breath. We live in CO and it has been dry except for yesterday and today (lots of rain), so it could be fungal. How do you nebulize oxine? Put them in a box with a humidifier maybe? I am looking for some Ivermectin locally just in case it is worms.

Hope she makes it long enough for this all to help...

post #9 of 9

Great info on oxine here:

mist humidifier, ultra fine paint sprayer, fine spritz bottle.  Heated vaporizers would just distill and probably just leave the oxine in the bottom of the unit.

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