Chicken Respiratory Woes in Backyard Flock...Looking for Advice & Information


9 Years
Apr 14, 2012
Hi BYCers,

The events of the past few days have me really stressed out and I am wondering what the best path forward is. Any insights or experience you can offer would be much appreciated!

One of my hens has been exhibiting respiratory symptoms for the past few weeks or so (sneezing, opening her mouth, occasional harsh breathing sounds -almost like she has phlegm in her throat). These symptoms came on gradually, starting with just the occasional sneeze, which I did not think much of initially. However, in the past week(ish), the symptoms progressed such that it was obvious something was wrong with her. Yesterday, I took her to the vet and was told that she likely has mycoplasma or infectious laryngotracheitis. The vet swabbed her and sent off the samples for testing to be conducted.

I am worried that my other two birds, one of which is broody and sitting on eggs, have also been exposed. This is very problematic for me because the eggs my broody hen is sitting on are a rare, heritage breed, and I was hoping to give some of the chicks away after they hatched. Furthermore, I live in city limits and cannot keep any of the roosters that hatch. Note: I will not consider killing any of the birds. I obviously do not want to be spreading diseases to other flocks, either.

My instinct is to have my other two birds (including the broody hen) tested as soon as possible. Unfortunately, the vet that I took my sick bird to will not be back in the office until next week. I am hoping to find an alternative testing option sooner.

Another complication is that I have a couple of 10-day old chicks in a brooder inside the house right now and am expecting another batch of hatching eggs to arrive in the mail today. I would like to prevent the chicks from catching anything, if possible.

This leads me to a whole host of questions that I have e-mailed to a vet:
  1. Is it advisable to get all of my birds tested (the two other hens living outside, and the two chicks that are currently in a brooder indoors)? If so, can I swab them myself and send samples to a lab or would I have to take my birds to a vet to have this done (I would like to avoid moving the hen sitting on eggs, if possible)?
  2. Do carriers still test positive for these diseases even if they are asymptomatic?
  3. My understanding is that these types of diseases are life-long and cannot be cured. Is that correct?
  4. How contagious are they, and how likely is it that either my sick hen's flock mates, or the chicks inside the house, have already contracted the same illness?
  5. Can a hen pass these types of diseases to eggs she is sitting on/incubating - that are not biologically hers - before they hatch?
  6. How long do these diseases live in the environment after the birds have left? I am thinking of moving two of my hens - the ill one and her buddy who she's been in close contact with- over to a friend's house who currently does not own chickens. They would stay there for the next few months while I am raising my chicks (assuming I can prevent them from catching whatever disease my flock seems to have been exposed to). Then once I find homes for the chicks I am not keeping, I would either have the option of bringing my infected flock back, putting all the birds together and closing the flock, or trying to keep them separate in different coops across the yard.
Thanks in advance for any thoughts, suggestions, or advice...


Heartless Ice Queen
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Apr 9, 2013
My Coop
My Coop
:hugs Geez I'm sorry you're deaking with this! I'm afraid if it's mycoplasma then all of your birds are at risk. It can be passed to the embryo in the eggs and any infected birds will be carriers for life. The only way to prevent the spread is to put down the carriers. It is even recommended to sanitize everything and not keep a flock for a bit as it doesn't live long without a host, but rodents and wild birds can carry it. Treatment with antibiotics alleviates symptoms but will likely need to be repeated. Since the immune system is compromised the infected can become more susceptible to other diseases which can endanger the whole flock as well.

I've never heard of the other issue, I'm sorry.

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