Chicken trachea windpipe obstruction

Discussion in 'Feeding & Watering Your Flock' started by Stone Hobbit, Nov 6, 2015.

  1. Stone Hobbit

    Stone Hobbit New Egg

    Nov 6, 2015
    Chicken trachea windpipe obstruction

    Is it possible for a food object to enter the trachea? If the chicken has swallowed a food object that has not been adequately broken down and become lodged in the oesophagus could this impinge on the trachea?

    We just recently lost one bird and found another suffocating. We believe it is food related. We syringed luke warm water and warmed coconut oil to the back of the mouth over a few hours and the object blocking the windpipe resolved itself.

    We wrote up about our findings and what we did to share for others if they found it helpful but just wanted to get responses to the above questions.

    Last edited: Nov 6, 2015
  2. Toddrick

    Toddrick Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 28, 2014
    You shouldn't really force liquid into the birds beak unless you carefully do it off to the far left side (opposite the trachea). Otherwise there is a good chance the liquid will go into their lungs, they will aspirate, and die.

    Is there a lot of dust in the food or coop? Do you use diatemaceous earth? Switching from crumble to pellets or removing DE might help.

    Last edited: Nov 7, 2015
  3. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

    May 11, 2010
    I've never had a chicken with a foreign body lodged in the throat. However, just recently I had a hen with a growth blocking the trachea and she was humanely euthanized. Her symptoms did not include gasping for air. She simply could not keep food or water down. She would eject food with a shake of her head. I could actually palpate the growth by massaging her neck.

    Chickens who are gasping or appear to be choking are usually suffering from bacterial or viral respiratory disease, pneumonia, or collapse of the air sacs. You will also have birds with crop issues appear to yawn as they swallow air. I did have a chicken with an ear infection yawn repeatedly probably to release the pressure on the inner structures of the ear.

    Chickens who bite off more than can swallow will usually dislodge the object by violently shaking their head back and forth in an attempt to break it down into smaller pieces. Usually another chicken will grab the food item and run with it as other chickens follow eagerly grabbing at the object. This is their way of tearing apart large food items.

    Healthy chickens rarely choke on food. Gasping chickens need a good hands-on exam to evaluate what is truly going on.
  4. chickengeorgeto

    chickengeorgeto Overrun With Chickens

    Check out the WET variety of fowl pox.
  5. Stone Hobbit

    Stone Hobbit New Egg

    Nov 6, 2015
    Thanks for the replies. We wrote the below up as our findings, running to a veterinarian to pay hundreds of dollars for a examination or post mortum was not an option. People are free to make their own conclusions from that and what we've added on our experience below.

    We are not avian veterinary specialists however concluded that the chicken death and chicken suffocation was the result of feeding laying pellets that they were not used to eating. So our diagnosis was Pellet Obstruction/Suffocation. We were just recently gifted a 10kg bag of laying pellets, our chickens are used to eating much smaller wheat (images of size comparisons included below). We never purchase the laying pellets as we have actually had bird deaths in the past a few years ago when feeding these out however never really made any connection. Forgetting previous experience we fed these out and found one chicken dead. The next day after feeding the same laying pellets again we found another chicken gasping for air. We realised that the bird was obviously suffocating on the laying pellets (no it wasn't a respiratory condition from its environment nor a viral infection) and that this was most likely the cause of our other chicken's death who we had buried the previous day.


    I don't know the exact size of a chicken oesophagus however it was very obvious that the chicken was suffocating and if we had not acted it would have died within minutes. Unfortunately we had to act ourselves as no one else would assist (no one is willing to help you with a rooster you see). The hard laying pellets measure 15mms in length the wheat measures at most 5-6 mms in length (that is a differential of 3 times the size.


    We did some experiments afterwards and placed separate pellets in lids of water to gauge how long it would take to break down. We always have water available for the chickens to drink from. The first pellet was not fully submerged and broke with force from pen after 3 minutes (it was still hard). The second pellet which was fully submerged broke apart easily after 2 minutes 32 seconds. Note that these pellets had surrounding water for full absorption, a pellet lodged in a narrow chicken’s oesophagus would take much longer to allow for water to be absorbed.


    The symptoms of the chicken were that it was stretching out its neck gasping for breath, it will not move and in fact become unable to stand, its eyes will begin to close shut, its head will fall and it will eventually pass out from lack of oxygen. At the sign of the first symptoms we had driven around looking for help. Finding none we brought it home. We began to squirt small amounts of luke warm water into the back of the chicken's mouth. Thanks Toddrick for above image and comment "you shouldn't really force liquid into the birds beak unless you carefully do it off to the far left side (opposite the trachea)" using a syringe applicator to help dislodge/loosen the pellet blockage. It is important here to state that even though we always have water available for the chickens to drink, a pellet that has already become lodged will require your manual assistance to resolve or the chicken will shortly die of suffocation (ours collapsed several times almost completely lifeless that we thought it had died, it had passed out from lack of oxygen – a gentle but firm stir managed to revive shallow breathing) and if anyone has ever experienced choking on food then the last instinctual thing you want to do is add anything else that will obstruct the oxygen pathway.

    This is the plastic needleless syringe we used to squirt luke warm water to the back of the mouth (we did not place in throat). These are the sort that can be picked up from chemists for a few dollars. An eye dropper can also be used. If nothing else is available on hand improvise. A teaspoon should suffice. After repeated water doses we gave one small dose of warmed coconut oil 15 mils (vegetable oil will serve the same purpose) to assist to sooth and lubricate then returned to water.

    Each dosage of warm water was around approximately 20mils or a teaspoon or two amount (much of which did not go down or was spat out), given every few minutes as required pro-re-nata and then perhaps 10-15 minutes as gasping slowly began to reduce. The chicken regurgitated the water several times but a certain amount passed. During this process we also used the syringe applicator to squirt a teaspoon of warmed coconut oil into the back of the chicken’s mouth to lubricate as we found someone had done while we frantically searched the internet for solutions. The chicken passed out totally collapsing several times from lack of oxygen during the time the pellet obstruction broke down but we managed to revive its breathing, it also lost full control of its bodily functions. Eventually after this ordeal the gasping settled to a wheezing breath an hour or so later as the water took effect on the pellet obstruction. The chicken began able to stand and slowly walk seeking out a dark spot to bed down in for the night. The breathing slowly settled as we checked during the night and the following morning we have found the chicken walking and fine although understandably reluctant to eat. It took a couple of days for the chicken to recover its crow (probably recovered too well as now it wont stop crowing). We have never fed the laying pellets since and never will again and turned the rest to mash by adding water.


    No virus was present as far as we could tell nor have any other chickens been affected since we removed the laying pellets as a food source (although one hen has gone into a depressed state since her mate has died), so through process of elimination we have concluded this is the result of pellet obstruction/suffocation. With all caution, this is our experience of which we managed to save our chicken's life (when those avian specialists we contacted via phone offered nothing but to let the process play out thereby letting it die) so we wanted to add it so that it provided an option for others to choose from who may find themselves in a similar situation.

    Feel free to add comments and constructive criticism.
    Last edited: Nov 15, 2015

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