In-length article re: Chicken Colds

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by spook, Jan 20, 2009.

  1. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    This is the final copy of the compiled information regarding MS,MG,ILT,IB (abc and 123) Hope it peaks your interest to further investigate and read up on your questions, I am certain I have missed a lot. Now I can say I've been published.

    Chickens do not catch colds

    Often we find our birds with clear nasal fluid, cough, and even a swollen eyelids that are crusty, weepy, bubbled or even can have a white/cream colored pupil. Often the old timers comment on ‘oh that hen, she had a cold a while back, nothing to worry about‘.

    Yes and No to be worried about. These are signs of a more common illness called CRD, Chronic Respiratory Disease, also Sinusitis in Turkeys, caused by Mycoplasma bacteria that is considered to be one of the smallest cell bacteria that has no walls, where no antibiotic will cure and then it acts like a virus, only rearing its ugly head when your birds are stressed, over heated, cold, or during molt.

    There are several types of Mycoplasmas, some that I have not covered: Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG) is characterized by nasal discharge, sometimes sticky, can be clear, typical cold like symptoms such as sneezing, wheezing and cough. Treatment should only be for the secondary infections and those are typically, erythromycin, tylosin, spectinomycin and lincomycin, although I have had good luck with Terramycin. MG is passed “Transovarian”, meaning that it is passed from hen to chick through the egg, giving immunity, yet all of your birds are considered carriers.

    Mycoplasma Synoviae (MS) this is characterized by depression, decreased appetite resulting in weight loss, ruffled feathers, lameness, Swelling of hocks, shanks and feet (sometimes severe affecting one side, or both legs). Feces may be green in acute infections. If your flock survives it can be left passing this “Transovarian”, and will remain carriers. Treating the secondary infections are like those of the MG and those that live may be lame for the remainder of their life.

    Infectious Coryza is characterized by facial swelling, pussy eyes and nasal discharge, swollen wattles, sneezing, drop in egg production, weight loss, inflammation of the treachea. This is a highly contagious disease especially of multi age flocks.It is characterized by facial swelling, pussy eyes and nasal discharge, swollen wattles, sneezing, drop in egg production, weight loss, inflammation of the treachea. This is a highly contagious disease especially of multi age flocks. Treatment is Streptomycin, sulphonamides, tylosin, erythromycin, might prevent carriers.

    From what I hear it is a unmistakable illness marked by very foul odor from the breath and nasal passages.

    Infectious Lanryngotracheitis (ILT) is a herpes virus of birds, chickens, pheasants, peafowl and turkeys. It is characterized by gasping, coughing of mucus and blood, runny eyes, sinusitis and nasal discharge. Usually you know you have it after you notice blood spatter at the head height of the walls in the coop. There is no treatment for ILT, using antibiotics to treat secondary infections. Barns and coops can be successfully disinfected.

    Often “ILT” is brought into our flocks when we bring in a “commercial” bird for egg laying, now I am not telling you that it’s a fact as I do not know, yet most of the ILT illness’ come from this route and if tested can receive a diagnosis of “possible vaccine source ILT” from a necropsy report.

    Commercial birds are vaccinated for these strains of disease, this provides safety to the poultry industry so they will not feel the loss of a contagious disease that is often brought in from shoes, grain bags, rodents, wild birds or just airborne dust. These are also ways that we can bring disease into our own birds and learning strict bio-security measures are most important, such as wearing only one pair of shoes, clothing and no one goes near your flock. Keep a closed flock- all birds in and all birds out, not mixing new birds with older birds. Being unaware of what the “newer” birds can carry or be susceptible to can create bad events leading into money for antibiotics, lack of laying, ill birds and possibly culling all of your flock.

    Anytime you find a bird in questionable health, isolation and observation are most important, perhaps this can save the rest of the flock from being contaminated, if in doubt, contact your local veterinarian, University, or even contacting your State Veterinarian for answers. In this case of my learning experience, was a friends misfortune with MS, that brought my attention, reading and knowledge (ignorance is bliss) about the poultry industry. It was also brought to my attention that unfortunately the wild bird and turkey population can be carriers of these and other conditions that I am unaware of.

    The NPIP (National Poultry Improvement Program) formed in the early 1930’s to prevent and test commercial flocks for Pullorum-Typhoid and have been diligently watched, reported, if a positive test come through, it is tested again, usually found negative, bringing these two diseases to eradication , yet we still need testing and watching. Now what the NPIP program provides is commercial, backyard, show birds, and breeders/hatcheries to establish standards, to prevent the spreading of Pullorum and Typhoid. For the backyard flock this testing for the NPIP program is not mandatory, only if you are going to remove them from your property for selling or showing. This program also watches the Avian Flu’s (many different types), and many other illness’ on all commercial, meat and dairy animals.

    You should be aware of the hatchery that you receive your chicks from, are they testing and working with the NPIP programs, they should be NPIP certified, as well as local hatcheries should be for our protection.

    What can be done about the Mycoplasma’s? Right now, I don’t believe much except keeping your birds healthy, low stress, proper nutrition, as for cold, keep your coops as draft free as possible remembering some air exchange is needed to prevent irritation of gases that is produced from the feces. For summer, open the coop as much as you can, and allow them to find shade. Common sense stuff.

    I have been in contact with my personal Veterinarian Dr. M. Holden, received information via email from "Michael Opitz" [email protected] a retired professor from UMO. His opinion is quite interesting and I will quote;“When we tested small flocks (chicken, turkeys and game birds) in the mid 80's during the HPAI* scare, most of the flocks were MG positive and negative for common viral infections. Unless a flock owner maintains mycoplasma -free flocks by avoiding multi-age, multi-breed; multi-species flocks, practices all-in, all-out stocking; screens poultry from wild birds, practices basic biosecurity; and regular serological monitoring; purchasing MG/MS free poultry does not do much good. MG/MS usually does not cause much problems in small flocks except when the flocks are stressed (crowding, poor nutrition, cold, ammonia etc)or infected with primary disease agents (ILTV, MDV, Pasteurella etc)”. That is the basic body of this email to Dr. Hoenig. when the flocks are stressed (crowding, poor nutrition, cold, ammonia etc)or infected with primary disease agents (ILTV, MDV, Pasteurella etc)”.
    Dr. Hoenig, is our Maine State Veterinarian and has been super to deal with, finding answers, and definitely keeping me in the loop while learning what we no longer have clean birds. This is from a email that Dr. Hoenig, “I have checked with one hatchery in Iowa and with the NPIP coordinator, Andy Rhorer on this. Both told me that most of the hatcheries selling exhibition, poultry and game birds to small flock owners are not MG/MS clean.”

    Personally I had checked with 2 hatcheries, finding only 1 that would reply, this is a Maine Hatchery claiming that they have no signs of such health issues, not tested mind you. We know that often they are non-symptomatic. The second hatchery was a well named company that I never heard back from, its been a month, so I do not expect any answers.

    After “finishing” this article I submitted it back to those I quoted, Professor Micheal Opitz responded with this:

    People, old-timers and novices still often use the term " my chickens have a cold". There is nothing wrong with that term cold. The only problem is, that is does not mean any specific disease, is just means that they have a respiratory problems. You have listed correctly the most common respiratory diseases. But there could be other diseases as well. You could add Vitamin A deficiency as a common contributor to colds. Also viral infections like infectious bronchitis, milder forms of Newcastle disease can cause "colds". Fortunately we don't diagnose this often in small flocks.

    Since all of these disease can cause similar symptoms it is important to obtain a proper diagnosis, which can usually be done only by a Diagnostic Laboratory. Dr. Anne Lichtenwalner is now in charge of the Diagnostic Laboratory at the University of Maine (I have retired from the University 4 1/2 years ago).

    It is especially important to get a proper diagnosis if you want to use any antibiotics. We don't like to see antibiotics used unnecessarily because that may contribute to bugs becoming resistant to the antibiotic which would render them ineffective in future for treatments.

    Here is the reply that I received from Dr. Don Hoenig, Me. State Vet- I echo Dr. Opitz’s comments. You have done a great service in pursuing this issue. As I said in an earlier e-mail, I will continue to explore this issue at the national level and we will also consider whether to draft new rules on poultry importation when we take a look at all our import rules in the near future.

    Keep up the good work!


    Of course in today‘s world, ignorance is bliss, yet a terrible thing because you must be aware of what you are doing, bringing into our coops/barns by way of your clothing, grain bags, rodents and wild bird population. Learning strict Bio-Security- all in, all out and do not visit someone else‘s barn/coop and do not allow anyone to go onto yours. Knowing who in your state has the ability to help you with diagnosing, treating and what vaccines are available for your areas weather and conditions before you needed something done “yesterday“. Don’t hide your head in the sand, be aware. Oh, and poultry are not mammals, that’s why a chicken can’t have a cold.

    *As I have commented before, there are many types of Avian Influenza, the LPAI is a low threat Avian Influenza, where as the HPAI is the High threat avian influenza. I have not looked into this at this time, but this is what I found, stressing once again Bio-Security!!!

    “Introduction and Spread of HPAI Virus AI can be spread from bird to bird by direct contact. HPAI viruses can also be spread by manure, equipment, vehicles, egg flats, crates, and people whose clothing or shoes have come in contact with the virus. One gram of contaminated manure can contain enough virus to infect 1 million birds.” quoted from UCDavis.

    ILTV- aka ILT
    MDV- Marek’s Disease Virus- Is a Herpes virus infection in chickens often called “floppy broiler syndrome” as the birds central nervous system is paralyzed, its strongest hold on US and Europe in the 1980s - 1990s . It is passed from bird to bird by feather-follicle dander, housing as it is resistant to some disinfectants such as quaternary ammonium and phenol, although it can be inactivated quickly when frozen and thawed quickly. Signs of Marek’s disease is paralysis of legs, wings and neck, loss of weight, grey iris/irregular purple creating vision impairment and the skin around the follicles are raised and rough.If you feel this is an issue, please take bird to have a necropsy!

    Pasteurella -Fowl cholera is a contagious bacterial infection, from blood poisoning to a localized infection, it can be seen as facial swelling, discharge from the notrils, mouth and eyes which can become “cheesy”, difficulty in breathing causing face and wattles to become “blue” from lack of oxygen. Other symptoms include, depression, loss of appetite, lameness, loose stools and ruffled feathers. This bacteria is destroyed by most disinfectants, sunlight, drying and heat.

    Salmonella Gallinarum aka Fowl Typhoid - is the tests for NPIP Certificate, it is a diseased that causes a high death rate in birds, of any age, mostly affects brown shelled egg layers, but it also affects turkeys, game birds, guinea fowls, sparrows, parrots canaries and bullfinches. It is susceptible to most normal disinfectants. Signs are depression, ruffled feathers, reduced appetite, thirst, yellow diarrhea and reluctance to move. If you feel this is something you have, please take bird for necropsy! It can be treated with antibiotics. Bio-security as a precaution and life style, once your birds have this, they can be carriers!!!

    Vitamin A deficiency is occasionally seen in chickens and turkeys mostly in their age of 1-7 weeks of age. Signs of deficiency are poor growth, poor feathering, nasal and eye discharge, drowsiness, pale comb and wattles and eyelids stuck shut with thick exudates. Blood work or Necropsy is necessary to tell the difference from infectious coryza, chronic fowl cholera and infectious sinusitis. Treatment is vitamin A in the drinking water or prevention with use of good quality raw fruits and veggies.

    Infectious Bronchitis aka IB- This is a highly contagious viral respiratory infection of poultry. The symptoms are coughing, sneezing and gasping in young birds. Loss of appetite, wet litter, decrease egg production in layers- from full production to zero eggs in a matter of a few days. Some flocks never will regain full potential. During the outbreak, small, soft-shelled and irregular-shaped eggs are common. It is difficult to diagnose as this can mimic other respiratory conditions so having testing done is necessary, this is also spread by drinking water, clothing and food. It should only last one week in a poultry house yet the birds may never recuperate their egg production.

    Again, bio-security ! Using antibiotics to treat the secondary infections only after being properly diagnosed by your states diagnostic laboratory.

    I wish to Thank Dr. Matthew Holden, Missy at Oxford Hills Veterinary Hospital for supporting my moment of panic, Dr. Don Hoenig MSV, Prof. Michael Opitz for reading my flooding email and taking the time out to help my questioning. Also to Scooters Mom that survived her heart break of losing show birds and letting go of a bird to find the cause of the illness’ by necropsy.

    My definitions have come from multiple internet sites that I have visited, BYC - aka and the conversations and other peoples thoughts, opinions and views that I have come to during this learning period. Unfortunately it brings up more and more questions, how to fix our back yard flocks.
    A lot of these diseases are spread from shows, fairs, wild birds and ourselves (shoes, grain bags, vehicle tires and so on). So there is no way to really “clean up” when we all seem to have the MS/MG diseases. Look at what you expect from your flock, NPIP testing it is very important, and try not to take one bird to fair after fair, show after show, it stresses and weakens their immune systems. Keep a “show coop”! Do not allow any of your show birds to be mainstreamed back into the rest of your birds, this is not a good practice as it brings anything contagious back to your property and flock.

    Don’t beware, but BE AWARE!

    respectfully compiled by Kellie Danico
    1 person likes this.
  2. WELL !! Spook, you took on quite a thing !!
    I will have to read the whole thing. I am going to copy the text and paste it into a word document and read it as leisure with a different font.

    Thanks !!!
  3. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Kelly, thank you for your continuing efforts to spread the correct information. Ignorance causes so much heartache with this issue. I wish everyone would read up on chicken diseases and make the decision about their possible course of action if one of these shows up in their flock.
  4. cottagegarden

    cottagegarden Eggistentialist

    Oct 2, 2008
    SE PA
    I bet you have saved many members from heartache. Education is the best prevention.
  5. spook

    spook Chillin' With My Peeps

    Thank you for your encouraging and good words, I appreciate it. I just dropped off a copy of this to my vet and they were thrilled that I had contact not only with BYC, but with the "officials" that can make the difference. I really enjoyed this and will be continuing a disease or interest subject for our Poultry club link- I hope, I have not seen the faces of the members yet when I bring this up!
    I hope they don't throw me to the wolves to quickly.
    Again, thank you very much.
  6. ole-crone

    ole-crone Chillin' With My Peeps

    You might want to revisit the paragraph beginning

    Infectious Coryza ...

    You repeat yourself.
  7. maymiegirl

    maymiegirl Chillin' With My Peeps

    Jul 27, 2008
    Excellent reading and I am interested to know if the hatchery you are referring to is the same hatchery I received my infected hatchlings from.

    In any case, It will not hurt for any birdkeeper to strengthen the defenses of his/her flock by providing the best Probiotic treatments, vitamins, minerals, and parasite control well ahead of time. I agree wholeheartedly that AWARENESS is the best beginning to the complete control of these disasters.
  8. lil'chics

    lil'chics New Egg

    Mar 24, 2008
    New Albany, In.
    Wow what great information...I was just going to ask a few questions about "colds" but this answered everything. Thanks again [​IMG]
  9. tdgill

    tdgill Overrun With Chickens

    My definitions have come from multiple internet sites that I have visited, BYC - aka and the conversations and other peoples thoughts, opinions and views that I have come to during this learning period. Unfortunately it brings up more and more questions, how to fix our back yard flocks.
    A lot of these diseases are spread from shows, fairs, wild birds and ourselves (shoes, grain bags, vehicle tires and so on). So there is no way to really “clean up” when we all seem to have the MS/MG diseases.

    so, it is my impression that I am more likely to see some kind of respiratory problems than not? (but more so if my birds are under stress or unfavorable conditions etc) that there are so many "carriers" the odds of my chicks having it already (tho showing no signs of illness) are pretty high?​
  10. katrinag

    katrinag Chillin' With My Peeps

    This should be sticked(sp?)

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