Miserable start to having backyard chickens

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by CHICKENTIKKA82, Nov 4, 2015.


    CHICKENTIKKA82 Out Of The Brooder

    Well 4 weeks into owning my new chickens all 4 of them are coughing, sneezing and gurgling. I owned some Warren Babcocks many years ago and had no trouble with them whatsoever. This time round I have done nothing but spend money on them, research and learn on BYC and care for them nearly as much as my own family.

    They are wormed, treated with DE, live in a big coop (cleaned on a daily basis) no mites, no lice, fed well and given fresh water everyday with ACV and Vitamin supplements and free range for about 10 hours a day.

    It seems like they are all sick. All of the articles I have read on BYC come back to respiratory diseases, gape worm and sour / impacted crops. I understand most of them but i'm utterly p***ed off that my chickens are either going to cost the world to keep alive or die from an illness and then I will have to clean everything and start again.

    It started with one of my hens sneezing and coughing before struggling to breath. That hen then started to hardly move and just stand in one spot in the garden for an hour or so. She eat and drank water before heading into the coop and now all 4 of my hens are sneezing in the coop.

    There is no visible sign of swelling to the head of the hens

    No visible sign of excess liquid or discharge in the eyes

    The poop has been pretty consistent with some minor instances of watery or runny poo

    There is no sign of discharge from the beak

    No sign of discolouration in any form or part of the birds

    The birds are sneezing. The hen that was worse today is now making coughing sounds and raspy breathing.

    The coop is brand new, no other birds have used it, fresh bedding, cleaned daily, DE used in coop

    Today I used DE on the birds as a preventative for pests. The DE treatment is the only thing I have done differently today.

    Any thoughts?
  2. KatharinetheGr8

    KatharinetheGr8 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Aug 7, 2015
    Salem, SC
    What type of bedding are you using in your coop?

    How old are your birds?

    I have found this helpful when I thought there was a problem with my chickens. Mine turned into a non-issue and the bird came around quickly. I hope your hens turn around similarly.
  3. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Flock Master Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    You could be dealing with a respiratory disease such as infectious bronchitis (IB.). Mycoplasma or MG could also be the problem. I would stop using the DE since it can be irritating to the nose and throat. IB is a virus that will not respond to antibiotics, while MG will respond to drugs such as Tylan (tylosin,) oxyetracycline, Denagard (tiamulin,) and erthromycin. Coryza is another disease that casues thos symptoms in addition to thick nasal secretions, drainage or pus in the eyes with swelling. Sulfa antibiotics treat that. Most respiratory diseases are chronic, and can make carriers of your flock. Since you have a small flock, it might be better to cull them and wait a couple of weeks to replace them with healthy hens. MG and most other diseases only remain alive in the environment for a few days after the chickens are gone. Here is a good link to read about diseases: http://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/ps044
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015
    1 person likes this.
  4. Fancychooklady

    Fancychooklady Chicken Obsessed

    Jun 14, 2012
    Tasmania. Australia
    Unfortunately it sounds like mycoplasma and I would ease up on the DE . It is very dusty and will more than likely cause the birds more grief. Dusty bedding and rising ammonia from the poop under the perch can also cause mild upper respiratory symptoms.
    Best to start them all on a course of antibiotics and until you know for sure what you are dealing with, don't introduce any new birds to your flock.
  5. Percheron chick

    Percheron chick Overrun With Chickens

    Apr 12, 2013
    Boulder, Colorado
    I would get rid of the DE first. It is an irritant to eyes and lungs.
  6. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2014
    Jones County, Georgia
    How long have they been sick? If it has only been a short time it could be a temporary cold. If it has been going on for several days/weeks then it could be something more serious.

    CHICKENTIKKA82 Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks for the advice on symptoms and also use of DE. It's all very confusing when people are saying cover them in DE and then I'm being told it's so bad for them. I will remove the DE and do another full clean of the coop. I use a little wood shavings in the tray and a few handfuls of wood shavings in the nesting boxes. I will remove all and just put a handful in the nesting boxes.

    As for duration. This has only started today after the application of DE. Although I have heard some minor sneezing when the girls have been in the garden searching for bugs but I assumed that was natural every now and again.

    I think the dust may be the cause. I have not intentions of culling the flock right now however if the illness is serious then I will treat them and if they do t get better I will look into options and do a full cleansing before waiting and then buying a new flock. I kinda like these girls though and I think there's a slight possibility I may have cause this problem by overdoing it when trying to help but creating a dusty and irritating environment.

    There are zero signs of any eye discharge or inflammation to external parts of the hens. Just the sneezing and from one hen occasional coughing.

    Full clean in the morning and zero DE for a while.
  8. appps

    appps Overrun With Chickens

    Aug 29, 2012
    I wouldn't put DE anywhere near a bird with respitory symptoms. If you look up it's directions it's not supposed to be breathed in to start with so it's very likely it's dusty nature could cause further distress to them.

    What are you using for bedding and how big/ well ventilated is the area? When we got our 11 week olds I used wood shavings in the smaller temporary box they slept in just like I do my big coop. They all developed breathing issues, one even breathing very loudly like it was struggling. It wasn't till I realised it was the wood shavings in the smaller area and replaced them with something less dusty that they all came good.

    Edited to add. - just read your last comment. Sounds very much like dust could be your culprit too then. Birds are very susceptible to dust. Hopefully with the DE out of the picture they will come good. I've never used DE and never will, I've not been able to find evidence it isn't more than an old wives tale that grows in strength every time it's repeated by someone else repeating what they read previously as gospel.
    Last edited: Nov 4, 2015

    CHICKENTIKKA82 Out Of The Brooder

    Thanks. What alternative to wood shavings did you use? I'm definitely up for using that.
  10. Sonya9

    Sonya9 Chillin' With My Peeps

    Feb 7, 2014
    Jones County, Georgia
    If this all started the same day you doused them with DE then that is almost certainly the culprit. I don't use DE either, to prevent mites/lice I give them a spray of frontline under each wing every few months.

    The shavings probably aren't the problem here but fyi there are different types of shavings, and some types have a lot more dust, others (like cedar) have toxic oils that cause respiratory symptoms in some animals. I only use pine shavings in the coop, I would be cautious about buying shavings from unknown tree species. Chicks in brooders basically have their little faces IN the shavings which makes dust more of a concern IMO.

    I personally like the wood shavings because they smell good and they quickly dry out any small poops. Some folks use sand but that traps fluids/ammonia which would end up smelling bad, and being unhealthy for the birds IMO.
    Last edited: Nov 5, 2015

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