puzzling problem with gaping pullet


Free Ranging
12 Years
Jul 28, 2008
I have a 6 month old pullet who in the past couple of weeks has begun gaping (takes a deep breath) on and off during the day. She doesn't do it constantly, but does it enough to make me wonder. She eats, drinks, poops and bounces around just fine. There has been NO signs of coughing, sneezing or head shaking. NO nasal discharge, eye discharge or any crustiness around her head. NO wheezing or any difficulty breathing. Except for the occasional gaping she looks and acts perfectly healthy.

She's in our temporary pen which is a chicken tractor elevated on some pressure treated wood pallets with pine shavings for bedding. She has been isolated from the main flock and any wild birds. The only birds she was exposed to were 3 hatchery chicks and 3 I hatched here.

After searching here for gaping I thought she may have gapeworms so I looked down her throat. Nothing. Of course I hadn't read that gapeworms have an intermediate host and she's done no ranging where she could pick them up.

This began after I cleaned out the pen she's in and put in some new bedding. I had bleached the floor a year and a half ago when I moved the last residents out but there was some dust left that I couldn't get out. Is it possible I stirred up something during the cleaning that's causing the problem?

Any suggestions?

-Cindy in MA
It is possible. Some birds are more sensitive than others. I have one or two who gape when hubby drives by in the diesel tractor.

You might find that using Stable Boy or Stall Dri in with the bedding eliminates enough ammonia to prevent her discomfort.

Another possibility, if she is a big eater, is that she is stuffing herself with fibrous foods and when the crop reaches capacity she will gape, bob and weave when swallowing. Yeah I have one of those!

But keep checking for gapeworm, or treat the flock as a precaution if you have any reason to think it could be the cause.
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Also, keep in mind that you can't necessarily see the gape worm in her throat. I have read some posts here on byc where fecal slide confirmed gape worm, but the formation wasn't visible when looking down the chicken's throat.
Is gape worm still a possibility even when she hasn't had access to the outdoors? I thought they came from eating infected worms or snails.

None of the birds in the main flock show any symptoms and they free range for a good part of the day.

has she NEVER had access to free ranging?

if i understand correctly, gapeworm takes a little bit of time to become a problem.

if she has never had access, i think i would just watch and wait and try LynneP's suggestions.

let us know what you come to.

She's been in the baby pen for the past 4.5 months, and was inside for the first 6 weeks. She was too little to put in with the big birds over the winter. So she's never had access to the yard.


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