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Herbal Rx | Natural Remedies for Respiratory Issues in Chickens


Chickens have extremely complex breathing and respiratory systems that differ greatly from humans and mammals.  

Instead of a diaphragm muscle which helps the body inhale and expel air, chickens move their rib cage and breastbone (which is called the keel) to help them breathe in and out.


But like humans, chickens take in oxygen and breathe out carbon dioxide. And like humans, chickens rely on both mucus and cilia to be their first line of defense to protect their respiratory system.

Herbal Rx | Natural Remedies for Respiratory Issues in Chickens

Also like humans, respiratory system issues are pretty common. In fact, respiratory illness is the most common cause of death in adult chickens. 

So it's very important to be cognizant of, and watch for, respiratory distress in your flock and know how to treat it.

What Causes Respiratory Issues in Chickens

Respiratory issues are often caused by negative risk factors in the chickens' environment including dusty bedding (one reason I recommend using straw on the floor of the chicken coop instead of wood shavings), feathers, dusty feed and dried manure. 

Respiratory issues in chickens can also be caused by a buildup of ammonia fumes or carbon dioxide in the coop - which is why it's extremely important to keep your coop well-ventilated year round and change out the bedding any time you get even a whiff of ammonia.

Less common, respiratory issues can also sometimes be caused by a parasite called a gapeworm.

Any one of these factors, if left unchecked, can unfortunately lead to problems affecting chickens' breathing and overall health.

In addition to these fairly common issues, there are a multitude of far more serious diseases that can take hold more easily if a chicken's respiratory system becomes compromised. And they can be difficult to diagnose and treat, not to mention often fatal.

What are Signs of Respiratory Illness in Chickens

So it's important to be able to recognize some of the initial symptoms of respiratory distress and take steps to prevent and treat it. 

Some typical signs of respiratory distress in chickens are:

 Labored breathing

Wheezing

Sneezing

Squeaking noises

Coughing

Watery eyes or nostrils

Bubbly eyes

Swelling around the eyes or beak

Pale comb and wattles

Shaking the head

Lethargy

Using Natural Remedies for Respiratory Issues in Chickens

Most likely if you have a chicken suffering from something respiratory, antibiotics will be what's  recommended if you visit a vet, but I prefer to try the holistic route first (naturally!).

Herbs have all kinds of wonderful benefits for humans and animals and several are specifically good at targeting the respiratory system.  

I add fresh and dried herbs to my chickens' feed on a fairly regular basis and have never had to administer antibiotics to my flock for any respiratory issues.

I am able to treat respiratory problems quickly and effectively and head them off before they become a real problem using just some herbs, natural remedies and a wonderful all-natural product called VetRx.

So don't be too quick to reach for the antibiotics. Often times these symptoms turn out to be nothing more serious than dust or debris in the eyes or sinus cavities, something lodged in the throat, or even the result of rough mating.

Natural Remedies 

  • If you notice a hen coughing, sneezing or breathing heavy, first try gently massaging her throat and giving her a drink of water mixed with some olive oil.  
  • A squirt of saline solution in each eye several times a day can help ease the symptoms simply by clearing out the sinuses or rinsing out debris.
    • Basil, bee balm, clover, dill, echinacea, mint nasturtium, oregano, rose petals, rosemary and thyme all have positive effects on the respiratory system.  Try chopping up the fresh herbs and feeding them free-choice (or using dried herbs mixed into their feed if fresh is not available).
    •  Sprinkle a bit of ground cinnamon on top or mixed into their feed.
    • Add a fresh garlic clove to the water (squash it between your fingers first to break it up a bit)
    •  Some apple cider vinegar in their water is also beneficial.

    **Note: If you suspect respiratory issues, increase the ACV ratio to 2-4 Tablespoons/gallon of water instead of the normal 1 Tablespoon per gallon.


    VetRx for Natural Respiratory Relief

    Another option for treating respiratory issues in chickens which is even more convenient, and super effective,  and which I use in conjunction with the herbs is to administer VetRx.

    VetRx is a commercially available product that I highly recommend and use with my own flock.  It is an all-natural remedy for not only respiratory problems, but also scaly leg mites and eyeworm. It's a very safe and effective way to treat sinus problems and respiratory infection.

    And if you show your chickens at poultry shows, it's beneficial to treat them with VetR prior to the show as a preventative against them catching anything as they are exposed to other birds.


    How to Adminster VetRx for Respiratory Issues

    • A squirt in each nostril (or apply to the nostrils using a q-tip)
    •  A few drops under each wing before bedtime so when your hen tucks her head to sleep she breathes in the vapors
    • A few drops of VetRx can also be added directly to the drinking water.

    I keep a bottle of VetRx in our Chicken First Aid Kit at all times.  At even a hint of labored breathing, a squeak or blinking eyes, I add some VetRx to the drinking water for several days. 

    The nice thing is that you can treat your whole flock. It's not going to hurt them whether they're healthy or sick.

    And I have never had to do more than that and have never had a hen develop a serious respiratory illness.  It's safe to use on chickens and chicks, ducks and ducklings.

    Symptoms in ducks would look similar to chickens and treatment would be the same.


    VetRx from Goodwinol Products Corporation is a product that I trust and stand behind 100%, having used it not only with our chickens and ducks for the past several years, but also on our dogs.  (They also sell similar products for cats, goats, horses, sheep and other animals.)

    Buying Source:
    VetRx 

    Note: Symptoms that don’t clear up in a week or two, or continue to get worse despite your treatment could signal a potentially serious illness and the advice of a veterinarian should be sought.

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    Further Reading
    https://poultry.extension.org/articles/poultry-anatomy/avian-respiratory-system/
    https://extension.psu.edu/respiratory-diseases-of-small-poultry-flocks


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