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Herbal Rx | Natural Remedies for Poultry Respiratory Issues

Chickens are extremely susceptible to respiratory problems. Here are some natural remedies to cure respiratory issues without resorting to antibiotics or other chemical medications.

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

Instead of having a diaphragm muscle like people do 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 Poultry Respiratory Issues

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

Common Poultry Respiratory Illnesses

Some of the more frequently encountered respiratory illnesses that can occur in poultry include:

  • Aspergillosis
  • Coryza
  • Mycoplasma gallisepticum
  • E coli
  • Strep
  • Infectious bronchitis
  • Avian influenza
  • Avian cholera
  • Newcastle disease
  • Chronic respiratory disease

They all come with varying degrees of severity, so it's very important to be cognizant of, and watch for, respiratory problems in your flock and know how to treat them.

If your chicken is suffering from any type of medical issue that doesn't clear up or seem to be getting better within a week or so, I absolutely recommend a vet visit and professional diagnosis, but for minor respiratory issues, home treatment is often quite effective.

What Causes Respiratory Issues in Chickens

It's important to keep your coop and run relatively clean and dust-free, as well as well-ventilated with good airflow. Cleaning and replacing old bedding as needed is important for your flock's well-being.

Respiratory issues are often caused by negative risk factors in the chickens' environment including:

  •  feathers
  •  dusty feed
  • dried manure
  • gapeworm (see below)
  • DE (Diatomaceous earth)**
  • ammonia fumes in the coop
  • excess carbon dioxide in the coop
  • acquiring infected birds at poultry swaps, shows, etc.

**I personally use DE in my coop, but I make sure I don't sprinkle it when there are any chickens present, and I cover it with a fresh layer of bedding. 

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.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 to prevent breathing problems in your flock. 

It's also important to be sure your chickens spend as much time outside in the fresh air and sunlight as possible - year round.

More Serious Causes of Respiratory Issues in Chickens

In addition to the fairly common issues listed above, 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.

Here's a great chart from the University of Florida IFAS Extension; G. D. Butcher, J. P. Jacob, and F. B. Mather. Publication #PS47 detailing the symptoms of various poultry respiratory illnesses.

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. 

Common Signs of Respiratory Distress

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
  • Drop in egg production
  • Eggs with thin shells

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 offer my chickens fresh herbs in their own little herb garden next to the coop during the growing season and also dry some to mix into my flock's feed through the winter.

Herbs that can Benefit Respiratory Health

Some herbs that specifically can help with respiratory issues include:

  • basil
  • bee balm
  • dill 
  • Echinacea
  • garlic
  • lovage
  • mint
  • nasturtium
  • oregano
  • rose petals
  • rosemary
  • thyme
  • yarrow

I add fresh and dried herbs to my chickens' diet on a fairly regular basis and have never had to administer antibiotics to my flock for any respiratory issues. Oil of oregano is a great thing to keep on hand. Just a drop or two in the water can do wonders for immune health.

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.

More Natural Remedies for Respiratory Issues

  • 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).
  • 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 like to use in conjunction with the herbs is to administer Poultry  VetRx.

VetRx is a commercially available product that I highly recommend and use with m 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 VetRx 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

The instructions for using VetRx are on the packaging, but it's very simple to use. I prefer to apply some to the nostrils with a q-tip if I'm treating just one chicken - or to add a few drops to their water if I'm treating the entire flock.

Here are a couple of ways to administer VetRx:

  • 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:

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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