December 20, 2012

Cluck, Cough, Cluck, Cough! A Chicken Cold.

** My Disclaimer: Before I even begin, I am not a vet and do not claim to be. My experience with what I am going to talk about comes from first hand, a lot of reading, and my own vet's instruction.

When we decide to venture into the world of "chickens" we educated ourselves, talked to other chicken owners, and read countless books and blogs. Having chickens seemed like a fairly easy thing to do, and truly it is. However, we were not prepared for dealing with illness. The illness we have encountered is one that many small backyard flock owners deal with. Coryza.

Coryza? Maybe you know it by Roup, or you have never heard of it before. If you have not, then I am glad. Basically, the word Coryza means "cold." In chickens, Coryza is one the most highly contagious respiratory illnesses. Just like humans, a cold in chickens spreads easily and will infect your whole flock. If you are like me, you will Google this and freak out, don't! You will end up crying thinking you will have to cull your flock. Dealing with Coryza is not fun or cheap but it can be managed in small flocks. Remember I said "small flocks." Granted having a Coryza outbreak in large commercial flocks would not be good and many in this situation do have to cull their birds. Depending on your situation, you may even cull your birds. I would not judge anyone for this. For us, this was not an option. We are lucky to have a avian vet locally that "knows her chickens." But I digress...

Let's look at the Nuts and Bolts of this Coryza thing, alright? The best place to turn to when you have a sick chicken is a reputable source for chickens and their illnesses. My first mistake was to go to a "forum" and read and ask questions. Some of the information was helpful, some scarey, and some according to my vet was way off! So, proceed with caution.

So how do you know if your sick chicks have Coryza? There are common symptoms. For us some of the symptoms did not show right away. We actually thought our chicken  had just got her eye pecked and kept irritating it by rubbing it with her foot and her wing. It was not until another of our girls started with watery eyes that we knew we had an issue.

Our Luna at her worst.
Common Symptoms of Coryza

  • Watery and bubbly eyes
  • Swollen eyes and nasal areas. Especially around and behind the eye.
  • Coughing
  • Nasal discharge that smells like a dead animal. Believe me once you smell this you will always know the smell! That was the number one give away for our vet.
  • Lack of eating/drinking
  • Lack of energy
  • Death may result if not treated or in birds that have a low immunity or are young.


Coryza is caused by a bacteria. The Merek Veterinary Manual does a good job explaining the type of bacteria if you are interested.   Because it is caused by a bacteria, antibiotics are the only way to treat Coryza. Common antibiotics used are Erythomycin and Oxytetracycline based. Sulfamides can also be used.  Despite our efforts to treat this herbally, we had to use medicine. However, we still gave the girls their Apple Cider Vinegar, greens, garlic and other immune giving treats to them. I believe this did help when combining the medicine. Our vet also suggested that we utilize a vaporizer or put them in our bathroom and steam them to help loosen up the congestion. I used VETRX which is to me Vicks for chickens! Because Coryza is highly infectious, we had to separate the sick chickens from the rest of the flock for 21 days while they were being treated. Coryza does not penetrate egg. However, you must throw out the eggs while the chickens are being treated with antibiotics. We did not have to worry about it because our girls were still young.


Oh, the things you learn! The best way to avoid Coryza or any other disease in your flock is BIOSECURITY! Maintaining an "All in/All out" practice is important. When getting new birds, isolate them for a good period of time before introducing them to the rest of the flock. Make sure that you do not cross contaminate anything between flocks. Symptoms for our chicken took about 2 1/2 weeks to even show.

Coryza even though we successfully treated our girls is not anything I would wish upon anyone. The expense, the special accommodations, and not to mention the emotional aspect. I was a emotional wreck! I was such a worried Chicken Mom, just like I worry over my own human children when they are sick. Not to mention what a hassle it was to give antibiotics orally to chickens. Luckily, they were only about a pound, I could not imagine doing it now with 5 month old big girls! It gave wrestling a whole new meaning! But we do what we do, and continue to love our chickens!


Katie/Maple Grove said...

Thank you for sharing your experience Heather. This is very helpful information. I've never had sick chickens; all the more reason I need good information ahead of time. Is the vet the only place you can get antibiotics for chickens? ~Katie

Lisa/Fresh Eggs Daily Farm Girl said...

Great post. And great job seeking reputable advice, consulting a vet and successfully treating. We also use ACV, garlic and VetRX and are glad to hear that you think they did help treat to some extent.

♥ Sean -N- Sonja ♥ said...

I am happy that you got it under control successfully. What a relief for you! I know how worried I get when one of my animals get sick. You're right, it IS like when one of my children don't feel well. Great post and information.

Sonja Twombly of
Lally Broch Farm

tburchell97 said...

Great post! Thank you for sharing your experience so we can all learn from it and use it to help our own flock! Katie, Tractor Supply does sell some antibiotics. One is called Tylan and we keep it on stock, just like you mentioned for being prepared ahead of time. Thanks again for such amazing information!

Tiffany said...

Great post! Thank you so much for sharing your experience and advice, this will save some chickens one day! I love learning from other farmer's own experiences. Again, I can't thank you enough! ~ Tiffany/ The Egg Basket

Jill said...

Thank you!! I just introduced a new rooster Wednesday night. Picked him up Thursday night to look at him and smelled that smell! He was in the coop overnight with 54 of my other chickens. They are free range all day. He is already on the water soluble antibiotics. I will disinfect everything with bleach water tonight and put in new shavings. Are all my chickens going to get sick? Will they be considered carriers? Whats your advice???