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Dr. B.
Dr. B., Board Certified Veterinarian
Category: Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 20910
Experience:  General practice veterinary surgeon with extensive experience in a wide range of species.
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Three of our chickens have died in the last week they seemed

Customer Question

Three of our chickens have died in the last week they seemed to be ok and we count them dead today one of them woke up with swollen eyes that are closed and he is just seating and the other ones seem to be making a funny sound when they are breathing we haven't change anything and had them for like 6 months
Submitted: 2 years ago.
Category: Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Hello & welcome, I am Dr. B, a licensed veterinarian and I would like to help you with your wee one today.
What sounds are you hearing? Increased breathing noises, wheezing, coughing, or sneezing?
Are just his eyes swollen? Or the whole head?
Any discharge from the eyes?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
I am sending you a picture and the video so you can have a better idea
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you,
Any videos will need to posted to a website like YouTube (not set on private) and then the web link posted here for me to follow. Otherwise, further to this wee one's photo, are you seeing any eye discharge or does he have any of those breathing signs I asked about (or any other)?
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
Also I don't see any discharge and just the eyes are swollen, the breathing on the other ones is almost like they are having trouble getting air in and out they've been perfectly healthy up to last week when we found one dead but we were thinking maybe it was a snake or a spider it's also been extremely hot where we are the past week and very humid too
Customer: replied 2 years ago.
No discharge from the eyes he is the one that is more sick right now barely getting up the other ones are up but seem to be having a little discharge from the eyes and breathing heavier than usual
Expert:  Dr. B. replied 2 years ago.
Thank you,
Now in this case, I don't suspect the heat is causing their signs directly. As well, with multiple birds affected in such a small period of time, snake or spider bites are also less likely. Instead their signs are more suggestive of an upper respiratory tract infection. With the presence of the swollen eyes, this does let us narrow our concerns a wee bit. (Though I do have to note that we have to be wary that we can sometimes see a primary respiratory infection with a secondary opportunistic eye based issue in some cases). Still, in regards ***** ***** fit with what you are seeing, we'd be most concerned about viruses (avian rhinotracheitis, fowl pox, Newcastle’s disease, influenza); bacteria (ie mycoplasma, pasteurella, chlamydia, mycobacteriosis etc), fungal, or parasitic (ie trichomoniasis) agents. As well, while less likely here, we can see respiratory signs like this in birds that have Vitamin A deficiency. So, you may just want to double check that they are getting a proper dose of this in their current diet.
With all this in mind, if this bird is struggling to breathe this severely, then we'd need to be proactive and tread with care. Especially since birds are prey species and therefore instinctively inclined to hide illness. So, if she is making it obvious she is unwell, this tells us that her state is advanced already. Therefore, while we could try a broad spectrum antibiotic to cover the bacterial and parasitic issues; I suspect she may need more urgent care. Ideally, if she is struggling, oxygen would be indicated. Once she is more stable, your vet can examine her +/- test a throat swab or blood sample to determine the root of her signs. Depending on their findings, that would allow us to pinpoint which agent is present here and treat as effectively as possible for her as well as prophylactically for the other birds.
Otherwise, in the meantime, we need to make sure she and any other birds with signs are separated from the rest of the flock. They should not even share a common airspace. This will limit further exposure for asymptomatic birds. As well, you will want to handle poorly birds last and use good hygiene (handwashing, changing clothes/shoes between groups) to prevent any more spread.
As well, if you had a culture sample pending with her vet, then you could consider also starting a broad spectrum antibiotic to at least address some of our more treatable concerns. Options would include erythromycin, oxytetracycline, or tilmicosin, tylosin, or spiramycin. As well, if the eyes are uncomfortable, you can flush them with sterile saline (ie OTC first aid eye wash, plain contact lens solution). If she is very congested, then steam treatment (taking her in the bathroom while you run a hot shower or using a humidifier) also can help reduce congestion and get her breathing easier. And while doing this, we also need to keep an eye on her appetite/water intake and gently supplement without stressing her if possible.
Finally, just in case you have had a recent bird death or if this wee one is just too far advanced already, then I would note that you could consider submitting one for post mortem. If you speak to the vet, they may be able to perform the autopsy in the practice. Alternatively, if you live near a vet school, vet lab, or agricultural college, they too likely can help you in this manner.
If the vet performs the autopsy and cannot find an obvious visible cause of her death, then they can collect samples to submit to the lab for the pathologists to evaluate. The pathologists will be able to examine the tissues under the microscope and determine the causative agent that lead to her death. As well, if bacterial or viral causes are suspected, these can be cultured to determine what is present and what treatments will effectively clear them. This will both give you closure on your losses, but also help you know what is threatening the flock. And once you know the causative agent, you will be able to protect them effectively.
Overall, we need to tread with care if she is in respiratory distress and struggling to move oxygen into her lungs. We can use use the above, but if she is severe and we have an infectious agent moving through the flock, it would be ideal to get this wee one seen by your local vet for testing to help both her as well as remove this from your flock.
Just in case you do need an avian vet and do not have one already, you can check where you can find one at near you at, Avian web ( or Birdsnway (
I hope this information is helpful.
If you need any additional information, do not hesitate to ask!
All the best,
Dr. B.
If you have any other questions, please ask me – I’ll be happy to respond. Please remember to rate my service once you have all the information you need as this is how I am credited for assisting you today. Thank you! : )