As a farmer or pet owner, you are very surprised to see your chicken walking about with it’s mouth open and breathing. Let me get something clear here, chickens are not mouth breathers, and so they do not just wander about with their mouths open, unless there are some issues with them.
Chicken will have it’s mouth open while breathing because: It’s body is very hot, It’s suffering from Virus infections such as Laryngotracheitis (ILT), Infectious Bronchitis (IB), It’s suffering from gapeworm, It’s throat is blocked.
It’s very important and necessary that you look out for your chickens in case they start having their mouth open and be walking about, when any of them do, just know that the possible cause is from any of the above stated possible causes.
Although it calls for alarm when this start happening, but not in many occasions, especially if the weather condition is too hot and you notice more than one chick breathing with their mouth open, it’s just normal, but apart from this, it calls for alarm and a date with a vet doctor.
Some of the causes of this behavior are:
It’s body is hot: This is the commonest causes of this type of behavior in chickens.
Sometimes, when the temperature is very hot, some of the chickens around such environment might begin to open their mouths while breathing and be walking up and down or even staying one place and still breathing with their mouths opened.
sometimes, they don’t only open their mouths, they might also spread their wings.
This is very normal and does not call for any alarm, as they are only trying to support themselves with their mouth to breath more air and cool their body temperature.
Again, we all know that chicken do not sweat, and so has no other way to cool down their body temperature unless by breathing through both their nose and mouth and spraying their wings.
What to do: Well like I said, it’s just normal, but if you notice this, then you will need to support them by providing them with cold water or even put ice in their drinking water, it will help them cool their body temperature.
Cold water with some glucose in it or watermelon, so as to help entice them to drink and drink more, which will in turn, help their body temperature.
In some cases, some people do On fan for them, although I don’t quiet recommend this, as there might be some accidents, but you can still improve their ventilation without fan, by having more openings on their coop, shielding their coop from the sun.
Suffering from Virus infections such as Laryngotracheitis (ILT), Infectious Bronchitis (IB):
Infectious Bronchitis (IB)
This is found mainly in baby chicks. When you see them open their mouth and breathing, then Bronchitis is a suspect. The Symptoms include gasping, coughing, sneezing, rattles from throat and nasal discharge. Older birds show egg laying problems and increased thirst.
This is a serious viral respiratory disease characterized by open mouth breathing, neck stretching and struggling for air. ILT is a suspect when there is a sudden onset of moist coughing, gasping for breath and laboured breathing. other symptoms include a bloody mucous from nostrils or along lower beak.
What to do: Although, there is no cure for this illness, but anti biotic could be useful.
It is very important to be quick and responsive once these symptoms are noticed, in order to save the rest of the flocks.
It is always advisable to contact your vet doctor immediately for proper checkup and medications.
Suffering from Gapeworm: Another possible causes of open mouth breathing of your chicks is because they have been infected with Gapeworm.
Gapeworms are very tiny parasitic red worms that infect the tracheas of chickens and cause intermittent wheezing and gasping.
When this happens, the chicken will have it’s mouth open and be stretching it’s neck in order to relieve pain and breath.
Unfortunately for some people, this worm is very populous in some locations and the chances of the chickens being infected in such locations is very high.
Sadly, I have experienced gapeworm infection on my chicks, but only once.
One hilarious thing about this worm is, once a chicken is infected, it will stay in the chicken’s throat and start getting bigger and having eggs which do fall off sometimes and infect other chickens and it also kill the infected chicken once it gets very big.
What to do: Just contact a vet when this signs is noticed!. A vet may typically prescribe something like Flubenol or Aviverm, which you will add to your birds drinking water to help kill the worms.
The Throat is blocked: Many times, a chicken might have it’s mouth open and breathing, not because it’s sick or hot, but it has swallowed something and it is blocking it’s throat.
Somethings like stone, big sized feed etc may block it’s throat and you will see the chick gasping for breath by opening it’s mouth and stretching it’s neck in order to breath and properly swallow the object.
What to do: When you notice this, just take the chicken to a vet and have x-ray done if possible in order to know where the object is and how to remove it.
Although in some cases, giving the chicken a good amount of water might help, but do not try to help the chick all alone, so a vet is still the best solution.
Other possible causes could be some bacterial such as staphylococcus. This happen mostly when you let your chicken out, on it’s own, pecking at any rubbish it might come across, such as fertilizer, garden soil etc.
Also pecking on sawdust can cause this! many people do provide sawdust for their chicks as bedding, well it’s very wrong because they might start pecking it which might cause infections and their throat being blocked!.
The points above could be the possible causes of your chicken breathing while having it’s mouth open.
It’s always advisable to contact a vet once you start seeing signs on your chickens.