5 Signs Your Chickens Might Have The Flu

Photo of Kassandra Smith

Kassandra Smith

Senior Editor • Backyard Chicken Coops

Last Updated: 30 June 2020

Is your chicken showing signs normally associated with a cold or the flu? Well, the closest thing to a ‘chicken cold’ is Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD), which has all the typical flu-like symptoms.

CRD is not often fatal, but like Glandular Fever for humans, the disease will remain in the chickens system for life. Don’t be alarmed - one sneeze doesn’t mean an instant diagnosis of CRD, but if the sneezing is regular and combined with other symptoms like nasal discharge and coughing, then a trip to the vets might be on the cards.

CRD can cause re-occurring health problems in the future, and makes your chickens more susceptible to disease. Therefore it’s important to identify potential causes early, and to take precautions to prevent it before your flocks health is compromised.

Backyard chicken sneezing and showing signs of respiratory disease

1. What can cause respiratory diseases?

  • Extreme temperatures

If there’s a sudden change in temperature, this can take a toll on your chickens’ health - especially if its bitterly cold. Chickens need time to acclimatise to changing temperatures, and don’t do well with sudden shocks! Read our articles on keeping chickens warm and cool to find out how to keep your flock comfortable and help them cope with the elements.

  • New animals being introduced to an existing flock

Introducing new chickens to a pre-existing flock is a very stressful experience for all, and a stressful environment does make chickens more susceptible to disease. There are definitely things you can do to make this process less of an upheaval for all flocks - check out our How To Keep Your Hens Stress Free for a great guide.

  • Dust/fine residue

A dusty coop environment can cause respiratory disease, as they irritate the chickens’ airways. Always make sure the coop is clean and bedding is changed regularly. Also, be careful when pouring feed out of the sack - sometimes this can stir up small pieces of residue into the air.

  • Moist litter

Moist litter and bedding is a breeding ground for disease, and can allow mould to grow - therefore replacing it regularly is very important.

  • Poor coop ventilation

A poorly ventilated coop that allows cold, sneaky drafts to infiltrate is a sure fire way to get sick chicks! The best way to prevent drafts is to have a well ventilated coop, such as the Taj Mahal, Penthouse or Mansion.


2. What are the symptoms?

There are certain behaviours and symptoms that can indicate a respiratory problem in your chickens.

  • Coughing

If your chicken sounds like its got a nasty cough then it may be a symptom of CRD. It’ll sound like a raspy crow.

  • Nasal discharge

If there is a sticky, clear nasal discharge emerging from the chickens’ nose, then this may be a symptom of CRD.

  • Sneezing

A chickens’ sneeze is easy to identify - it pretty much sounds like a sneeze from any other animal! Generally this means something is interfering with their respiratory system - just as it is for humans!

  • Loss of appetite

Sick chickens are not likely to eat as much as normal. This can also cause slow growth, as they aren’t getting the nutrients that they need.

  • Reduced egg production

If you’ve noticed that egg production is not what it once was (unless your flock are moulting, or you're experiencing the winter season), this can be an indicator that something is wrong with their health.

3. Treatment of respiratory disease

Generally, respiratory diseases are treated by administering antibiotics. If the symptoms aren’t severe and are mainly a result of environmental factors, i.e. a dusty coop, then once this has been rectified, the symptoms should clear up. These symptoms will manifest more in cold weather, so don’t freak out by the sign of a sneeze!

Having a well ventilated coop is one of the best ways to ensure your chickens aren’t exposed to cold drafts that can be damaging to your flock’s health. All of our coops are designed to prevent drafts, and to keep your flock as comfortable and healthy as possible.

As chicken keepers, we like to think that we are doing the best we can for our girls, however, there is often more we can do to prevent health issues. I recommend the Ultimate Chicken Online Health Course to all my readers! It is written by our friends over at Chickenpedia. They have compiled everything you need to keep healthy chickens through the seasons (which is more than you think!) with a great set of check-lists and downloads to keep. 

Chicken Health Course

Sources and further reading