Skip to Content

Chicken Breathing with Its Mouth Open: 9 Reasons+Tips

Chicken Breathing with Its Mouth Open: 9 Reasons+Tips

Do Chickens Open Their Mouths When Stressed? Yes, chickens may open their mouths when they are stressed or experiencing discomfort. Stressors like fear, handling, unfamiliar surroundings, or sudden changes in their environment can cause chickens to exhibit open-mouth breathing as a response to stress. This behavior allows them to increase their oxygen intake and regulate their body temperature.

However, it is important to differentiate between normal stress-induced open-mouth breathing and persistent or abnormal respiratory distress. If your chicken is consistently exhibiting open-mouth breathing or other signs of respiratory distress, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian to rule out any underlying health issues.

When chickens breathe with their mouth instead of their nostrils, it can indicate an underlying issue or discomfort.

Here are 9 possible reasons why your chicken may be breathing with its mouth:

  1. Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections, such as infectious bronchitis or mycoplasma, can cause inflammation and blockage in the respiratory system, leading to mouth breathing.
  2. Heat Stress: Chickens may resort to mouth breathing to regulate their body temperature when they are experiencing heat stress. This can happen in hot and humid environments without sufficient ventilation or shade.
  3. Respiratory Obstruction: Any blockage or obstruction in the nasal passages or airway, such as mucus, foreign objects, or swelling, can cause a chicken to breathe through its mouth.
  4. Allergies or Irritants: Allergic reactions to certain substances or exposure to irritants like dust, strong odors, or chemicals can trigger respiratory distress, prompting a chicken to breathe with its mouth.
  5. Respiratory Disease: Chronic respiratory diseases, such as chronic respiratory disease (CRD) or avian influenza, can cause breathing difficulties and mouth breathing in chickens.
  6. Dusty Environment: A dusty environment, such as a coop with excessive bedding dust or dry soil, can irritate a chicken’s respiratory system, leading to mouth breathing.
  7. High Altitude: Chickens at high altitudes may experience reduced oxygen levels, causing them to breathe more heavily and potentially resort to mouth breathing.
  8. Lung Parasites: Parasites like gapeworms can infest the respiratory system, obstructing the airways and causing breathing difficulties.
  9. Stress or Excitement: In certain situations, chickens may exhibit mouth breathing as a response to stress, fear, or excitement. This can be temporary and subside once the triggering factors are resolved.

It is important to observe other accompanying symptoms and behaviors in your chicken to help identify the underlying cause of mouth breathing. If you notice persistent or concerning signs, it is recommended to consult a veterinarian experienced in poultry health to accurately diagnose the issue and provide appropriate treatment.

Do Chickens Breathe Through Their Mouths? Is it Normal?

Chickens do not normally breathe through their mouths. Their primary method of respiration is through their nostrils, located at the base of their beaks. Breathing through the mouth is not a typical or healthy behavior for chickens.

If you observe a chicken breathing heavily or with its mouth open, it can be a sign of respiratory distress or an underlying health issue. This behavior may indicate that the chicken is experiencing difficulty in obtaining sufficient oxygen through its nostrils or is trying to regulate its body temperature.

Respiratory distress in chickens can be caused by various factors, including respiratory infections, allergies, environmental stressors, or lung issues. It is important to monitor the chicken closely and seek veterinary attention if you notice persistent mouth breathing or other signs of respiratory distress, such as coughing, sneezing, wheezing, nasal discharge, or lethargy.

A veterinarian experienced in poultry health will be able to assess the chicken’s condition, diagnose any underlying problems, and provide appropriate treatment to help alleviate the respiratory distress and promote the chicken’s well-being.

Gapeworm in Chickens: Symptoms, Causes, and Tips

Gapeworm, scientifically known as Syngamus trachea, is a parasitic worm that can infect the respiratory system of chickens. Here’s some information about gapeworm in chickens:

Symptoms of Gapeworm Infection:

  1. Gasping for Air and Gaping: The most characteristic symptom of gapeworm infection is the chicken appearing to gasp for air and opening its beak wide (gaping). This is due to the presence of worms in the trachea (windpipe), causing irritation and obstruction.
  2. Coughing and Wheezing: Infected chickens may exhibit a persistent cough or wheezing sound, indicating respiratory distress.
  3. Reduced Appetite and Weight Loss: Gapeworm infestation can lead to a decreased appetite and subsequent weight loss in affected chickens.
  4. Pale Comb and Wattles: Chickens with severe gapeworm infections may develop pale or bluish coloration in their comb and wattles due to respiratory distress and decreased oxygen intake.
  5. Weakness and Lethargy: Infected chickens may display weakness, lethargy, and reduced activity levels.

Causes of Gapeworm Infection: Gapeworm infection in chickens is typically acquired through the ingestion of intermediate hosts, such as earthworms or slugs, that carry the infective larvae of the parasite. Chickens may also pick up the infection from contaminated environments where these intermediate hosts are present.

Tips for Gapeworm Prevention and Control:

  1. Regular Deworming: Implement a regular deworming program for your chickens to help control gapeworm and other internal parasites. Consult with a veterinarian to determine appropriate deworming medications and frequencies.
  2. Sanitation and Hygiene: Maintain a clean and sanitary coop environment to minimize the presence of intermediate hosts. Regularly remove droppings, keep the area dry, and prevent overcrowding to reduce the risk of parasite transmission.
  3. Control Wild Birds: Minimize contact between your chickens and wild birds, as they can carry gapeworm and introduce it to your flock. Avoid feeding your chickens on the ground, where wild birds may leave droppings.
  4. Avoid Free-Ranging in High-Risk Areas: Limit free-ranging in areas with a high likelihood of intermediate host presence, such as damp or muddy areas where earthworms and slugs thrive.
  5. Quarantine New Birds: Quarantine new birds for a period of time before introducing them to your existing flock. This allows you to observe and treat any potential gapeworm infections before the new birds interact with healthy chickens.

If you suspect gapeworm infection in your chickens, it is recommended to seek veterinary assistance. A veterinarian experienced in poultry health can perform diagnostic tests, confirm the presence of gapeworms, and prescribe appropriate anthelmintic treatments to address the infestation and support the health of your chickens.

Sneezing and Allergy In Chickens

Sneezing in chickens can sometimes be associated with allergies, although allergies are less common in poultry compared to mammals. Here’s some information about sneezing and allergies in chickens:

  1. Allergies in Chickens: Chickens can develop allergies to certain substances in their environment, such as dust, mold, pollen, or specific food ingredients. However, allergies in chickens are relatively uncommon compared to respiratory infections or other respiratory issues.
  2. Sneezing as an Allergic Response: Sneezing can be a symptom of an allergic response in chickens. When exposed to allergens, the chicken’s immune system may react by releasing histamines, which can cause sneezing, nasal irritation, or other respiratory symptoms.
  3. Environmental Allergens: Common environmental allergens for chickens include dust, mold spores, pollen, or certain bedding materials. These allergens can irritate the respiratory system, leading to sneezing or other respiratory signs.
  4. Food Allergies: Chickens can also develop allergies to specific ingredients in their diet. Food allergies may result in digestive issues, skin problems, or respiratory symptoms, including sneezing.
  5. Management and Prevention: To manage allergies in chickens and minimize sneezing episodes, consider the following measures:
    • Ensure proper ventilation in the coop to reduce dust accumulation and improve air quality.
    • Use high-quality bedding materials that are low in dust.
    • Keep the coop clean and free from mold or excessive moisture.
    • Monitor the chicken’s diet and avoid potential allergens.
    • If a specific allergen is identified, remove or reduce exposure to that substance.

How Do You Treat Respiratory Infection in Chickens?

Treating respiratory infections in chickens typically involves a combination of supportive care and appropriate medications. Here are general steps for treating respiratory infections in chickens:

  1. Veterinary Consultation: Contact a veterinarian experienced in poultry health for an accurate diagnosis and treatment plan tailored to the specific respiratory infection affecting your chickens.
  2. Isolate Infected Birds: Separate infected birds from the rest of the flock to prevent the spread of infection. Provide them with a clean and well-ventilated area.
  3. Supportive Care: Ensure your chickens have access to clean water, balanced nutrition, and a stress-free environment to support their immune system and overall well-being.
  4. Medications: Depending on the specific respiratory infection, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics, antiviral drugs, or other medications to address the infection. Follow the veterinarian’s instructions regarding dosage and duration of treatment.
  5. Environmental Management: Maintain a clean and well-ventilated coop environment. Regularly clean and disinfect the coop, remove wet bedding, and improve ventilation to reduce the risk of reinfection.
  6. Prevention and Biosecurity: Implement biosecurity measures to prevent the introduction and spread of respiratory infections. This includes quarantine protocols for new birds, limiting contact with wild birds, and practicing good hygiene.

Remember, proper diagnosis and treatment should be carried out by a veterinarian. They will be able to provide specific guidance based on the type of respiratory infection affecting your chickens.

What to Do if My Chicken is Struggling to Breathe?

If your chicken is struggling to breathe, it is a serious and potentially life-threatening situation requiring immediate action. Here’s what you can do:

  1. Ensure Airflow: Move the chicken to a well-ventilated area with fresh air. If indoors, improve ventilation by opening windows or using fans to increase airflow.
  2. Separate the Bird: If possible, isolate the struggling chicken from the rest of the flock to avoid potential stress or disease transmission.
  3. Seek Veterinary Assistance: Contact a veterinarian experienced in poultry health immediately. Describe the symptoms and mention that the chicken is struggling to breathe. Follow their guidance for emergency care or transportation to their clinic.
  4. Supportive Measures: While waiting for veterinary assistance, keep the chicken calm and comfortable. Avoid handling or causing additional stress. Provide access to water but avoid forcing it to drink if breathing is severely compromised.
  5. Observe and Monitor: Continuously monitor the chicken’s breathing and overall condition. Note any changes or worsening of symptoms to inform the veterinarian.

Chicken Breathing Heavily Not Eating:

If your chicken is breathing heavily and not eating, it may indicate a significant health issue. Several potential causes can contribute to these symptoms, including:

  1. Respiratory Infection: Respiratory infections can lead to breathing difficulties and loss of appetite in chickens. Seek veterinary attention for a proper diagnosis and treatment.
  2. Heat Stress: Heat stress can cause chickens to breathe heavily and reduce their appetite. Ensure they have access to shade, fresh water, and proper ventilation to alleviate heat stress.
  3. Gastrointestinal Issues: Digestive problems, such as impacted crop, sour crop, or internal parasites, can affect a chicken’s appetite and breathing. A veterinarian can assist in diagnosing and treating these conditions.
  4. Systemic Illness: Various systemic diseases or infections can cause breathing difficulties and a decrease in appetite. Consult a veterinarian to identify and address the underlying issue.
  5. Stress or Pain: Stressful situations, injuries, or pain can affect a chicken’s behavior, leading to heavy breathing and loss of appetite. Identify and address any potential stressors or sources of discomfort.


It’s important to note that sneezing can also be a symptom of respiratory infections, respiratory parasites, or other respiratory diseases in chickens. If sneezing is persistent, accompanied by other respiratory signs, or if you’re unsure about the cause, it is advisable to consult a veterinarian experienced in poultry health. They can perform a thorough examination, conduct appropriate tests, and provide a proper diagnosis and treatment plan for your chickens.