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CHICKENS are indeed the easiest livestock to keep by any person so interested to rear such birds. These can vary from local or village chickens to what we can call commercial birds such as broilers and layers for egg production.

All these can be affected by diseases that affect the respiratory organs in the head or skull of the bird.  Respiratory diseases in chickens affect the sinuses, this is an area in the head of the bird between the eyes and the beak.  The windpipe and lungs are affected as well.  Therefore, for those planning to rear chickens for Christmas and for income purposes (commercial) should be very observant when they notice strange behaviour in their birds.

What then are the causes?

  1. Germs – term germ(s) is or are generally referred to small organisms that cause disease in other words we can say they are the genesis of diseases. Such germs can be bacteria, viruses and fungi.
  2. Housing – problems such as poor ventilation resulting in ammonia build-up, draughts and excessive dust would cause respiratory problems.

Now looking at the two highlighted causes, what do we see as a sign of disease in birds?

  1. Difficulty in breathing.
  2. Discharges from the nostrils and eyes.
  3. Sneezing.
  4. Swollen sinuses which have been mentioned earlier.

Should a bird be found dead or showed these signs before it died carry out a small postmortem of the air passage.  The nasal passage and windpipe may be found to be red on the inside or filled with mucus.

However, to confirm fully, a veterinarian can still carry out his post mortem and also by laboratory tests.  Treatment of respiratory diseases would be administered upon confirmation of the post mortem coupled with the signs seen in the chickens.

Drugs are available for treating such disorder that could be added to the feed or water and can be bought with a prescription from a veterinarian.  Others can be bought over the counter.

A farmer may say how can we prevent and control respiratory diseases.  It is good to practice good biosecurity i.e. measures to prevent diseases reaching the farm and causing a drop in production and or mortalities.

  1. It is also advisable to vaccinate birds against diseases such as Newcastle Disease and Infections bronchitis.
  2. It is equally important to improve housing management (this has to do with ventilation mostly).
  3. Provide good quality feed.

Respiratory diseases caused by viruses

These include Pneumovirus, Infections Bronchitis (IB), Newcastle Disease (NCD) and Infections Laryngotractieitis (ILT). These are some of the viral diseases that cause respiratory signs in birds.  They can also contribute to a drop in egg production in layer chickens. Birds especially housed would come into contact with droppings of affected chickens or by breathing in infected droplets.  This is where then biosecurity comes in especially by the workers who are not sanitary cautious. For pox virus this is spread by mosquito bites.

So please let us all be aware that mosquitoes are vectors (carriers of diseases)

Respiratory viral symptoms in birds would include, as already mentioned, discharge from the nostrils, difficulty in breathing, extending the neck when breathing (trying to take as much air as possible because of the blockage of the respiratory system), sneezing, swollen sinuses and usually there is eye infection.   It is always difficult to treat viral diseases, in other words there is no treatment.The only relief is to control or treat what can be termed as secondary bacterial infections which can bring complications when the viral disease sets in.

However, prevention which can also act as a control measure, the movement of chickens in and out of the farm should be controlled. In addition, buy chickens from reliable dealers.

Respiratory diseases caused by bacteria 1  

Infections Coryza (IC), this bacterial affects layers, breeders and broilers. Birds get sick when they come into contact with the bacteria in drinking water or by breathing. When this happens or chickens get infected, the result is in swollen sinuses and a drop in egg production.

Symptoms also show difficult and fast breathing, discharges from the nose and eyes accompanied as well by green diarrhoea. When it comes to treatment, the veterinarian would advise the best course of treatment to take and so is the type of prevention.

  1. Mycoplasma gallisepticum (MG), usually chicks born from infected hens are usually infected in the egg. Equally through contact with infected chickens. This organism affects all types of chickens.

Chickens will also show signs of discharge from the eyes and nostrils.  To confirm through postmortem, the air-sac are thickened, opaque and white with a yellow white layer covering them.  The outer surface of the liver and heart is covered with a whitish layer. When it comes to treatment the veterinarian would advise as to the best course to take.   Under prevention always practice strict management measures on the farm and if possible buy chickens that are free of MG.

Respiration diseases caused by fungi

Incubation machines at the hatchery even private incubators at local farms can be a source of infection.

And so is the   environment, contaminated feed and litter.  Housed birds are mostly at risk.

Symptoms in chickens are difficulty in breathing, fast breathing and open-mouth breathing.

Should a bird die, on post mortem white areas in the lungs would be seen.

There is no treatment.  However, on prevention avoid wet litter in the poultry and mouldy and dust free.  So as we prepare for Christmas, that is rearing the chicken for this festive period coming let us be wary of our management if   good results or income is to be realised.

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