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All You Need To Know About Coryza in Chickens

All You Need To Know About Coryza in Chickens

Today we are going to focus on Infectious coryza– a fairly common respiratory disease in chickens. It’s also known as ‘roup’, catarrh, ‘pip’ or IC.

We are going to explain what it is, how the chickens get infected, the problems it causes, the treatment for infected birds, and finally, how to help prevent your flock from becoming ill.

Although it is not as devastating to a flock as Marek’s or lymphoid leucosis, it can be equally as deadly to your older or weaker birds or birds with suppressed immunity.

We have put the information into a question-and-answer format as the information seems to flow easier this way.

 Coryza in Chickens

What is Infectious Coryza?

Coryza is the medical term for the common cold – however, in chickens, it is generally more serious than a human common cold.

It has been described as a severe cold, but it can be much, much worse in both its short and long-term consequences.

There is a small but steady incidence in backyard flocks nationwide – it is not uncommon.

It is a catarrhal infection of the upper airways in chickens, affecting the sinuses causing inflammation and swelling of the airway, congestion, and difficulty breathing.

There are other differences between chicken coryza and human coryza as we shall see.

Note: Catarrh is the inflammation of the mucus membranes. It is characterized by enlargement of the blood vessels, swelling of the tissues, and profuse discharge of mucus and cellular debris.

Coryza is usually an acute disease but can be chronic in some birds leading to recurrent outbreaks over long periods of time.

It does not spread to humans so there is no concern for public health involvement.

How Do Chickens Catch Coryza?

Coryza in ChickensIn humans, the cold is viral in nature. In chickens, it is caused by a bacterium – specifically Avibacterium (Haemophilus) paragallinarum.

For those of you who like scientific details, the bacterium is a Gram-negative rod-shaped bacillus and belongs to the Pasteurella family.

A similar disease plagues turkeys, pheasant, and quail, but it is believed to be a separate bacterium.

Coryza is airborne and passes directly from bird to bird by infected droplets, contaminated feed, water, bedding, or dust particles.

Birds are highly susceptible at places such as poultry shows, swap meets, and live bird markets – all places where they can be in contact with infected birds.

It can also be spread by wild birds, so try to keep them out of the chickens’ area as much as is possible.

It is not, however, passed through the egg so chicks are not born with it, although they can be infected once they are hatched.

Poor, unsanitary housing and overcrowding exacerbate the problem and the bacteria can proliferate in the coop if the circumstances are right.

Being an anaerobic bacillus, it can thrive in an atmosphere with little to no oxygen (soil, water, and poop) so a damp and dirty coop is the ideal breeding ground.

While chickens can be cured of the symptoms, and survive coryza, other farm birds may not be able to overcome the illness.

So if you have other birds on your property, like quail, for example, they cannot clear the bacteria nearly as easily as chickens.

In fact, most quail who contract coryza will not survive at all. This is why it’s important to quarantine new birds and even consider keeping different species of birds separate from one another.

You should make sure you follow strict bio hygiene in your coop.

 Coryza in Chickens

What are the Signs and Symptoms?

There are several signs of infectious coryza. Individually they can be mistaken for something else, but taken altogether there is no mistaking the ‘diagnosis’.

  • Facial swelling – under the eyes, cheeks even the wattles can become swollen.
  • Pale, occasionally swollen comb.
  • Foul-smelling, thick, sticky discharge from the nares and eyes.
  • Conjunctivitis (‘bubbles’ at the corner of the eye).
  • Labored, open mouth breathing, wheezing.
  • If rales can be heard (sounds like crinkly paper or crackles) the lower respiratory tract is also involved.
  • Decreased appetite and drinking.
  • Weakness, difficulty in walking.
  • Decreased egg production.
  • Possibly diarrhea.
  • Eyelids can become crusty and stuck together.

You can watch videos of the symptoms here, however, it can be upsetting to watch.

Incubation Period

The incubation period is around 1-3 days – this is followed by rapid onset of symptoms over 2-3 days.

The entire flock will be infected within 10 days or so.

It is possible that if you catch it early enough you can isolate the infected birds from the rest of the flock, but this is usually futile unless you already have separated breeding flocks.

In the incubation period, you will be unlikely to notice anything wrong with your birds, perhaps they will be off their feet a little but there are no overt signs at this point.

What Treatment Should I Give?

Since coryza is bacterial in nature, it can be treated by antibiotics. I cannot stress enough to use the appropriate antibiotics as prescribed by a veterinarian.

Treating this infection with the wrong antibiotic will not only be useless but may harm your bird in the long run and possibly create some antibiotic resistance in the future.

A veterinarian can run tests to be certain of the disease you are treating and that the prescribed medicine is the most appropriate to use.

The typical antibiotics used are erythromycin, streptomycin, or sulfonamides depending on your veterinarian’s choice and its availability. I

t has been reported that there has been some resistance to sulfa drugs in certain areas – your veterinarian will be aware if it is a problem in your location.

Injecting Medicine for Coryza

Although the antibiotics will cure the acute infection, affected birds will be carriers of the disease for the rest of their lives and will shed the bacteria from time to time.

This means that any new birds added to the flock can become infected.

The infected birds may have relapses from time to time and require antibiotic therapy.

If you are unable to get to the veterinarian quickly, isolate your sick birds giving them food and water.

You can add apple cider vinegar (1 tablespoon/gallon) and crushed garlic to the water. These will help but they won’t cure.

If you wish to treat the infection naturally there are several ‘remedies’ out there.

They have not been added here since there are far too many to include.

Two of the naturopathic remedies that seem to have a lot of positive reviews are grapeseed extract and colloidal silver.

I have no personal experience of either so cannot say one way or another about their efficacy.

The prognosis (Can Chickens Survive?)

Mortality in a flock can vary between 20-50% – several factors can influence the mortality likelihood, but usually, mortality stays around 20% in most flocks.

The older a flock is the higher the mortality. Older birds do not shake this off as well as the younger birds.

If there is already an ongoing ‘low grade’ infection within the flock, this will also most likely increase mortality also.

Poor nutrition or hygiene will really increase the mortality rate as will overcrowding or poor housekeeping.

Stressed birds are always more susceptible to infections, so try to avoid stressful events such as new birds to the flock, change of feeds, etc.

The course of the infection can run from a few days to a few months depending on the severity of the infection and the resistance of your flock.

How to Prevent Coryza

The bacteria can be killed by heat, drying, and disinfectants. As always, there should be good housekeeping practices.

Coops need to be kept clean and dry with thorough cleaning twice a year or more frequently as needed.

Housing that is cold, damp, or drafty needs to be upgraded to keep the birds warm and dry.

Biosecurity is important to lessen the possibility of infecting your flock. Ensure that you don’t wear the same boots/clothing when you are visiting other flocks or shows.

The bacteria can easily hitch a ride back to your flock!

Keeping Coop Clean

If you purchase or are given new birds – quarantine them for at least 30 days, more if possible.

The birds you bring in may look healthy but can carry not only coryza but other more virulent ‘nasties’ too. They should be quarantined well away from your existing flock.

If you do exhibit your birds in poultry shows you likely already have separate quarters for your show birds.

Poultry shows are ideal breeding grounds for many infectious diseases including infectious coryza.

Should your flock become infected, it should go without saying that no other poultry owners should visit you, nor should you visit them while the infection is ongoing.

If your flock gets infectious coryza and you choose not to cull all the birds you need to be aware that any new birds added to the flock will almost certainly become infected unless you vaccinate.

The vaccination will prevent the disease from manifesting, but those birds will be considered carriers for life.

The vaccine that is available consists of two injections given subcutaneously several weeks apart.

It’s extremely important to have your flock tested for coryza if you suspect that one or more of your birds has contracted the bacteria.

There is nothing more valuable to an infected flock than quick action.

You can save more of your birds if you consult with a poultry savvy veterinarian sooner rather than later.

It’s also fair to share the upsetting news with fellow neighbors who have poultry or game birds so they can be aware of the outbreak.

It may not be easy to let them know, but if a wild bird happens to contract coryza from your flock, and carry it over to the neighbor’s farm, at least you can help them catch the problem quickly.

Final Thoughts About Coryza in Chickens

As always the big take-away from this is good housekeeping. A clean, dry, and draft-proof environment can help the birds fight off infection and maintain their health.

A weekly clean-up of all poop, removal of soiled or damp bedding goes a long way to keeping the coops’ ‘germ load’ contained and coryza at bay.

If you do it more frequently than this, give yourself a pat on the back!

The resistance of your flock to infectious coryza will be heightened if they are well fed and maintained in dry, draft-proof housing.

Since the birds usually molt around the late fall/wintertime, it is important to give them a higher protein food for the duration of the molt.

This will help not only re-grow their feathers but fight off any incipient infection process.

Although infectious coryza is a relatively low mortality disease it is a chronic, debilitating disease for many birds, especially if they are older.

A bird may suffer from regular re-occurrences through its lifetime requiring antibiotics, isolation, and increased care and attention.

Most birds recover well in the egg-laying department, but those who are chronically sick will have a decreased output and may finish their laying cycle very early on.

Sadly, Infectious Coryza is on the rise in the US. In this day and age, we can transport a bird across the country in a couple of days, as a result, the disease can spread quickly across the country.

We hope you never have to deal with this disease, but if you do you are now armed with information and can make an informed decision about your treatment options.

Please let us know in the comments section below if you have dealt with this disease. How did you treat it? We would love to hear from you…

Read  Next: Quail Diseases Symptoms and Treatments

All You Need To Know About Coryza in Chickens

21 thoughts on “All You Need To Know About Coryza in Chickens

  1. Don’t have it in my flock but I do have antibiotics on hand would Bio-Mycin work should I ever get it in my flock?

    1. You can in dire need, 100 milligrams per day not for 4 days, not anymore than 4 days.

  2. I have a hen that exhibits all of the symptoms and another that only show a few symptoms. They have both been isolated, but several days after symptoms were first seen. I have 2 questions:
    1. Can the 2 hens that show symptoms ever return to the flock?
    2. Can vaccinating the entire flock, including the 2 symptomatic hens, prevent future outbreaks?

  3. I have dealt with this first hand a few Winter’s ago, having bought a sick bird from a breeder. It cost me the lives of two of my existing flock and this same girl is now a carrier.
    We have had a brutal Winter this year and my girl has had a relapse.
    What has worked for me is liberally rubbing vetRX all over eyes, comb, wattle and a small amount ingested. Also oxymav B in drinking water for rest of flock and antibiotics for the sick girl.
    My flock is closed now as they are all inadvertently carriers because of this one girl i bought. You can never be too careful.
    I hope my girl makes it through this bout as she did two years ago

  4. My chickens have this problem got it from some chicks I bought at a swap meet . I had quarantined them for 3 weeks and they were ok. The 3rd day after I put them in my teenager pen they started to have nasal discharge and were having trouble breathing. Thought it was the heat. We’re having a heat way of 90’s, Now my baby peachicks are showing signs of this. Anything I can do for my peachicks??

  5. I brought home 6 pullets a 5 days ago. Two have foul smelling nasal discharge. I isolated them I am only testing with saline dapped on their nostrils. They are otherwise not symptomatic. It’s been 3 days since I separated them. Do I need antibiotics for this to go away?
    I’ve ordered chick rescue, should come today.
    Presumeing all goes well and they get better, how will I know when it’s safe to re-integrate them?
    From what I understand now all 6 would be considered contaminated? Could it be anything else?
    Appreciate any advice

    1. You are doing the right thing. It is up to you but I would continue a few days with the method you are already doing. If it doesn’t appear they are shifting to happy and healthy, I would get an antibiotic prescribed to be sure it is cured. Yes, they are most likely contaminated as well but keep an eye on them for signs. Re-integrating them- be careful with this and make sure the infected hens are healthy (no snot and high spirits). I would give it more time than too little. Two weeks at least. Really though this all depends on how the hens are appearing to make your decisions. A professional would be helpful in guiding you.

  6. Hello. Thank you for this informative article.
    I have a young pullet that’s being treated for a respiratory infection and has been on an antibiotic (primor) for a little over 24 hrs. She seemed to be on the mend this morning but this evening one of her eyes looked cloudy/weepy and I noticed a foul smell as I was giving her the meds.
    My question: should I be concerned that her eye seems to be getting worse, even when on the antibiotic. She also seemed to be doing much less “beak breathing” today but now tonight, she’s doing it more again.
    I appreciate any of your insight. Thanks in advance.

  7. Just left the vet. He recommended culling all infected birds. We had 9 infected out of about 40 birds. Not sure how it was introduced here but we are devastated. Prior to consulting with vet, we lfound about 7 chicks dead and couldn’t tell what killed them. Next step is bleach coop and remove all material from the run. Air dry. And pray.

  8. Thanks for lecture very informative, i have 250 pullet, about 3 haveing water dropping from their eyes n i having treating this with antibiotics but no signs of improvement, wayout pls

  9. Hello and thank you for all the good information! We bought 12 pullet chicks exactly one week ago. They were 1 day old chicks at that time. All were doing well until this morning, when one seems lethargic, rocking on its feet. It also have some nasal discharge on one side, and that side’s eye is closed by discharge. I tried using warm water and a q-tip, to free up the eye. There is also some swelling on the cheek area beneath, so lots of symptoms line up for this coryza bacterial infection. I did see another chick peck at this spot on the sick chick’s face and originally thought that might be the reason for swelling.
    I have isolated the chick as of now and removed all litter, sprayed the mini-coop with bleach and sprayed that clean. We are waiting for it to dry.
    My question is. . .did the chicks all come with it and I’ll see them all fall sick in a few days? The other 11 seem okay, at the moment.

  10. I have a hen with coryza i have separated from the flock. Should i take the hay out of her coop since her nasal passages are bad?

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