Chicken Breathing With Open Mouth

It is important to observe how your chickens breathe and know when it is normal or not. A healthy one should just breathe via its nose with a closed mouth. However, high or hot temperatures can make them gasp for air as they try to release and cool excess heat from their body.

It is okay for a chicken to breathe with an open mouth when it feels hot because that’s how they cool. However, stress, blocked trachea, respiratory illness, or gapeworm in a chicken’s throat can also cause open-mouth breathing.

It is not normal for a chicken to breathe with its mouth open while wheezing at the same time. Additionally, open-mouth breathing while gasping for air is also a sign of respiratory infection or illness.

Chicken Breathing With Open Mouth
Chicken Breathing With Open Mouth

What makes a chicken breathe with an open mouth?

Finding the reason for sudden open-mouth breathing is important because that’s the only way to solve it. Below are some of the common causes.

1. Overheating

Chickens open their beaks to breathe when it is hot in order to cool down because they do not sweat like you and me. Any temperature above 75°F ( 23.889°C) s too hot for them. Long exposure to such temperatures can make them reduce their productivity.

Chickens breathe rapidly through their mouths to cool themselves if their body temperature is high. They may also hold their wings away from their bodies and lie flat on the ground.

2. Stress

Chickens may also breathe through their mouth if they are stressed. Predators like rats in a coop, wild cats, dogs, loud bangs, or even improper handling can increase their stress levels. This painting continues for a short while until they become less frightened.

When frightened, their blood circulation rises and this increases their body temperature. The adrenalin is too much to handle because they are scared. Therefore, the only way to balance that is to open their mouths while trying to get in more air to reduce their body heat.

3. Contamination

Inhaling contaminated items while foraging can also make chickens open their beaks as they breathe. Chicken use their feet to scratch and disperse soil and vegetative matter in search of food items. In this process, they may inhale or eat plants with strong scents.

Contaminated material may have infectious substances like bacteria or mold. They may also contain poisons like fungal and bacterial toxins, heavy metal from screws, wires, nails, or chemicals.

Composting hays, kitchen refuse, leaf litter, and garden fertilizers are very hazardous to chickens. The likelihood of contamination increases with warm-wet weather. Warm-wet weather increases the rate of decomposition and the growth of microorganisms.

These organisms can contaminate the chicken’s throat, resulting in open-mouth breathing. Staphylococcus is an organism that is a common cause of moist cough and open-mouth breathing. Contaminated composting hays are the most common cause of this kind of infection

Aspergillosis infections also make chickens breathe with their mouths open. Contaminated straw or composting hays used as bedding material may also be culprits. The infection is also associated with mouth and throat ulceration, resulting in a chicken breathing with open beaks.

4. Viral infections.

Some viral infections may cause open-mouth breathing. These viral diseases are laryngotracheitis and infectious bronchitis.

Laryngeotracheitis.

This viral disease is associated with open-mouth breathing, neck stretching, and gasping for air. The chicken has a sudden moist cough while gasping for air.

Infectious bronchitis.

Infectious bronchitis is usually found in baby chicks, resulting in open-mouth breathing. The symptoms include coughing, gasping for air, sneezing, nasal discharge, and rattle problems. Older birds may display increased thirst and egg-laying problems.

5. Gapeworms

Gapeworms are small parasitic red worms that infect the tracheas of chickens. They cause wheezing, panting, and gasping for air. In the process, a chicken is left with open beaks while trying to cough and spit the worms. 

The first sign of a gapeworm attack is typically seeing the chicken walking with its beak open. They also extend their necks to relieve some of the pain and draw in more air.

To deal with gapeworms, visit the vet so that they can prescribe treatment like Flubenol or Aviverm. This treatment is added to the birds drinking water to help kill the worms.

Chicken breathing with mouth open and sneezing

You should suspect a respiratory disease when a chicken breathes with an open mouth while sneezing. The chicken respiratory illness tends to develop slowly, so catching the infection early may be key to a good recovery.

Signs of respiratory illness include:

  1. Sneezing
  2. Coughing
  3. Wheezing and labored panting
  4. Decrease appetite
  5. Breathing with mouth open
  6. Reduced egg production
  7. Decreased appetite

Chicken breathing with mouth open at night

Chickens may breathe with their mouth open at night. This is caused by a lot of heat within the coop. The chickens will open their mouths to cool themselves off during the night if temperatures are constantly maintained at 75°F or above.

Breathing with the mouth open at night is not a huge cause of concern. However, you should ensure to keep the coop temperature at 60-70°F. The coop should never be too hot or too cold for them.

Chicken closed eyes with open mouth

This phenomenon in chicken is probably a result of the infectious coryza. It is an acute respiratory disease caused by a bacterium called Avibacterium Paragallinarum. The signs of infection include decreased activity, sneezing, closed or swollen eyes, and mouth opening.

Infectious coryza can be diagnosed through lab testing and treated with antibiotics administered through either feed or water. Several vaccines are available to help prevent coryza, however, they can cause production losses and mortality. Vaccination is usually only used in areas where the disease is commonly found or when an outbreak occurs.

Infectious Coryza by Dr. Zac Williams, Poultry Extension Specialist

Baby chick breathing with mouth open

Baby chicks opening their mouth while breathing may result from blockage, obstruction, or a lot of heat in the brooder. Respiratory infections or gapeworms can also attack them.

Maintaining the right temperature is key to ensuring that the baby chicks do not suffer from overheating. Keep them confined for some time until they are old enough. This will prevent them from having particles lodged in their throats.

What to do

Most chickens pant and breathe with their mouths open when they are stressed or after a rough physical activity like running. In this case, let them relax until their normal breathing pattern resumes.

Here is what to do when your chicken is breathing with an open mouth.

1. Maintaining a good temperature in the coop

As stated earlier, an extreme temperature is a major reason why chicken breathes through their mouth. It is vital for one to maintain an optimum temperature within the coop to make the chicken comfortable.

Ensure the coop has good airflow and ventilation to avoid overheating during hot weather. You can also add a vented ceiling and a small fan to keep the air circulating within the coop. This will help keep the chickens cool. You should always provide plenty of fresh, clean water.

2. Keep the coop secure

Chickens may pant and breathe through their mouth if they panic. Wild animals, snakes in a coop, and predators like eagles can really scare them. It is good to keep the coop secure by installing a fence that will prevent the entry of wild animals and predators.

Check the coop for loopholes that wild animals may use to enter the coop and ensure that they are blocked. Constant fear can stress your flock, and affect their production. Severe cases can be fatal to them.

3. Check for gapeworms

A chicken with an open mouth and stretching the neck is a sign of a gapeworm attack. To deal with gapeworms, it is important to go to the vet so that you can get a prescription for medicine such as Flubenol and Aviverm.

This treatment is added to the birds drinking water to help kill the worms. however, those treatments should be approved by a qualified avian vet.

2. Vaccination

After examination by a vet, he/she may recommend vaccination depending on how often the flock is exposed to infections like infectious bronchitis.

Viral diseases such as infectious bronchitis are responsible for chickens breathing with their mouth open. Ensuring the chicken are vaccinated early reduces the risks of infection.

Vaccination is administered to day-old chicks and then at intervals to ensure continuous protection. Vaccines such as 793B are widely used in Europe, Asia, and other parts of the world.

Chicken open-mouth breathing