Chicken Breathing With Mouth Open

Chicken Breathing With Mouth Open: 6 Possible Reasons

Finding one of your chickens breathing with their mouth open can be worrying.

It’s fairly common with backyard chickens, however, and more often than not it will be something simple that will either pass or can be treated.

There are some more serious causes though, so it’s always a good idea to be aware of the possible reasons why a chicken will have their beaks open while breathing.

Here are some of the most common causes

Chicken Breathing With Mouth Open? (6 Common Causes)

They’re Too Hot (Panting)

Chicken breathing with mouth open because too hot

Chickens do not sweat, when they get too hot they use a process called evaporative cooling.

This means they evaporate water on the surface of their air sacs and lungs to create vapor and help regulate their temperature. It sounds complicated, but it’s how a lot of birds’ bodies operate.

In the hot weather, however, when the temperatures creep above 85 degrees F in their coop or run they will struggle to keep their core body temp down.

This is when chickens will sometimes use open-mouth breathing to try and inhale cool air to help cool themselves down. Similar to when animals like dogs and cats pant when they’re too hot.

As long as you’re providing cool drinking water and plenty of shade to cool off under, your chickens should be fine.

It’s no different to any pets. If you can see they are too hot, do everything you can to help them out. In some extreme cases, I’ve heard of people putting fans in the coop to get some extra cool airflow.

Related content do chickens have sweat glands?

Might Be an Obstruction

The natural foraging behavior of chickens can get them into trouble from time-to-time. You may have observed your hens picking up and spitting out things they come across, sometimes they try and eat things they shouldn’t.

If they’ve got a stone or some other foreign object lodged in their throat or esophagus, they can’t just reach in and get it out.

If it’s causing a partial blockage, they may have to hold their mouth open to help them breathe. They might also show signs of discomfort, be coughing and so on.

If this is the case, veterinary care is your best option to err on the side of caution. You don’t want to cause more distress or do more damage trying to dig something out yourself.

Some Form of Contamination

Another issue with chickens munching on anything they come across and spitting out the stuff they don’t want is picking up something contaminated. 

This could be as a result of toxins in metals, some corrosive materials, digesting something infected with bacteria, and so on. Basically, anything they shouldn’t be eating that can cause them problems.

For example, this could result in a staphylococcus infection, aspergillosis infections, chronic respiratory diseases, and other issues that cause labored and open mouth breathing.

If this is the cause, they are going to need medical assistance. 

Might be Gapeworm

Chicken breathing with mouth open because of Gapeworm

Gapeworms are little parasitic red worms that infect the tracheas of chickens and cause intermittent wheezing and gasping.

The first sign that a chick has gapeworm is typically seeing them walking around with their beak open. You might notice they are also extending their necks to relieve some of the pain and draw in more air.

The good news is that there are some treatments that are effective at killing gapeworms. A vet will typically prescribe something like Flubenol or Aviverm, which you will add to your birds drinking water to help kill the worms.

Gapeworms are fairly common in certain parts of the world. I’ve been lucky enough to never have it in any of my chickens, but I’ve known owners it’s affected first-hand.

Laryngeotracheitis (ILT)

Laryngeotracheitis is a viral respiratory disease that is characterized by chickens breathing through an open mouth, stretching their necks and gasping for air.

Other symptoms include nasal discharge, bloody mucus, and a moist cough.

There is no specific treatment, antibiotics can help control the infection and there are vaccinations that help prevent an outbreak.

Infectious Bronchitis (IB)

Infectious Bronchitis is more often found in baby chicks than adults. If it’s a chick that is breathing with their mouth open, IB might be the cause.

You’ll need to take them to a vet to be sure. Be aware that it’s an extremely contagious viral disease, so taking action quickly can make a huge difference to your flock.

There is no specific treatment, antibiotics can help control the infection and there are vaccinations that help prevent an outbreak.

In Summary

If you notice one or more of your chickens have labored breathing or are breathing with their mouths open it’s a warning sign that something is up.

The less impactful causes are more common than serious illnesses, but you should still do something asap to ensure your chooks are happy and healthy.