Hearing gurgling sounds and rattling in a chicken’s lungs can be scary. Chickens can have difficulty breathing while gasping for air. Should you be worried?
Why is my chicken making gurgling sounds?
When a chicken is making gurgling sounds, it’s a sign of a respiratory tract infection. The windpipe and lungs are fighting against viral or bacterial infections. Gurgling sounds are usually caused by one of four widespread infections: Infectious Bronchitis, Chronic Respiratory Disease, Infectious Coryza, or Infectious Laryngotracheitis.
Let’s have a look at each disease and see what other symptoms you might notice.
Infectious Bronchitis in chickens is a global viral disease caused by coronavirus variants. It targets the respiratory system of chickens.
It’s contagious, but only to chickens. Typically, all of the chickens in a flock get infected.
The virus wreaks havoc on the windpipe, making it prone to secondary infections like Chronic Respiratory Disease, the next disease on our list.
Infected chickens cough, sneeze, and will make gurgling sounds when breathing. The tracheal rales will stay for about two weeks until the bird starts to recover.
Apart from gurgling sounds, coughing, and shortness of breathing, the following symptoms may appear:
- facial swelling
- infection of sinuses with nasal discharge
- eye inflammation, watery, bubbly eyes
- reduced food intake and weight
- reduced egg-laying and deformed eggs
- ruffled feathers
- wet droppings
There can be other symptoms like kidney inflammation, depending on the virus strain causing the infection.
Several vaccines are available, but vaccination is not always successful since there are so many strains.
Chronic Respiratory Disease
Chronic respiratory disease is a widespread bacterial disease. It’s one of the most common diseases affecting backyard chickens worldwide.
The infection is caused by the Mycoplasma Gallisepticum bacteria and can spread quickly through a flock. It tends to infect younger birds and birds in stressful situations.
A typical symptom is the gurgling sounds when the chicken is breathing. When the chicken inhales, you can hear a small clicking, bubbling, or rattling sound in the lungs and windpipe.
Apart from gurgling sounds, other symptoms include:
- coughing and gaping
- nasal discharge and sneezing
- eye inflammation, weepy, foamy eyes
- facial swelling
- head shaking
The disease can be treated with antibiotics. Sometimes the sinuses need to be flushed to remove nasal discharge buildup.
Infectious Coryza is a very common disease that many poultry keepers will face once in their life. It’s a highly contagious bacterial disease, usually non-fatal, but it’s still prevalent since few chickens are vaccinated.
The bacteria are transmitted via contaminated food and water, direct contact, and aerosols in the air. It targets the respiratory system and will show up one to three days after infection.
The bacterial infection causes gurgling and rattling sounds in the windpipe and lungs. Chickens have difficulty breathing and gasp for air with an open mouth.
Other symptoms include:
- nasal discharge
- eye infection, cloudy eyes, or bubbles in the eyes
- sometimes the eyes are completely shut down
- swollen face, foul-smelling pus on the nares and beak
- head shaking
- diarrhea, reduced food intake
- decreased egg production
In rare cases, infectious coryza can also cause chickens suddenly walk backward with large steps.
The bacterial infection can be treated with a variety of antibiotics.
It manifests itself in two forms: the mild and the severe form. The severe form significantly impacts the chicken’s respiratory tract, sometimes resulting in blood in the mouth. Due to the infection, chickens have difficulty breathing and make gurgling sounds.
Apart from the gurgling sounds, chickens will also show the following symptoms:
- coughing, sneezing, strange breathing
- coughing blood, gasping for air
- nasal discharge, facial swelling
- eye discharge, tearing, foamy and bubbly eyes
Vaccines are available that protect against the disease, but the vaccinated chickens will still spread the herpes virus.
Gurgling sounds in a chicken’s lungs are a clear sign of a viral or bacterial infection. There are two bacterial and two viral infections that are widespread and typical to cause gurgling sounds:
- Infectious Bronchitis – coronavirus
- Chronic Respiratory Disease – Mycoplasma G. bacteria
- Infectious Coryza – bacteria
- Infectious Laryngotracheitis – herpes virus
Bacterial infections can be treated with antibiotics. For viral infections, there are vaccines available for prevention.