Thursday, September 20, 2012

Why are my Silkie Chickens Shaking their Heads and Sneezing?

By Amber Waves

So you brought new silkies chickens into your life, and you couldn’t be more thrilled. But now one or more of your chicks are shaking their heads and sneezing! All sorts of theories are running through your head from your chicks must be allergy to you to you having received the offspring of famous dancing chickens by mistake! The good news (or bad news if you had your heart set on dancing chickens) is that as long as they are treated properly, your head-shaking, sneezing chickens should be back to their normal selves in no time.

Chickens that are shaking their heads and sneezing most often have a cold or upper respiratory infection. Of course, it is possible their head shaking and sneezing are signs of something else. While you will receive some treatment ideas below for colds and upper respiratory infections, it is always good to have your chickens checked out by a veterinarian. If you do decide to self-treat and your chickens appear to be getting worse, it is advisable to call a veterinarian as soon as possible.

As soon as you recognize your chicks are shaking their heads and sneezing, it is important to evaluate their environment and make adjustments as necessary. If you have been keeping them outside, consider making a space for them inside. Make sure wherever you keep them is dry and warm. Clean up their space to the very best of your ability, changing any bedding, providing fresh water and feed, and looking for any mite problems. Be sure to check on your sick chickens even more than you normally would. If they are not eating or drinking, they will need your help getting nutrients because it is hard to get well without proper nutrition.

There are several medicines that chicken owners use to help their birds get over a cold or upper respiratory infection. Each seasoned chicken owner has their own preferred medicines and delivery methods. It is important to note that if you this is your first time medicating a sick chicken, you should consult a more experienced chicken owner if not a veterinarian to get their thoughts on what medication and dosage to administer. That said, a longtime favorite is Doxycycline, also referred to as Doxy. A common dose is 1 teaspoon per gallon of water. Other medicines frequently used are: penicillin, tylan, amoxicillin, and tetracycline. You do not want to give your silkie chickens all of these medicines at once! The general rule is to pick an antibiotic and administer a dosage that is safe for small chickens. If it is not working after one course of treatment, consider switching to another antibiotic.

In addition to administering medicines, you may consider using some natural products to boost your chickens’ immunity. This may help them kick their cold or upper respiratory infection faster than with medications alone! You can try putting a few drops of unfiltered, organic apple cider vinegar into their water. Also, you can add a small amount (one clove or less) of garlic into their water.  

The bottom line is that it is important to identify your birds are sick and start them on the treatment of your choice as soon as possible. Again, if you do not have experience with sick chickens, get advice about which antibiotic/treatment to start with from either a seasoned chicken owner or a veterinarian with chicken experience. Sometimes it can be difficult to know where to find a high-quality veterinarian who has experience treating chickens. A good place to start your search is the Association of Avian Veterinarians. ( Just plug in your zip code and you’ll have a list of experienced vets in your area in no time! If you purchased your silkie chickens from Amber Waves, you have Lifetime Support for your birds, so contact us today!