As a general rule, chickens don’t drool. They’re not built in the same way that human beings are, and they don’t have a hyper-salivary response when they’re hungry or afraid. So, if you notice that your chicken is drooling, you might be wondering if your chicken is sick or not.
Is your chicken drooling? Should you worry? Because chickens don’t drool naturally – yes, it’s a good idea to worry if your chicken begins to drool. Your first port of call should be to talk to a vet as the most common causes of a chicken appearing to drool are crop impaction, roundworms (or other worm infections), yeast infections, chicken cholera and Marek’s disease.
Do Chickens Have Saliva?
A chicken may not drool but it certainly has saliva. A chicken’s mouth has no teeth, so it won’t chew its food to begin the digestive process, but it does produce saliva. The reason for this is quite simple, it’s hard to swallow dry food – the saliva helps it slip down the throat and into the gullet.
As with human beings, the saliva also contains certain digestive enzymes including salivary amylase which is responsible for breaking down starches into less complex sugars which are easier to digest.
Once food is thoroughly wetted in the chicken’s mouth it pushes the food to the back of the mouth with its tongue before it swallows.
So, Why Is My Chicken Drooling?
It’s not. Chickens don’t drool. A chicken’s mouth doesn’t produce enough extra saliva for it to drool. That means that when a chicken drools, something may be wrong with the chicken.
Common causes of what appears to be a chicken drooling include:
- Crop impaction
- Roundworms (or other worm infections)
- Yeast infections
- Chicken cholera
- Marek’s disease
About Crop Impaction
The chicken’s crop is a sort of pocket which comes off the esophagus and sits in the neck around it. When a chicken eats, some of what it swallows will be held in the crop until the rest of the digestive tract is ready to receive it.
When the crop is full, the chicken feels full and when it empties, it sends messages of hunger to the chicken’s brain.
The Purpose Of The Crop
Nothing really gets digested in the crop, however, apart from giving the salivary enzymes more time to get going – the crop is simply a storage shelf on the way to the stomach where the digestive process really begins. Its evolutionary purpose was to allow birds to hold onto feed when they might be at risk of being hunted if they moved into the open to eat.
Crop impaction occurs when the crop can no longer pass food onto the stomach. It may happen because a chicken goes without eating for a long period and then gulps down too much food in one sitting. It might be the result of eating something which gets stuck in the crop. It may also be the symptom of a disease.
When this happens, the chicken can’t swallow any more food or water and it is likely to regurgitate whatever it tries to take in. This can appear drool like. It’s also possible that if left untreated the swollen crop will block the chicken’s ability to breathe properly and it may suffocate to death.
Treating Crop Impaction In Chickens
If you suspect crop impaction – you need to consult a vet and if the diagnosis is confirmed, they’ll need to take it into their surgery for an operation. You can’t treat this at home.
About Roundworms in Chickens
Roundworm, Asciardia galli to give it its scientific name, is a very common intestinal parasite in chickens. It is particularly prevalent in chickens that are free-range and/or kept in backyards. It is an actual worm which can grow up to 5 inches in length and is white and flat in appearance.
Most of the time, these worms live in the small intestine where they don’t really do much harm. They reproduce. The chicken passes out its eggs in its feces. And both go about their business without any real issues.
Unfortunately, every now and again the roundworms get confused and they migrate to a different part of the body and there they can cause problems. As we’re concerned with drooling – roundworms can migrate to the crop and cause the crop to be too full to accept any incoming food with similar results to the impacted crop.
However, they can also migrate to the cloaca, gizzard, esophagus, and oviduct. In the oviduct, it’s possible for them to get trapped inside the eggs that are being laid.
Treating Roundworms In Chickens
Fortunately, treating roundworm is very easy and there are a host of antibiotic remedies that can be provided by any professional vet. There is also a suggestion that natural cures such as garlic or turmeric may help but we remain very skeptical in the face of poor scientific evidence for this. Your chicken will not need any surgery for most cases of roundworm.
About Yeast Infections In Chickens
There are two types of fungal infection that can cause a chicken to appear to drool (again because they can cause issues with swallowing and the crop). They are:
- Candidiasis – the fungus that causes thrush in human beings.
- Ringworm – in chickens this condition is called favus and it is contagious and can be passed on to other birds and humans
In most cases, this condition arises because birds are kept in crowded and unsanitary conditions. It’s a form of mold and it thrives in the dirt. If you don’t clean out the feeding and drinking containers regularly, they may be a breeding ground for Candidiasis.
The warning signs of a favus infection are white scaly or sometimes crusty patches found on the side of the head or neck. They may begin losing their feathers too.
Treatment Of Yeast Infections In Chickens
Treatment for both conditions is similar. Though in the case of Candidiasis you should also ensure that you move the birds to less cramped conditions and keep your space clean. Otherwise, your vet will be able to provide an antibiotic or antifungal treatment that you can use to clear up the infection. Ringworm can also be driven off by direct sunlight, so letting infected hens outdoors can really help.
About Chicken Cholera In Chickens
Chicken cholera or avian cholera is caused by a bacterium known as Pasteurella multocida. It is a highly infectious disease which can be passed on between birds. Turkeys, ducks, geese and a range of other birds are also susceptible to the condition and in fact nearly 2/3rds of turkeys which contract it will die.
Outbreaks are much rarer than they once were, however, and the bacterium is often found in places where rodents are found in the breeding areas of the birds. Older birds are much more at risk than younger ones, for some reason.
An early warning sign of this disease is a bright green diarrhea, but it can be easy to miss, particularly, if you’re not looking out for it.
The other visible symptom is a swelling of the wattles on other side of the head. Internally, however, the disease can wreak havoc on the digestive system which might result in the appearance of drooling.
Treatment of Chicken Cholera In Chickens
Fortunately, treating the condition is very straightforward and a tetracycline antibiotic should be injected into each bird and then added to their drinking water. Any vet can help with this. The good news is that this will stop the sickness, the bad news is that the bacteria may remain present but inactive in the flock.
About Marek’s Disease In Chickens
Marek’s is named after the Hungarian vet, Jozsef Marek, who first discovered the disease in chickens. It is a viral condition of a highly contagious nature which can cause severe problems in chickens and which is almost certain to lead to their death unless the chicken is vaccinated.
In Marek’s tumors spread throughout the chicken’s body. It may cause paralysis. It often involves inflammation of the crop (resulting in the drooling). It can have many other unpleasant symptoms too.
Treatment of Marek’s Disease In Chickens
Unfortunately, there is no treatment for Marek’s Disease. Vaccination may help prevent tumor development once the bird has been infected, however. It is better to vaccinate prior to the disease and prevent all symptoms.
Vaccination does not, however, stop the transmissibility of Marek’s and an asymptomatic bird can still pass on the virus. The mortality rate of Marek’s in unvaccinated birds is 100%. Most birds today are vaccinated against Marek’s because of this.
Is your chicken drooling? Should you worry? Yes. When a chicken appears to be drooling it is almost always because of a medical issue which might be fairly insignificant or a warning sign of a real problem for your flock. The best advice is – if you notice a chicken drooling, call your local vet and get a diagnosis for the problem.
Here are some of my favorite products for chickens and their coops: