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Airborne Toxicity

The chicken's respiratory system is particularly sensitive to exposure to airborne toxins. This is related to the uniqueness of the avian respiratory system, and actually allows for birds to breath more effectively then mammals. The cross-current airflow and blood allows for the chicken's blood oxygen levels to be higher than their oxygen levels when they expire a breath. The negative consequence of this is it increases their risk of absorbing higher amounts of toxins from the air, thus causing them to reach toxic levels quicker than mammals. Clinical signs may be delayed several hours after the initial exposure.

Clinical Signs

Increased respiratory effort
Open-mouth breathing
Exercise intolerance
Tail bobbing
Nasal discharge
Matted feathers
Weight loss
Sudden death


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiography - Useful to rule out other causes of respiratory disease and evaluation of heart and lungs for secondary complications. May not be apparent until advancement of the disease.
  • Hemogram
  • Endoscopy
  • Lung biopsy
  • Necropsy


Removal from the source
Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.



  • Do not expose birds to plug-in, wick, or spray air fresheners. This includes Fabreeze.
  • Do not expose birds to scented candles
  • Do not expose birds to superheated, non-stick plastic fumes
  • Do not expose birds to candy cooking flavorings such as peppermint or spearmint.


Varies depending on the length of exposure and chronicity of the resulting disease.

Scientific References

    Risk Factors

    • Secondary exposure to humans smoking regular or electronic cigarettes.
    • Exposure to high amounts of dander and dust
    • Exposure to products containing Teflon.
    • Exposure to burning fumes from a fire, whether intentional or accidental.
    • Exposure to scented commercial items such as air freshers, scented candles, aerosol sprays, nail polish, hair grooming products, etc.
    • Exposure to gasoline fumes, glues, propellants, methane, paint fumes, etc.
    • Exposure to cleaning or disinfectant products such as bleach, self-cleaning ovens, ammonia, and solvents.

    Also Consider