One day i put the 4 pullets (Georgie, Sofie, Lucy, and Olive) outside in their chicken tractor. It was in the sixties and windy outside. When i went to check on them Georgie was doing a thing called gape breathing. she was stretching her neck out and opening her beak wide to gulp air every so often. It wouldnt have done any good to separate her from the others at this point, whether it was a respiratory or parasitic problem…they had been shoulder to shoulder in their cramped quarters in the house and i had to assume whatever one had the rest of them had. They would all be getting treatment for whatever i decided ailed Georgie.
I put the pullets back in the house to keep them from the big chickens and to get them out of the wind in Georgie’s weakened state. Then i started devising a plan for what to treat for and how to gage if it was working. The most likely culprit at this point was gapeworms…little red worms that live in their airway and cause them to gasp for breath like Georgie had been doing. A good way to deworm a chicken was crushed red pepper flakes/seeds. They had no capacity to taste spice and it kept the worms at bay, allowing the chickens to put on weight. I figured, if it worked for gut worms it could probably work on respiratory worms. Worms are worms right?
With chickens, i think its best to take an educated guess and try something before taking your chicken to the livestock vet and paying hundreds of dollars for them to give the chicken antibiotics and then maybe still having it die. Chickens are messy creatures. They shit in their water and then drink it. They shit in the dirt and then bathe in it. They eat flies, cockroaches, and maggots. Songbirds bring them lice. Field mice bring other parasites and diseases. You have to keep this in mind and have some home remedies for the regular parasites and illnesses. I had never treated the pullets for worms. They were too young for me to be thinking about that, but the adult chickens got treated occasionally throughout the year. I picked up a new bulk container of crushed red pepper flakes/seeds at the grocery and poured a mound of them in a bowl every night and set it in the pullet enclosure in the house. I made sure all 4 pullets consumed a good amount of the seeds each night. Exactly a week later i put the pullets outside in the chicken tractor at 70 degrees with a slight wind. Not one of them was gape breathing, not even Georgie. She looked a lot better and brighter. They didnt seem in any distress so i let them stay out all Saturday. I was so relieved that it seemed it was indeed gapeworm because that was a whole lot easier to treat than a respiratory infection.