If you’re raising a flock of chickens for the first time, then there are many different chicken behaviors you’re likely to see. One of them is your chickens yawning from time to time. Since humans are the ones that yawn, one pressing question you’re likely to ask yourself is “do chickens yawn?”
Since you’re unaware of the different chicken behaviors, such a thing can make you call a vet thinking that your chickens are struggling to breathe or maybe they’re choked by dry feed. However, you shouldn’t worry. Yawning is a common process for most chickens and they do it for a variety of reasons.
Two of the main reasons why chickens yawn is regulating body temperature and adjusting their crops after eating heavy dry feed. But, there are other extreme cases where yawning can be a clinical sign. To understand all these, this short guide will discuss ten key reasons why your chickens yawn.
10 Reasons Why Your Chickens Yawn
1. Cooling Down During Hot Weather
The first and most common reason why your chickens are yawning is heat stress during hot summer weather. According to science, this is not referred to as yawning but rather panting. Remember, chickens don’t have sweat glands as humans do meaning they depend on their respiratory system to cool down their bodies.
So, to effectively lower body temperature, chickens open their beaks and pant. This panting is what appears like yawning. Panting is usually evidenced in hot weather and not in cold winter weather.
Therefore, if you notice that your chicken is panting during winter or panting excessively during summer, then you should flag it as a possible health problem. Lastly, if you notice that your chickens are struggling with excess heat, you should provide them with cool drinking water and fruits. You should also provide them with a shade where they can get hide from the direct sunlight.
2. Something Stuck in the Throat
This condition is also called an impacted crop. It’s when a chicken’s crop is packed with excess food that’s hard to digest. Now, when you open the coop in the morning, your chickens usually rush to the feeders to have their breakfast meal. Since chickens don’t feed at night, they’re likely to eat too fast as they’re usually hungry.
In the process, your chickens might fail to break the food into small manageable pieces making it hard to swallow. This can easily cause choking accidents which can force your chickens to yawn repeatedly or stretch their necks as they attempt to swallow food.
This can also happen to baby chicks when they feed on hard-to-digest foods or when they eat massive quantities of food. So, if you’re asking do baby chickens yawn, then simply know they’re not exempted.
3. Adjusting the Crop
One huge disadvantage of chickens is that they don’t have the teeth to chew food. Since they use their tongues to push food down their throats, eating too much food at once can cause discomfort in their crops. Another cause of discomfort is when they eat heavy meals such as kitchen scraps.
So, to adjust or rearrange their crops, chickens tend to yawn. This mostly happens in the morning after having their breakfast or in the afternoon. If this is what you’re seeing, then you don’t have to worry as it’s normal. However, this case should not be confused with a choking problem, as the latter can be fatal if left unattended.
4. When Stretching
Stretching is another common behavior with chickens, especially chicks. While some people call it peculiar, others call it cute. Now, chickens stretch out their bodies in myriad ways. Some will stretch their wings while others will stretch out with one leg behind them. Others will stretch out their necks while others will simply open their beaks as if they’re yawning.
In most cases, your chickens will stretch out their bodies after waking up from a nap. Baby chicks will stretch out after feeding or when they want to sleep. So, if you see your chickens opening and closing their beaks while they stretch, then simply know they’re just comfortable and enjoying their time.
5. A contagious Behavior
Now, sometimes, your chicken might not be struggling to swallow food or adjust its crop. The yawning might just come naturally after watching other chickens in the flock yawn. In most cases, this is called contagious yawning and it happens often to humans and other animals. Since chickens are social animals, yawning can be seen as a signal. So, the next time you see your chickens yawning, maybe it’s a signal it’s time to take a nap.
Now, most of the conditions we’ve discussed here are very common with chickens raised in the backyard. While they might not cause any concern, there are some causes that can be serious and life-threatening to your chickens. Below are among those few instances where chicken yawning can be alarming.
6. Signs of Gapeworm
The first cause of yawning in chickens that can be considered alarming is the presence of gapeworms. Now, if you’re hearing this for the first time, then gapeworms are a type of parasite that lives in the soil. This parasite gets ingested by your chickens when they’re foraging. Once it gets to the body, it sticks to the wall of the windpipe or trachea where it thrives by reproducing and laying eggs.
Its presence in the chicken’s trachea causes an annoying irritation that forces your chicken to open its beak repeatedly as if it’s yawning. A chicken will yawn as an attempt to relieve itself from the discomfort and as a way to get more air as this condition can make it suffocate.
Gapeworms can affect both chicks and adult chickens. These internal parasites can be contagious and can affect an entire flock if you don’t quarantine the affected chickens before they spread the infection.
7. Signs of Sour Crop
A sour crop is also called candidiasis and it’s an infection that mostly affects the chicken crop. This condition is triggered by the growth of candida yeast that develops in the chicken’s crop causing an infection. In most cases, candidiasis is caused by poor nutrition, overuse of antibiotics, stressed chickens, and an underlying illness that’s yet to be treated.
If your chickens are infected by candidiasis, they might fail to feed, release a foul smell from their mouths, and they will tend to make a gurgling sound. They will also stretch their necks and open their beaks as if they’re yawning.
8. Ear Infection
If you have a problem with your ear, you will tend to shake your head and open your mouth while pushing a finger to your ear to relieve the irritation. That’s exactly how chickens relieve irritation from their ears despite not having actual fingers as humans.
So, when a chicken has an ear infection, such as E. Coli or Pasteurella, they will feel irritated and will try to relieve the irritation by stretching their necks, tilting their heads, scratching their heads with their feet, and yawning excessively. So, if this is what you’re seeing, then you should contact a vet to inspect your chicken.
9. Fowl Pox and Fowl Cholera
Fowl pox and fowl cholera are two deadly infections that can make your chicken yawn. So, if your chicken is yawning and you’re wondering why chickens yawn repeatedly, then you should watch out for these two.
Starting with fowl pox, this disease is a form of a respiratory infection that targets the throat and respiratory tract of a chicken. It causes painful yellow plagues in a chicken’s throat that makes it hard for chickens to feed. The result is a fever that causes your chickens to cough, sneeze, and yawn repeatedly. Here, your chickens aren’t yawning, but are rather struggling to breathe, a condition called open-mouth-breathing.
Fowl cholera is another form of respiratory disease that affects the respiratory tract and tonsils of a chicken. This condition is fatal and can cause severe cases such as swelling of the sinuses, swelling of the ears, and difficulty breathing thus causing your chicken to breathe through the mouth.
Since your chicken will have to open and close its beak repeatedly, it will appear as if it’s yawning. To guarantee that your chicken is truly suffering from fowl cholera, you can check out other alarming symptoms such as greenish or yellowish diarrhea, swollen feet and wattles, weight loss, ruffled feathers, and comb/wattles developing a purplish color.
10. Possibility of Avian Trichomoniasis
Now, are your chickens sharing feed and water with either domestic or wild pigeons and doves? Well, if that’s the case, then your flock might be at a huge risk of contracting an infectious bird disease called Canker, Frounce, or Avian Trichomoniasis.
This infection is very common among flying birds such as doves and pigeons where 80 – 90% of these birds are considered carriers. The infection is caused by a protozoan parasite called Trichomonas gallinae that affects the upper gastrointestinal system of a chicken.
As a result, a chicken develops yellowish lesions or sores in the oral cavity and later in the trachea. If the infection is not treated early, the lesions can increase in size to a point of irritating your chicken. It can even cause blockage to the trachea to a point of suffocating the chicken.
The result is what appears to be chicken yawning, which in a real sense is open-mouth breathing as your chicken attempts to inhale sufficient air.
What to Do When Chickens Yawning?
If it’s just an occasional yawn that’s followed by stretching the wings and legs, then there’s nothing to worry about as it’s absolutely normal. However, if your chicken is yawning frequently, then there’s a need to investigate. So, in this last section, we’re going to highlight some possible solutions you can employ to solve the problem.
if your chicken has eaten dry food and it’s suffocating, then you can try to give her some water or apply a few drops of olive oil to her mouth using a dropper. In case the chicken is trying to adjust its crop, then you can assist it by massaging its crop gently.
Gapeworm is a parasitic infection that occurs when your flock forages on infected pastures and litter. To prevent this infection, you need to clean your coop, run, and backyard often. In case some of your flock members are sick, you should isolate them immediately to avoid further spreading. From there, contact a vet to conduct further treatment of the infected chickens.
Respiratory conditions such as fowl pox and fowl cholera can be fatal. These conditions affect chickens’ air passages causing them to struggle a lot when breathing. To prevent these conditions, you should keep the coop clean at all times and ventilate the coop to allow sufficient air circulation.
Lastly, there’s Avian Trichomoniasis. As we’ve discussed, this condition is fatal and very common with chickens that share food and water with either wild or domesticated doves and pigeons. Since the disease is spread by doves and pigeons, a simple prevention solution is to deny these birds access to your chickens’ feeders and waterers.
In case you can’t avoid them, then you can consider adding apple cedar vinegar to your chickens’ water sources. At least 1 tablespoon of vinegar per gallon of water will do.
Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. Can Sour Crop Kill a Chicken?
In severe cases, yes. You see, a sour crop, also called candidiasis, can disrupt the normal functioning of bacterial flora making it hard for food to be digested inside the crop. This creates a blockage in the crop, which if not treated on time can cause death.
Thankfully, the condition can be treated by a vet by emptying the crop and administering an anti-fungal medication.
Q2. How Long Does It Take Gapeworm to Kill a Chicken?
Although the amount of time it takes to kill a chicken is not specified, gapeworms can kill a chicken if not treated on time. What happens is that the infection blocks the trachea stopping food and water from passing through. What happens next is starvation, dehydration, suffocation, and later untimely death.
Q3. Can Apple Cider Vinegar Kill Gapeworms?
Apple cider vinegar is a popular home remedy that can serve as a great antibiotic. When administered correctly, apple cider vinegar can kill the most popular worms that affect chickens. However, as a home remedy, vinegar might not be effective on its own. In this case, you have to contact a vet to administer deworming medication to effectively eradicate worms from your chicken’s body.
So, why do chickens yawn? If this is what you’re asking, then this insightful guide has answered your question in detail. As you can see, chickens don’t yawn when they’re tired or when they want to take a nap. Instead, they yawn when they want to free up something blocking their digestive passageways or if they have digestive tract problems.
In case you suspect food stuck in the trachea, then you can massage the chicken’s throat or crop gently or try to give them water or some olive oil. In case the yawning is a clinical sign of underlying disease, then you can contact your local vet for professional treatment.
Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!