Fungal Infections in Poultry

Disclaimer: The information on this website is gathered from many sources and presented by lay individuals. It may not be accurate or complete. It should not necessarily be considered expert advice. Some medicine uses listed are off-label & not USDA-approved, and should only be used with your veterinarian's approval.

If a fungus (yeast or mold) gets inside a chicken or other bird, it may grow inside the digestive tract or respiratory system and create problems. Some fungi can cause infections on featherless or feathered skin, and may spread to cause Internal infection as well.
* In general, antibiotics can make fungal infections WORSE, because antibiotics may kill 'good' bacteria that fights off bad fungi.

DIGESTIVE: If your bird is eating well, but mysteriously getting skinnier and emaciated, it may have an internal fungus. (However, there are many internal parasite and other problems that can also cause this symptom.)

RESPIRATORY: If the fungal infection is in the bird's trachea, lungs or air sacs, it may occur as part of or along with or be mistaken for Infectious Coryza, Mycoplasma Galliseptum (MG) / Chronic Respiratory Disease (CRD), Collibacillosis (E. coli infection) or another disease. If your bird has a respiratory condition, your bird may have a fungus clogging up part of its breathing system (and may also have other respiratory diseases) and may benefit from respiratory antifungal treatment.
* Note: If your bird has serious respiratory symptoms, PoultryPedia does NOT recommend treating with Oxine AH by itself. Additional treatments may VERY LIKELY be needed.

If an antibiotic doesn't help your bird, it is possible your bird has a fungal illness.
--More commonly, however, your bird may just need a different medication (See our Bird Medicine Chart for possibilities) or more treatment, or may have a level of sickness that medicine can't adequately treat.

 Below are treatments that can be helpful with various fungal infections. However, some treatments help with some fungal conditions but not with others. Use this page as a starting point to look up different types of fungal conditions to more specifically diagnose your bird's problem & select best treatments.
*Another excellent resource on symptoms of & treatments for Fungal Infections: http://www.thepoultrysite.com/forums/showthread.php?t=7769

SOME FUNGAL INFECTIONS
Mycotoxicosis. Reference Links: 1
Aspergillosis, Aspergillus, Avian Aspergillosis, Brooder Pneumonia. Reference Links: 1, 2, 3, 4
Pulmonary Aspergillosis. Reference Links: 1
Histoplasmosis. Reference Links: 1
Candidiasis, Yeast Infection, Candida, Thrush -- Type occuring in mouth. Reference Links: 1, 2
Candidiasis, Yeast Infection, Candida, Crop Bloat, Monoliasis, Crop Mycosis, Thrush, Canker -- Type occuring in crop. Reference Links: 1, 2, 3, 4
Candidiasis, Yeast Infection, Candida, Thrush -- Type occuring in digestive tract. Reference Links: 1, 2

Other names for some fungal infections
Mucormycosis, Sour Crop, Fungal Respiratory Infection, Intestinal Fungal Infection, Internal Fungus, Internal Fungal Condition, Mold Infection, Canker, Favus, White Comb, Mycotic Dermatitis, Ocular Histoplasmosis, Fungal Pneumonia, Dactylariosis, Torulopsis Infection, Cryptococcosis, Vent Gleet, Fusariotoxicosis, Cloacitis, Aspergillus Granulomatis Dermatitis, Mycosis, Dactylariosis.

Various SYMPTOMS of some Internal Fungal infections (including Respiratory)

  • Weakness: Intestinal fungi eat some of bird's food & damage organs that digest food.
  • Overall Incoordination
  • Labored Breathing / Gurgling / Respiratory Illness: Air passages are restricted by fungi.
  • Fatigue
  • Poor Appetite: Bird not very interested in eating because not feeling well, in some cases. Some medicines may also make birds temporarily feel worse & eat even less.
  • Emaciation / Starving: Breast muscle may shrink so much that breastbone feels like a sharp ridge sticking out of chest. Eyes will look sunken in, also.
  • Some bright green & watery droppings: Too little food is going through bird's system, and more green bile gets concentrated in each poop.
  • Anemia: Blood becomes thin & pale, and bone marrow is pale yellow.
  • Infertility / Egg Laying stopped
  • Overheating & Panting: Respiratory system may be restricted & bird isn't able to use panting to cool down as well as normal.
  • Internal bleeding: Especially in the breast & leg muscles, and intestines.
  • Death: May occur from prolonged, severe infection.

Contributing causes may include:

  • Moldy food (especially processed poultry feeds or corn)
  • Spores in air or on surfaces
  • Wet weather, high humidity & heat
  • Bedding materials that mold especially easily, such as some kinds of hay
  • Flooring or bedding that was damp long enough to foster mold
    • Even after the bedding dries out, dangerous spores (mold "seeds") can remain
  • Inadequate sanitation
  • Direct contact with fungus on another infected bird
  • Weak immune system (esp. in young or aged birds)

OXINE AH
--A fairly new treatment that is having some good success
* Note: New info about non-activated Oxine may indicate it is not nearly as effective as activated Oxine. Until more info is available, see http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/562407/oxine-seems-fabulous-users-please-share-usage-dosage-storage-etc/100#post_12672480.
*Note: Raw, unfiltered apple cider vinegar (found in the health food section of groceries) may offer some of the benefits that Oxine does, though to a lesser degree.

Caution: PoultryPedia does NOT recommend using Oxine as the primary treatment for most respiratory or other problems, particularly if the problem has developed to a critical point. In many cases, antibiotics and/or other treatments are needed instead of or in addition to Oxine.
 
Oxine AH is a chemical (Stabilized Chlorine Dioxide or Acidified Sodium Chlorite, depending on application) liquid that kills many types of Fungi on contact, as well as Avian Influenza A virus, Newcastle Disease virus, Staphylococcus, Streptococcus, Salmonella, E. Coli, Mycobacterium, and many other bacteria and viruses. However, Oxine can only kill germs upon direct physical contact, & germs are shielded from contact in many disease situations.
Oxine AH comes as a highly concentrated liquid in a quart or gallon jug, and should be diluted with water according to directions.
You can choose to also purchase Citric Acid Activator. It can be mixed in shortly before using (within 1 week prior) to make an "activated" Oxine solution. The activated form of Oxine solution is more potent, so dosing or application does not need to be as heavy.

Different sources offer conflicting information on using activated vs. unactivated Oxine. We are currently researching for more complete information.
  • The Oxine bottle label says: You should NOT use activated Oxine while animals are present, you should use a respirator when spraying, and solution should be washed off feed & water containers before using again.
  • A few other sources say: Activated and non-activated Oxine AH can both be used around, on or in birds, but you need to use more care and cautious dosing if using activated Oxine. The sources say either form of Oxine may be used quite safely around feed and water, without worry about residues. However, you would have to so some checking to verify these sources' recommendations.
Oxine's effectiveness is deteriorated by exposure to sunlight. Oxine concentrate and all solutions be stored until use in a closed container that is either nontransparent or is kept away from daylight.
  • Activated Oxine solution's effectiveness will decrease over time so you need to mix it fresh at least once a week.
  • Non-activated Oxine mixed with water will stay effective (although at a lower intensity) a long time.

Nebulization / inhaled mist treatment for Respiratory infections:
Note: Nebulization is an off-label use for Oxine AH, but many poultry keepers report it has helped their birds.
Mix  2 1/2 teaspoons non-activated Oxine AH with 1 cup water. (This is enough for about four 15-min. humidifier or 8 spray bottle treatments for a few chickens.)
* Apply via a fogger, evaporative or ultrasonic "cool mist" humidifier, vaporizer, or very fine mist spray bottle, and direct the mist toward the bird's face.
Note: Water droplets must be very small to reach as deeply as possible into the birds' lungs & air sacs.
~~Tip: You can plug a humidifier into an electrical outlet timer, to set up a cycle of power being turned off & on a few times each day, to provide scheduled Oxine nebulization sessions without you needing to manually run the humidifier.
Directing the mist toward a bird's face can be most conveniently done while it is sleeping on the roost at night, or if you place the bird in a confined area.
* Nice bonus! The mist will also kill mold, bacteria & viruses on surfaces it lands on in the coop.
  •  For less severe problems: Give one 15+ minute treatment every other day for a week.
  •  For severe problems: Give treatments up to 3 times per day or leave humidifier on overnight for up to 5 days.
  •  Routine care: Give 15-min treatment once a week.
Caution: Do not overdo the heaviness / intensity of the mist! (especially if using spray bottle).
  • Too heavy moisture amounts might make breathing somewhat difficult plus cause too much moisture buildup in lungs and breathing air sacs.
  • With some people, it may be possible for Oxine mist to cause mild temporary headache. It is not known if some birds may experience similar discomfort.
Treatment in drinking water for Digestive Tract infections:
3 to 5 drops (Use eyedropper to add.) non-activated Oxine AH per quart (4 cups) of drinking water.
--Also reduces transmission of germs between birds, plus helps minimize growth of algae in waterer.
Notes:
* Antibiotic medicines have not been shown to necessarily be incompatible with Oxine, but some may be. It may be best to at least separate them by putting antibiotic in drinking water, and then use Oxine-treated water to moisten food.
* Oxine will kill probiotics such as Lactobacillus, so do not give them together.
* Many organic acids such as Vinegar could 'activate' Oxine, so should NOT be mixed together in drinking water!
 
Sanitation and Cleaning
Activated or non-activated Oxine AH can be used to clean contaminated areas. Oxine will kill fungi, and many bacteria and viruses. The activated form has a more potent effect, and the manufacturer recommends wearing a face mask respirator in some situations using activated Oxine.
Oxine is VERY SUPERIOR TO BLEACH for cleaning porous surfaces, such as wood or dirt.
  • With a bleach solution, bleach itself will stop on any porous surface area (such as wood) and only water will penetrate past that. The water moisture that soaks below the surface can then actually increase growth of fungi, etc.
  • With an Oxine solution, the Oxine will stay with the water and penetrate to also kill fungi, bacteria, etc. below the surface.
Treatment for Infected Wound
Speculation only! Possibly you could experiment with putting diluted non-activated Oxine on a Bumblefoot wound as part of treatment. Oxine kills Staphylococcus aureus, which is the main bacteria that causes most Bumblefoot infections.

* You can order Oxine AH from:
DRJ Animal Health, First State Vet Supply, A to Z Vet Supply, Best Veterinary Solutions, Revival Animal Health, JEDDS Fine Avian Products, Hakes' Twin City Poultry Supplies, and EggCartons.com.
If you need to use activated Oxine, you can also buy the Citric Acid Activator from some of these retailers.
Shipping for Oxine is via ground delivery, so it takes a few days & is somewhat expensive because of the weight.
Average costs: 1 gallon of Oxine - $26, shipping - $14.
Oxine AH is manufactured by Bio-Cide.

Other possible treatments include:

NOTE: Some treatments below apply for certain Fungal Infections but do not for other Fungal Infections.
The best treatment plan varies with situation & type of fungus. Additional research can help you to choose best treatments.

* Remove moldy foods & bedding.
* Mist and/or spray coop regularly with Oxine AH to help kill fungi & spores in air and in materials in coop.
* Encourage the bird to eat & drink as much as possible. Provide constant easy access to food & water. Notice if the taste of medications or supplements seems to make chickens eat or drink less, and try to adjust. Mix tasty treats into food.
Tip: Chickens like to see their food & will eat more if food is in good lighting, so place food where it can be seen well.
* Consider force-feeding if the bird isn't eating enough. On the Baytril for Birds page, there is a description of how to administer medicine orally quite easily & safely. If you feel confident enough, you can use that technique to give pureed/blended-up foods via a syringe (human or livestock type) with the needle removed, or an eyedropper.
* Oil of oregano is a powerful, natural anti-fungal. It is available as a liquid or in gel capsules. It should be diluted before giving to chickens.
~~Something you could experiment with would be diluting a few drops of oil of oregano in several cups of water, and then administering to your chickens by nebulization or inhaled steam.
* A little probiotic is VERY helpful to nourish good bacteria that are getting killed off competing with the fungus. You can use ~1 tablespoon/day unsweetened yogurt or buttermilk (Buttermilk has the added benefit of coating, staying longer in, & soothing damaged guts), or a bit of an acidophilus tablet or probiotic capsule for women's health, or Probios powder or paste from a feed store. Feeding the probiotic with food slows its travel through the body & gives more time for good bacteria to become established.
~~Don't overdo probiotics or bird may have some temporary, mild digestive problems.
~~Many sources say probiotics and antibiotics will have conflicting action. If you do give antibiotics, space these and probiotics at least 2 hours apart from each other.
~~Birds' systems may have some difficulty with lactose digestion. If it seems a problem for your bird, try to use only a probiotics that have little or no dairy products or lactose in the ingredients.
* Raw, unfiltered Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV) with the 'mother' in it can be helpful. Mix 1 tsp. per 16 oz. drinking water. ACV has acidic, antiseptic properties that promote healthy, fungus-fighting bacterial flora. It also contains natural enzymes, minerals vitamins and essential acids that help fight yeast.
* Grapefruit Seed Extract (GSE) is a good natural antifungal.
* Swabbing affected areas with a 1% solution of Gentian Violet helps kill fungi. [Double-check whether this is safe for
* Provide constant access to decently clean water.
* In general, antibiotics are HARMFUL for treating for birds battling fungus problems, because antibiotics also kill off GOOD bacteria which are helpful in driving off bad fungi.
 ----However, if you think your bird may have a problem that isn't fungal, antibiotics can often be useful.
* Antifungal medicines may help (Nystatin is commonly used, though some fungi are resistant. See Poultry Medicine Chart for some possible medicines.), but aren't always necessary. However, many of these can be harsh on bird's system. Oxine AH is an atypical antifungal that may be useful & isn't itself hard on a bird, though fungi die-off might be somewhat.
--Be aware that sudden die-off of large amounts of fungi may be somewhat hard on a very weak bird, because of the large amounts of toxins produced.
* Apple is helpful--fresh mashed-up apple is best, or unsweetened applesauce. Pectin helps cleanse out bad bacteria & toxins as fungi dies off. Apple also helps create pH level in gut that is bad for yeast but encourages good bacteria.
* Use vitamins and mineral supplements. Add a little more than the label's directions.
--Chickens don't like the taste of Vi-Tal & several other supplement powders. They are very likely to avoid food you sprinkle it on. They will probably accept it more readily in drinking water, but watch to make sure birds do still drink plenty of water.
--Be cautious with sweeteners in supplements. Poly-Visol children's vitamins (Only use the kind WITHOUT added iron) & Gatorade contain sugars, and Poultry Nutri-Drench contains molasses. Try to minimize sugars but sometimes you might have to give some.
* Sweets & carbohydrates *feed' fungi, which then does more damage to the chickens' insides plus releases more toxins. Minimize sweet foods, and do NOT give any straight molasses, sugar, etc. Xylitol (which you can buy in a package in the health food  section of a grocery store) is one sweetener that is safe & can help provide energy.


* Fresh garlic has anti-fungal effects. Mince a fresh clove of garlic into tiny pieces and mix in a damp mash such as oatmeal, mix in drinking water. It may take a few days for your bird to develop the taste, but it will be beneficial.
* Proteins are great! Cooked eggs (especially yolks)--or dried egg powder as a convenient alternative--, freshly hulled unsalted nuts other than peanuts (Peanuts and any pre-hulled nuts are more likely to have mold on them), meats of any kind (fish, pork, beef--though some meats are detrimental with some fungal conditions), etc. When treating a Fungal Infection, feed the most easily digestible proteins you can.
--INSECTS: If bird is eating poorly, you may stir its enthusiasm and appetite by offering live insects such as grasshoppers, earwigs, mealworms, etc. Avoid insects with a lot of black or orange on their bodies because some of those are toxic to birds.
* Fats are good. But do not feed too much oil (unless you are treating impacted crop) because food will be lubricated and pass through quicker which doesn't let it get digested for as long.
* Do feed some regular poultry feed (such as layer mash or pellets), although it has quite a bit of carbs. Also do give other foods to help balance it out, though.
--With digestive conditions, avoid scratch feed because it is hard to digest & high-carb.
--Don't feed bread because it fills up birds' crops quickly so they probably won't eat as much, and is high-carb.
* Several kinds of vegetables are good for chickens struggling with this--spinach, pumpkin, lettuce (other than iceburg kind), & others.
* Balance acidic & alkaline foods and medicines for an acidic optimal low pH level, which will help good bacteria grow and fight fungi. However, there is debate about whether feeding acidic foods (tomatoes, citrus, etc.) or liquids (apple cider vinegar, etc.) may help, or may hurt & cause pain in damaged guts, so research on factors involved is recommended.
* Keep birds in well-ventilated areas, but protect from cold drafts.
* Keep the chicken in a restricted area so it's sheltered from other chickens rambunctiousness & doesn't have to travel a lot. It needs its energy saved as much as possible.
* Put antifungal ointments on any affected areas of skin.
* Minimize hours of light for laying hens. Excess light hours can cause a hen's reproductive system to work overtime, increasing stress on her body. If using artificial lights in the coop, keep sleeping areas shielded from light, or turn off lights during dusk and night hours.
--If a hen is being kept separate, you might also cover her cage a few extra hours each day.
* Provide extra warmth, if conditions are chilly, so the bird's system doesn't have to work as hard taking care of itself. Putting the bird in a partially covered cage may help, or using a heat lamp.
* Consider giving Copper Sulphate crystal or powder in water to help kill fungi in the digestive system. It is a toxic substance & can be risky--measure carefully because too much is very harmful! It is hard on a bird's system, & will likely make bird feel somewhat sickly & not want to eat as much. You might not want to use with a very weak bird. Copper sulphate is available without a prescription from some pharmacies that do compounding.

Other Resources

Differences between Fungi, Bacteria & Viruses