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)

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.
* 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 via an eyedropper.
* Learn about Oxine AH anti-fungal treatment, and evaluate whether it might be useful in your situation.
* Oil of oregano is a powerful, natural anti-fungal. It is available as a liquid or in gel capsules. It should be diluted before using with 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 chickens.]
* Provide constant access to decently clean water.
* 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.
* Protect your birds from cold drafts. However, do ensure air can slowly circulate, so the area does not become too humid or stuffy.
* Optionally, mist and/or spray coop with Oxine AH periodically, to help kill fungi & spores in air and in materials in coop.
* 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.
* 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.
* 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.

Helpful Foods

* 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.
    - Note: Do not give Vinegar to chickens during very hot weather.
* Fresh garlic has anti-fungal effects, though it needs to be crushed to activate the most useful benefits. Cut up and crush a fresh clove of garlic into tiny pieces, and mix in a damp mash such as oatmeal, or stir into drinking water. Only add a little the first few days, to give your bird a chance to develop a taste for it.
* Powdered turmeric (spice) has excellent anti-fungal properties, as well as many other health benefits. You can buy it in a grocery store spice aisle, or in health supplement capsules in the vitamins section. Sprinkle it on damp food.
* 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, plus make unappealing food taste better.
* 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.
* 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. Fish oil, coconut oil, and flax seed oil are some healthy options.
* Several kinds of vegetables are good for chickens struggling with fungus issues--spinach, pumpkin, lettuce, & others.
* Low-sugar fruits can be fed in limited amounts. These include strawberries, blueberries, cranberries, and raspberries.
* 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.
* Some hand-feeding formulas for birds (which are usually used for baby exotic birds) can make a good addition to a sick bird's diet.
* 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.