Among all the diseases that can affect livestock, rabies is one of the most dreadful ones. Though it’s a potential risk to all warm-blooded animals, mammals are the most common culprits. In fact, it’s not uncommon to hear rabies being referred to as a mammalian disease or virus. But is it really true that only mammals can be infected? What about birds? Can chickens get rabies?
With all the evidence available so far, it’s very unlikely for chickens to get rabies. However, the wound or injuries left by the rabid animal can be horrifying. So it’s always recommended to get your chicken treated immediately.
That said, there’s been one documented case of rabies being found in the brain of a dead chicken after being bitten by a stray dog. This happened in India, in a highly rabies-dense zone. Since this is only one case out of millions, it is still safe to say that chickens don’t normally get rabies.
In this article, we are going to take a close look at the effect of rabies in chickens, why chickens CAN’T get rabies, what to do when a chicken is bitten by a rabid animal, safety measures to protect your chickens, and so on.
What is Rabies?
Rabies is a deadly viral disease most common among mammals. It is secreted as a virus in the saliva of the rabid animal, and so is commonly passed on to other animals or humans through a bite.
Rabies may also be transmitted through contact with an open wound. This happens when the saliva of the infected animal touches a cut or open wound on the skin of another animal.
Rabies normally attacks the brain and nervous system of the host and may lead to death if not treated early.
The initial signs usually include anorexia, lethargy, vomiting, fever, general body weakness, and so on. With time, the virus attacks the brain, causing the animal to exhibit some unusual behavior.
This may include drooling, restlessness, paralysis, problem swallowing, aggression, over-excitement, staggering, and so on. These symptoms vary among animals…
Currently, there are no rabies treatments for animals. So it’s best to prevent it in the first place.
Can Rabies Infect Chickens?
Yes, rabies can infect chickens. However, most of the time, it doesn’t develop into a full-blown disease. This is also true for other birds.
That said, the chicken may experience an attack, which could be severe or mild. During severe attacks, the chicken may become restless and start running around, clawing any animal it comes across.
Luckily, rabies is not usually transferred through a chicken bite. So, you don’t need to worry about another animal getting infected.
Thus, we may conclude by saying that although chickens don’t normally get rabies, they can get infected just like other birds.
In fact, there has been one unusual case of a chicken dying from rabies infection in India. This nearly doesn’t ever happen but it’s still something to be aware of.
The particular chicken in question was actually infected from a bite by a stray dog. She died about a month after. A lab test on the brain tissue showed rabies was present.
This evidence alone shows that a chicken can be infected with rabies. But as we noted earlier, the disease doesn’t usually develop.
That said, a chicken may still die from a rabies bite, not necessarily because of the disease but due to shock or other infections (if the wound is serious).
Why Can’t Chickens Get Rabies?
Chickens don’t normally get rabies because of the way their digestive system is structured. While they may get infected, the odds of the disease developing is still very slim.
It is believed that the virus responsible for rabies is usually hosted in the salivary glands of the infected animal (usually, a mammal). This is where it develops and becomes infectious – in the mouth.
As you may already know, chickens process their food in a different way. They don’t have teeth, so they don’t normally chew food. Their digestive system is quite different from ours (and mammals generally). This is probably why rabies can’t develop in them.
Another possible explanation why chickens can’t get rabies has to do with their nervous system.
There’re a lot of viruses that don’t affect chickens even when contracted. This is because their immune system simply eliminates the viruses before they start producing symptoms and do any damage. This is also true for other birds and even mammals.
So even if a chicken gets infected with the rabies virus, chances are that it will eat it off; so the disease never actually develops.
In the same way, they can’t pass it to other animals like mammals normally do.
The inability of chickens to transmit rabies is very important considering human involvement with them. It removes any worry you might have when handling an injured chicken. That said, don’t keep a loose guard.
Can You Get rabies From Chickens?
So, can a chicken pass on rabies to a human? Possibly, but it’s very rare.
While it’s true you won’t get rabies from a chicken bite(blood), it’s possible to get it from the saliva left on the chicken by the rabid animal.
As you probably know, rabies is spread through saliva or mucous membranes such as the eyes. So, you need to be careful while handling a chicken you suspect to be bitten by a rabid animal. By all means, avoid direct contact with the wound, and make sure you wear your gloves.
Also, you should avoid consuming the meat of a dead chicken, especially one that was killed by a feral animal.
There’s also a potential risk in slaughtering chickens that are infected since you’ll likely handle the tissues. Remember the case where rabies was found in the brain of a dead chicken? Just something to be aware of.
That said, we still hold the view that chickens don’t get rabies; neither do they transmit it. So an infected chicken probably doesn’t pose any risk to people.
But it’s still good to consider all the possibilities!
Can You Get Rabies From Chicken Eggs?
Probably not, but I wouldn’t rule it out.
Since chickens don’t normally get rabies, you’re likely not to get it from their eggs. And as it stands today, it has never been recorded that anyone got rabies from chicken eggs.
That said, if a chicken was to get rabies, then she will most likely stop laying. In fact, she might never lay again since she’s most likely to die from the disease in a week.
However, if the chicken still manages to lay a few eggs. I would be worried if you ate the raw eggs. Besides that, I don’t think there’s anything else to be concerned about.
That said, from all the evidence available so far, it’s safe to assume that chickens can’t get rabies, so their eggs can’t transmit it. Perhaps, there’s no history of any human getting infected with rabies from chicken eggs.
Can Chickens Get Rabies From Raccoons?
No, chickens can’t get rabies from raccoons, but they can be infected.
As far as livestock and rabies are concerned, raccoons are undeniably one of the major carriers. So, it’s normal to think about them when looking out for your chickens.
Like we mentioned earlier, chickens don’t normally get rabies, not even from raccoons. However, the bite of a raccoon can be terrible and life-threatening.
However, raccoons carry other diseases that can infect and endanger your chicken’s health. A good example is ringworm.
So, raccoons are generally considered a risk to livestock, and should not be allowed near your chickens. Don’t risk it!
Besides raccoons, there are other animals that carry rabies. Some of these include:
How To Protect Your Chickens From Raccoons
Here are five ways you can protect your chickens from raccoons.
Keep Your Chickens Locked When You’re Not There
Make sure to lock your chickens anytime you’re not around. This is very important especially during the night.
Also, during winter, it’s common for predators to seek warm havens in weaker animal cages or pens. Your chickens can be exposed.
I advise locking the chickens in as early as 5pm. This way, you don’t have to force yourself to the coop when it’s already dark.
Manual doors are fine but if you’re not always around to lock them, then it’s better to install an automatic coop door opener. These doors close by themselves as soon as it gets dark, after your chickens may have gotten inside.
Install Garden Lights
Like other nocturnal creatures, raccoons carry most of their activities at night. Thus, light can be used as a deterrent to keep them away from your yard.
You will mostly need a security light for this purpose, but make sure it’s the right type. It should be one that is targeted towards small animals like raccoons. One of the best options we recommend are the Yomisga Solar Pendant Lights. As the name suggests, it is solar-powered, so there’s zero electricity cost. It is motion activated, waterproof, easy to install and has a long battery life.
Another option you can consider is the Afoskce Outdoor Solar Light Bulb. For a cheaper price, it has low energy consumption and a long battery life. However, it is not waterproof like the Yomisga Pendant Lights.
Besides your chicken coup, both lighting can be used in other areas such as shed, reading, camping, and even emergency lighting.
Remove Hiding Spots
Raccoons like to operate in places with less visibility. So if you allow shrubs and grasses to grow in your yard, then they may likely come around since they have a place to hide.
To prevent this, cut down shrubs and grasses, especially near your chicken coop. Then light up the area.
Use a Raccoon Repellant
One of the best ways to deter raccoons from getting into your property is to use a repellant. You can prepare one yourself, or use existing food items.
To make a raccoon repellant, add several cayenne peppers to one gallon of water, then boil. Next, add at least two jalapenos (I recommend three) and onion to the mixture, then boil for another 18-25 minutes. Now, go ahead and spray the mixture round the cage or peg housing your chickens.
The repellant needs to the strong enough in order to work. So feel free to add more of the ingredients if the one you prepared doesn’t get the job done.
You can also use raw ingredients without mixing them with anything. Besides cayenne pepper, you can also use onions, garlic, and hot pepper. Whichever one you choose to use, put as many as you can around your garden or where you have the chickens. The smell will keep the raccoons away.
If you don’t have the time to make your own raccoon repellent, consider getting a commercial one. For this, we recommend the Critter Animal Repellent by Havahart. It contains some of the ingredients mentioned above and is not offensive to humans. It is completely safe with organics and can repel raccoons and other nuisance animals (skunks, groundhogs, squirrels, chipmunks) and pets (cats, dogs).
Get a Guard Dog
Another thing you could do to keep your chickens safe from raccoons is to get a guard dog. Of course, the dog should be trained to protect the chickens and not to attack them. There are some select breeds that do better at this.
Raccoons generally don’t like dogs, and can easily smell them. So having a dog close by will keep the vicious creatures away from your chickens and property.
If you don’t welcome the idea of getting a guard dog, consider investing in a serious gear for the same purpose. In the absence of a guard animal, the Nite Guard Solar Predator Control Light can be used to deter animals from your garden or yard. It automatically flashes a constant light at animals coming through your yard so that they feel they’ve been seen.
What To Do If Your Chicken Is Bitten By A Rabid Animal
If your chicken is bitten by a rabid animal, the best move would probably be to take her to a vet asap. Not all vets can handle such wounds. Specifically, you should see a vet that is experienced with birds or avians.
That said, if you think you can take care of the wound, then here are the steps to follow:
- Move the injured chicken away from the other birds. Keeping her with the flock will only aggravate the problem as she’s most likely to get pecked by the other chickens. In case you don’t know, chickens are attracted to red, especially when it’s an open wound. You can move the chicken to a separate peg or box with some hay.
- To prevent shock, cover the chicken partially so she stays warm. A wounded chicken can die from shock regardless of the severity of the wound.
- Now, wash the area that was bitten with soap and hot (or warm) water. Then clean with hydrogen peroxide. When done, flush with betadine or iodine. I recommend adding sterile saline to the betadine solution to dilute it and give it more color. You can also use hydrogen peroxide.
- Washing the wound should stop the bleeding, but if it doesn’t, you can use a coagulant or styptic powder on it. If there’s no powder around, then you can apply pressure on the area until the blood stops coming out. You will need gauze for this. Again, go gentle but firm. Also, the gauze should be clean; using anything dirty can contaminate the wound.
- Next, rub ointment on the wound. Expectedly, this should be antibiotic, and must not contain lidocaine, benzocaine, or anything with a “caine”. I would further recommend a tinted antibiotic (blue is great!) or something similar to hide the redness of the wound. A safer solution is to use a chicken wound spray such as the Vetericyn Plus Poultry Care Antimicrobial Spray. The product is not only easy to use but also non-toxic and painless. It is commonly recommended by veterinarians.
- You can apply dressing on the wound so flies don’t lay eggs on it. However, if the bite is somewhere the chicken can easily reach with its beak, then there’s probably no need for the dressing.
- For chickens experiencing severe pain, you can administer some pain relief. Simply dissolve in water. I recommend 4-5 tablets for each gallon. Then make the chicken drink it. She should get some relief after that.
Note: The chicken should only be given pain relief after the bleeding stops, or else it would make it worse.
- Next, offer food and water to the chicken if she needs them. Do not force her. Besides the usual food, you can also feed her with things like cornbread, greens, melon, and cooked rice. Try to keep everything warm, and serve on low bowls that are easily accessible. You can use a heated pad if available.
- Only reintroduce the chicken to the rest of the flock when she’s completely healed.
Although you will be able to make progress following the steps above, we still recommend you call the vet. This is important in case there’s a problem of infection.
What To Do If You Are Bitten By a Chicken
So, what do you do if you’re bitten by a chicken you suspect to have rabies? Obviously, you should get proper treatment as soon as possible.
While it’s true you’ll likely not get rabies from a chicken bite, it’s still important to protect yourself.So, don’t ignore the bite even if it’s just a small wound.
Here are the steps to follow:
First, calm down. There’s no need to panic.
As earlier indicated, getting bitten by a chicken would probably not cause you rabies. But that doesn’t mean you should not look into the wound. Chances of infection are slim but possible!
So, how do you treat the wound?
Wash the Wound
Wash the affected area with enough water and soap. This might take up a few minutes.
Next, apply disinfectant on the open wound. A popular choice is iodine, but ethanol also works fine. You may experience a little discomfort at this point, but don’t worry; it means the chemical is doing its job.
See a Doctor
The next step is to go see your doctor and get yourself examined. This might involve doing a blood test to check for rabies and other possible infections.
Conclusion: Can Chickens Get Rabies?
So, can chicken get rabies? No, chickens most likely don’t get rabies. But that doesn’t mean it can never happen.
We’ve already cited a reported case in India where rabies was found in the brain of a dead chicken.
Existing evidence shows that mammals are the ones that are most affected by rabies. Avians (birds), on the other hand, do not normally carry or spread the disease.
That said, getting bit by a rabid animal is not something to take lightly. It could lead to other infections if not properly treated and soon. So, make sure your chicken gets the right care on time.
Let us know if you have any more questions about chickens and rabies. Till then, good luck safeguarding your livestock!
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