Due to their different diets and lifestyle requirements, parrots and chickens aren’t intended to live together. However, some owners allow parrots to mix with chickens for companionship.
If parrots and chickens are to combine safely, take certain health precautions. Several infectious diseases are commonly associated with poultry, which can be passed on to pet parrots.
Chickens can give parrots respiratory infections like mycoplasmosis and avian flu. Bacterial infections, like salmonella and avian chlamydiosis, and fungal infections, like aspergillus, are also common.
While parrots and chickens can get along well if housed together, be mindful of the health risks. So, vaccinate chickens against contagious diseases, and watch closely for signs of sickness and disease.
Can You House Parrots with Chickens?
Poultry usually lives in a backyard, while parrots live in a large cage inside the home. These two species of birds also have entirely different dietary requirements.
However, if you take precautions, parrots and chickens can live together.
A parrot obviously can’t free-roam outside due to the risk of escape. However, these birds can get along if you have a large hen house to meet a parrot’s exercise needs.
Housing parrots and chickens together could be a way to ensure the parrot doesn’t spend too much time alone if you study or work full time. However, never leave them unsupervised until they’re used to each other, as poultry, in particular, can sometimes become territorial and aggressive.
Another concern about keeping parrots and chickens together is illnesses and diseases.
Can Chickens Give Parrots Diseases?
Diseases can be rife in poultry coops, as a flock of chickens will often live nearby.
If one chicken falls ill, it won’t be long before other birds succumb to the same health concern, whether through airborne particles or infected waste, food, or water.
Not every disease that affects chickens can be passed to parrots, but many can.
Effective vaccination against illness is less widely available for parrots than poultry, which must be considered when deciding on living arrangements for birds.
If you plan to keep chickens and parrots together, there’s the potential for disease transmission. It’s more likely that poultry will carry a disease that infects parrots, but the reverse can apply.
Be aware of the risk of parasites. Diseases of Poultry recommends any new addition to a chicken coop is assessed for external parasites, such as ticks and mites.
The Northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) and red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) are common ectoparasites found in a chicken flock that can infest parrots.
Mites can pass infectious diseases between birds. So, check for any signs of ticks in a chicken coop, as these bloodsucking arachnids carry sickness and disease.
Treat chickens and parrots for intestinal parasites such as roundworms or tapeworms, even if the birds aren’t showing symptoms. The eggs of parasites can be shed through fecal matter.
Once you’re comfortable that your chickens aren’t at risk of giving parasites to parrots, be mindful of the following infectious diseases that can be passed between bird species:
Mycoplasmosis (Chronic Respiratory Disease)
Mycoplasmosis takes its name from the Mycoplasma gallisepticum bacteria.
Mycoplasmosis is predominantly a respiratory illness, with symptoms including coughing, sneezing, heavy breathing, and discharge from the beak. Inflammation of the eyes and hocks can also arise.
Once mycoplasmosis takes hold in a chicken coop, it can be hard to eliminate.
However, mortality rates are low, especially in parrots. The Australian Veterinary Journal confirms that treatment with the antibiotic oxytetracycline is usually effective.
Psittacosis (Avian Chlamydiosis)
While psittacosis is colloquially referred to as Parrot Fever, it can also impact poultry.
A chicken with psittacosis will usually be diagnosed with the more formal name of avian chlamydiosis, as the bacteria Chlamydia psittaci causes psittacosis.
The most common cause of avian chlamydiosis is stress caused by cramped living conditions.
The symptoms revolve around respiratory distress, which can also cause gastric issues. The bacterium then spreads through feces.
An antibiotic called doxycycline is the most common remedy for avian chlamydiosis. Parrots that develop this issue should be treated quickly, as it significantly increases the likelihood of recovery.
Outbreaks of avian influenza can be commonplace in flocks of chickens, and all birds can fall foul to this viral infection. Chickens can be vaccinated, but parrots are rarely aided by this procedure, especially as avian flu regularly mutates into new strains.
Avian influenza spreads rapidly following just one case, so don’t allow parrots and chickens to mix.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that’s commonly linked to poultry.
It can be hard to spot, as many chickens infected with salmonella are asymptomatic. It can be equally difficult to observe in parrots, although skin complaints can arise in psittacines.
According to the Journal of Wildlife Diseases, salmonella is more common in the wild.
If free-roaming wildlife, including birds, make contact with chickens, the disease will quickly spread through parasites, infected food, and water supplies.
The spores of the Aspergillus fungi can cause respiratory distress in birds.
Once aspergillus spores become commonplace in a chicken’s habitat, they can become airborne. Aspergillus spores can also contaminate the feed and litter.
So, always keep the coop clean and provide ample ventilation to minimize this risk of infection.
The initial symptoms of aspergillosis are respiratory concerns, though if left untreated, it can spread to the internal organs. Anti-fungal drugs, like itraconazole and fluconazole, will be required.
In parrots, Marek’s disease is widely regarded as an ocular concern because the primary symptom is discoloration of the eyes, although it’ll eventually lead to paralysis and sudden death.
Marek’s disease is considerably more common in chickens than parrots. So, a parrot is only likely to contract this deadly sickness if it spends time with infected poultry.
To this end, it’s advisable to vaccinate chickens on the day they hatch. According to the journal Vaccine, this won’t prevent the spreading of Marek’s disease to other birds.
Newcastle disease is a life-threatening but rare disease that harms the respiratory tract and nervous system. All birds imported into the U.S. are legally tested for Newcastle disease.
Chickens with Newcastle disease share the virus through their feces and saliva. The symptoms include respiratory distress, digestive upset, streaming from the eyes and nostrils, and loss of muscular control.
A vaccine is available for Newcastle disease, so if you keep poultry, this should be administered to chickens. According to Developmental and Comparative Immunology, vaccination isn’t 100% effective but reduces the risk of transmission.
This vaccine is ineffective for parrots, so keep parrots away from infected chickens. Also, avoid handling infected parrots, as Newcastle disease is zoonotic, manifesting as conjunctivitis (red eye).
How To Safely Mix Chickens and Parrots
If you decide to home parrots and chickens together or allow them to mix, take steps to minimize the risk of illness. Follow the guidance below to keep chickens and parrots safe:
- Only get chickens from reputable hatcheries.
- Administer available vaccines to chickens.
- Quarantine any new bird for 30-45 days before introducing it to others.
- Remove and quarantine any bird that shows symptoms of sickness.
- Regularly clean a chicken coop, removing waste and damp litter.
- Wash any shared food or water sources with an antibacterial agent daily.
- Always wash and sanitize your hands between handling chickens and parrots.
- Protect food from other animals, including wild birds.
- Feed all birds a healthy, balanced diet that boosts immunity.
- Keep stress to a minimum.
It’s impossible to guarantee that chickens will never grow unwell and pass sickness and disease on to a parrot, but taking steps to protect the health of both bird species will be beneficial.