Last Updated on: 27th September 2023, 08:29 pm
Due to their contrasting diet and lifestyle requirements, parrots and chickens seldom live together. However, some owners allow parrots to mix with chickens for companionship.
If parrots and chickens are to combine, health precautions must be taken to keep everyone safe. Certain infectious diseases are common in poultry and can be transmitted to 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. Vaccinate chickens against contagious diseases and monitor them closely for signs of illness and disease.
Can You House Parrots with Chickens?
Chickens usually live in a backyard, while parrots live in a cage inside the home or outdoor aviary. These bird species also have entirely different dietary requirements.
A parrot obviously can’t free-roam outside due to the high escape risk. However, these bird species can get along if you have a large henhouse to meet a parrot’s exercise needs.
Housing parrots and chickens together can ensure the parrot doesn’t spend too much time alone if you study or work full time.
Never leave them unsupervised until they’re used to each other because poultry, in particular, can sometimes become territorial and aggressive.
Another concern about keeping parrots and chickens together is illness and disease.
Can Chickens Give Parrots Diseases?
Diseases can be rife in poultry coops because chickens 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 animal 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 intend 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.
Always be vigilant about the risk of parasites. Diseases of Poultry recommends that any new additions to a chicken coop are assessed for external parasites, like ticks and mites.
The Northern fowl mite (Ornithonyssus sylviarum) and red mite (Dermanyssus gallinae) are common ectoparasites in chicken flocks that can infest parrots.
Mites can pass infectious diseases between birds. So, check for signs of ticks in a chicken coop because these bloodsucking arachnids carry and transmit sickness and disease.
Treat chickens and parrots for intestinal parasites like roundworms or tapeworms, even if no birds display symptoms. The eggs (larvae) of parasites can be shed through fecal matter.
Once you’re sure the chickens aren’t at risk of giving parasites to parrots, be mindful of the following infectious diseases that can be passed between different bird species:
Mycoplasmosis (Chronic Respiratory Disease)
Mycoplasmosis takes its name from the Mycoplasma gallisepticum bacteria.
Mycoplasmosis is primarily a respiratory illness, with symptoms like coughing, sneezing, heavy breathing, and discharge from the beak. Inflammation of the eyes and hocks can also arise.
It can be hard to eliminate once mycoplasmosis takes hold in a chicken coop.
Mortality rates are low, especially in parrots. The Australian Veterinary Journal confirms that treatment with the antibiotic oxytetracycline is usually highly 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 because Chlamydia psittaci causes psittacosis.
The most common cause of avian chlamydiosis is stress due to cramped living conditions.
The symptoms revolve around respiratory distress, which can also cause gastric issues. The bacterium then spreads quickly through feces.
An antibiotic called doxycycline is used to treat avian chlamydiosis. Parrots that develop psittacosis should be treated quickly because it significantly increases the chances of recovery.
Outbreaks of avian influenza can infect chickens and all bird species. Chickens can be vaccinated, but parrots rarely benefit because avian flu regularly mutates into new strains.
Avian influenza spreads rapidly, even if there’s just one case.
Salmonella is a bacterial infection that’s commonly linked to poultry.
It can be hard to identify because 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 and infected food and water supplies.
The spores of the Aspergillus fungi can cause respiratory distress in birds.
Once Aspergillus spores take hold in a chicken coop, they’ll soon become airborne. Aspergillus spores can also contaminate animal feed and litter.
Always keep the coop clean and provide ample ventilation to reduce this risk of infection.
The initial symptoms of Aspergillosis are respiratory concerns. If left untreated, Aspergillosis can spread to the internal organs. Antifungal 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 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, vaccination won’t stop Marek’s disease from spreading 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 them away from infected chickens. Also, avoid handling infected parrots because Newcastle disease is zoonotic, manifesting as conjunctivitis (red eye).
How To Safely Mix Chickens and Parrots
If you decide to house parrots and chickens together or allow them to mix, take steps to minimize the risk of sickness. 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 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 levels to a minimum.
It’s impossible to guarantee that chickens will never grow unwell and pass sickness and disease on to parrots, but taking steps to protect the health of both bird species can be beneficial.