Chickens Around Horses

Dr. Lowder, My friends' 8 year old was recently given about a dozen "pet" chickens that they have let run loose to feed and roost in their horse barn. (For some reason they think this is cute, but that is another story...) I have read and been told that keeping horses and chickens in close proximity like that causes a health risk for horses.

Story originally posted by: Michael Lowder, DVM, MS

For example, I have been told that the dust from the feathers is breathed into the lungs and cause horses to get heaves. I would think that the bird’s droppings would also be a health problem. Can you please enlighten me more on this? We board our son’s pony there and he would be heartbroken if such a silly thing made his pal sick.

I can’t seem to find a name for the disease(s) caused to horses by chickens. Thank you for any light you can shed on this for me as my friends are skeptical about this subject.

Jay Smith


You are correct. Chickens should not be allow to move or roost above the horse’s head. I would suggest that you cut the wing feathers on the chickens to keep them on the ground. Horses can also get a mite from chickens.

Now don’t get me wrong … I love chickens and was raised around them but they can cause respiratory problems for horses that are stabled in an ‘air-tight’ barn. In open barns they may not be much of a problem.

In addition, you may suggest they build a chicken pen to keep the birds in as you may get tired of stepping in the chicken droppings.

Dr. Lowder