Can Chickens Get Rabies?

Rabies is one of the most dreadful diseases that can affect your livestock. For now, evidence shows that chickens are unlikely to contract this infection. However, treating your poultry when they get attacked by rabid animals is advisable.

Although chickens are largely immune to rabies, there’s a documented case of rabies being found in a dead bird after being bitten by a stray dog. It occurred in India, a country renowned for high rabies prevalence. Since it’s one case, it’s safe to say that chickens are safe from rabies.

What is Rabies?

Rabies is a preventable viral disease mainly transmitted through the bites of infected animals. The virus targets the central nervous system, causing disease in the brain and culminating in death. Although the virus can affect mammals, it’s most prevalent in bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks.

In humans, the early symptoms of rabies resemble flu symptoms. As the disease spreads, victims start experiencing agitation, anxiety, confusion, difficulty swallowing, excessive salivation, fever, headaches, hyperactivity, nausea, and vomiting. In severe cases, the sick starts hallucinating and might have partial paralysis.

Once a person starts showing rabies symptoms, it eventually results in death. For this reason, seeking treatment is advisable after being bitten by a dog or any potentially rabid animal.

Why Can’t Chickens Get Rabies?

Chickens can’t get rabies because they aren’t mammals. As mentioned earlier, rabies is a viral infection that exclusively affects mammals.

Can Chickens Spread Rabies?

Chickens can’t spread rabies because they don’t contact it. However, there’s little risk of being infected if you touch a chicken bitten by a rabid animal.

What Animals Get Rabies?

All mammals are susceptible to rabies. The most common wild rabies carriers are bats, foxes, raccoons, and skunks. Domestic mammals are also at risk of getting infections. Cats, cattle, and dogs are the most common rabid domestic animals.

Animals contract rabies primarily through bites. They can also get infected when the virus is introduced to open cuts, or oral and nasal mucous membranes.

When assessing rabies exposure, the factors to consider include the disease’s prevalence in the area, the animal’s biting history and health status, and movements.

A vaccinated animal is unlikely to become rabid. Likewise, a confined cat, dog, or ferret is less likely to contract rabies.

Vaccination is the best way to protect your animals against rabies. Monitoring your dog’s movements and keeping cats and ferrets indoors also helps to lower the risk of infection.

Additionally, you can spray or neuter your pets to reduce the number of wanted pets around them. Such pets might be stray and unvaccinated.

Lastly, call animal control services to eliminate all stray animals in your area. These animals might be sick or unvaccinated.

How do Humans Get Rabies?

Like other mammals, humans contract rabies through the saliva of infected animals. The virus moves slowly throughout the central nervous system when you get infected.

Once it reaches the brain, it causes neurologic damage, manifested in symptoms such as excessive drooling, unexplained fear, hyperactivity, insomnia, and partial paralysis. Later, it progresses into a coma and ends in death.

Prevalence of Rabies

An estimated 60,000 people die from rabies around the world every year. The disease exists in all continents except for Antarctica. However, it’s most prevalent in rural parts of Africa and Asia, where vaccination rates are low.

The Progression of Rabies Infections

As mentioned above, rabies attacks your nervous system slowly and systematically until it causes death. This occurs in four phases: incubation, prodromal stage, acute neurologic stage, and coma.


The rabies virus spends weeks in your bloodstream before it attacks the central nervous system. Victims don’t show any symptoms during this incubation phase. More importantly, treatment can cure the virus.

Prodromal Stage

The virus moves from the blood to the central nervous system during this phase. Your immune system will initiate defence measures, resulting in flu-like symptoms. The prodromal stage lasts between two and ten days. Rabies is untreatable once it progresses to this phase.

Acute Neurologic Stage

As the name suggests, the virus starts damaging your brain and spinal cord in the acute neurologic stage. People turn wild and start displaying rabid behaviours, like aggression, delirium, and seizures—some experience partial paralysis, which lasts for up to a month before giving way to a coma.


Many people become comatose in the latter stages of rabies infection. This lasts for a few days before death.


Rabies is preventable by avoiding wild animals and vaccinating your livestock. Since its symptoms don’t become apparent until the disease becomes untreatable, it’s wise to seek treatment immediately after being bitten by a suspected rabid animal.

The doctor will ask you what animal scratched or bit you and if it’s available for testing. They will then administer treatment.

If your pet or livestock displays rabies symptoms, euthanize them to prevent an outbreak.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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