Can I catch Histoplasmosis from chickens?

Today I want to talk about an illness that you can get from keeping chickens, but you've probably never heard of it. It's called histoplasmosis and you can get it from breathing in the spores of a fungus (Histoplasma capsulatum ) found in bird or bat droppings.

A disease you can get from the chicken coop.

Yes it's all birds, not just chickens. However since keeping chickens entail things like cleaning the coop which stirs up chicken poop and bedding dust, you have a higher chance of catching histoplasmosis from your chickens then from random wild birds. 

As you clean the coop you stir up these spores in the chicken poop and they become airborne, and you can then breathe them into your lungs.

Now before anybody panics, most people who contract histoplasmosis from chickens will have no or very few symptoms. In fact, many people that do contract histoplasmosis will think they have a mild cold or the flu. 

Only about 10% of the people that contract​ histoplasmosis will develop serious eye or lung problems.

Related reading: Ocular Histoplasmosis, the bird droppings disease from Mother Earth news.

Histoplasmosis and chickens

According to the Mayo Clinic:
Several types of histoplasmosis exist. The mildest form produces no signs or symptoms, but severe infections can be life-threatening. When signs and symptoms do occur, they usually appear three to 17 days after exposure and may include:

  • Fever
  • Chills
  • Headache
  • Muscle aches
  • Dry cough
  • Chest discomfort
In some people, histoplasmosis can also produce joint pain and a rash. People who have an underlying lung disease, such as emphysema, may develop a chronic form of histoplasmosis
Please see this link to the Mayo clinic for complete information on histoplasmosis.

Chances are if you did catch histoplasmosis in it's mild form, you would simply think you had a cold or a touch of the flu. Histoplasmosis is usually only a serious condition for people with compromised immune systems and infants. 

It can have serious complications though so please, see the mayo clinic link above for more information or if you think you may have contracted histoplasmosis.

Though the disease itself can be quite unpleasant, contracting histoplasmosis is really easy to prevent.

dust mask for coop cleaning

Prevention of histoplasmosis:

In order to avoid contracting histoplasmosis when cleaning your chicken coop, you should always wear a mask that filters the air you breathe.

It helps if you wet down the bedding a bit before removing it which cuts down on the dust. 

Change your clothing after cleaning the coop. 

Taking a steamy shower after being exposed to a dusty chicken coop can help to clear the respiratory system. 
Always wash your hands after handling things in your chicken coop that have been on the ground, like waterers and feeders.

The good news is that histoplasmosis is not contagious. That means that if you contract it from the coop bedding, you will not pass it to anyone else. 

To get histoplasmosis they would have to come into contact with the Histoplasma capsulatum spores themselves, just like you did. They cannot catch it from you. This is also why you changed out of your dusty clothes after cleaning the coop!

It's also quite curious that chickens cannot contract histoplasmosis but dogs and cats can if they come in direct contact with the spores. University of Florida IFAS extension


If you think you may have contracted histoplasmosis you can see your doctor for a test. In many cases no treatment is needed.

It's interesting to note that wild birds can spread histoplasmosis to your garden soil and it can be contracted through digging in the soil. It's also present in bat droppings so it can also be contracted by cave exploring where there are heavy bat populations or dusty bat infested attics. 

I personally do not know if I have contracted histoplasmosis or not. I have spent a lot of time cleaning coops and I often forget my mask so anything is possible. From now on I will be wearing my mask when cleaning the coop...and I think you should too! 

I'm so serious about wearing masks now that I wrote a mask making tutorial so you can make your own too! Now that everyone has homemade and store bought masks on hand though, there's really no reason not to use one for cleaning the chicken coop! 

Wash homemade masks after each use!

Many backyard farmers have more to fear than catching an illness from their chickens. I asked hundreds of chicken keepers what they worry about the most. Here are the 8 biggest fears of chicken keepers everywhere


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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer.

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Histoplasmosis in chickens


  1. My dad had a severe form of this. He was healthy with no medical problems at all. This happened in the mid 80s he was in his 30s and became very ill. Was in the hospital for about two weeks before they diagnosed him. He had to have one lobe of his lung removed. The disease was spilled and his other lobe where it continued to cause problems for the rest of his life .

    1. I am so sorry to hear about your dad! I have had several people tell me they don't think Histoplasmosis is a big deal because the initial symptoms are so mild. Unfortunately I have also heard from people who have problems with their sight or lungs years later. It's really a sneaky disease and often not diagnosed right away since exposure was often years before serious symptoms show up. Thank you so much for sharing his story with me!


  2. I also had a severe case of histoplasmosis about 5 years ago. Wound up in the hospital having major surgery to remove my right middle lobe of my lung along with several lymph nodes. I was also on medication for almost a year afterwards with monthly visits to an infectious disease specialist.

    1. Wow that is really scary! I'm so sorry that happened to you. Hopefully you're on the mend now!