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Sick hen--please help!

chickenladyk Member
edited February 2009 in Poultry Health and Welfare
We have a nearly two-year-old Blue-Laced Red Wyandotte hen who has been very lethargic for several days now. She is not interested in eating, and she drinks very little. Aside from the lethargy and lack of interest in food and water, she appears healthy and sound. I did check her vent and it seems dryer than usual. She is pooping, but small poops (probably from lack of food and water). The poops look normal, containing both urates and feces.

I tried feeling her abdomen to see if I could "feel" an egg or other mass, and then I felt the abdomens of two other hens for comparison. I think I felt more "mass" in this girl's tummy, but it could very well be my imagination. I was looking for signs of being egg bound.

We removed her from the rest of the flock two days ago and put her in our "hospital", which is a large cage inside in a warm, very dark bedroom. We have found in the past that full-time rest (in the dark), along with warmth, seems to have a very positive affect on chickens who seem ill or are healing from an injury. We do bring her out every four hours or so into a bright room to offer food and water and to observe her behavior. (We do have food and water in the cage, too, but as you probably know, chickens rarely eat or drink in the dark.) Usually, we seen improvement fairly rapidly. However, there has been no significant change in two days.

Do any of you have ideas of what may be wrong and suggestions for what to do? If she is egg bound, I have heard that putting the hen in a sink of warm water (for I can't remember how long) can sometimes relax them enough that they will release the bound egg.

Two more notes that may or may not be clues: (1) A few days ago, someone laid a huge egg--104 grams--with a double yolk. We don't know if it was this girl or not. (2) This girl prolapsed a year or so ago but healed completely and has had no problems since.

Thank you, in advance, for your help and suggestions!


  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited February 2009
    She may have a crop problem... did you check her crop

    Is it empty or full and hard... or grainy...

    She may also sadly have a thing called EYP... which is internal laying .. you say her underside is a bit larger.. .does it feel hot and sort of squishy to the touch .. if you compared other hens to her ?
  • chickenladyk Member
    edited February 2009
    Thank you all for your responses. We are still struggling with this mystery.

    This is now day four since we've had her inside in our "hospital" cage. She remains alert but relatively inactive. Her poops are small but normal. Her comb is in good color. She grooms, even tried to take a dust bath on our carpet! (Is our carpet really that dusty?!?)

    Yesterday we gave her a warm bath for 30 minutes, in case she was egg bound. She did not lay an egg afterward. She hasn't laid an egg for at least four days now. Her abdomen does not seem distended, nor does there seem to be any mass when compared to our other hens.

    Now we are wondering if she may be starting to go broody, just in an atypical way. But when she was still out with the rest of the flock, she did not hang out in the nest box, as our girls usually do when they go broody. Instead, she stayed on the roost or just hung out in a corner somewhere.

    She has not pulled out any breast feathers.

    She still is not eating or drinking much at all. This is our most worrisome symptom. We have not seen her take a single drink of water for several days. (There is water in her hospital cage, but it's dark in there, which usually discourages eating and drinking.) She doesn't appear dehydrated. We have done the "pinch test" on her skin, with negative results.

    Her abdomen is not swollen, nor is it hot. She does not seem hot, either.

    Vent looks normal, though a little on the dry side. It is not red or swollen. We see no signs of parasites.

    When out of the "hospital" cage here in our home, she shows some exploratory curiosity this new environment. Soon, however, she seeks out a private or dark corner and sits down. Feathers are fluffed and her rear end "pulses" with her breathing. However, she shows no sign of being in distress or in pain. Rather, she just seems to relax there.

    She does not seek to go back into the "hospital" cage to lay an egg, as our other girls have when they've been in hospital. (We do have several fake eggs in the back corner of the "hospital" cage.)

    We're worried about putting this hen back with the flock until we know what is going on with her.We live in the northern mountains of Washington State. It is still winter here, and quite cold. It won't feel like spring for awhile yet. We still have snow on the ground. We may get up to 37 F (3 C) during the day, but we're down around 19 F (-7C) during the night. I wouldn't have expected her to go broody this early in the year.

    Do any of you have any ideas? We would very much appreciate any insights or advice you can offer. Thank you so very much!!!
  • chickenladyk Member
    edited February 2009
    Sandy, I forgot to mention that her crop seems empty but otherwise normal.

    Thank you SOOOOO much for your help!!! I watch your posts--obviously you have a great deal of experience and knowledge of chickens. I appreciate your insights and advice very much.
  • Sandy Senior Member
    edited February 2009
    She isn't broody
    What it sounds like ... not a good I'm afraid... is that she has some sort of internal growths ... and she her system is starting to shut down...

    I've had older birds do this ... I increased protein in their diet and it pulled them through for a few weeks... but then they went down again .. and again and finally they just didn't have the energy or will to survive

    Feel in front of her body.. softly not pressing hard ... below the crop area... feel for any harder than normal areas...

    She may have a liver disease... or kidney disease..

    Does she have any white tops on her droppings... if yes.. this is chicken urine so she is making urine and kidneys are working... so many things can go wrong with a chicken... they are laying machines and when you have a machine that doesn't stop its so easy for just one thing to go wrong and it causes the rest of the machine to shut down

    Give her some light so she eats..
    Make up some rolled oats and grated apple and crush a cooked egg yolk through it and some active yoghurt ... see if she will eat it .. don't offer her hard grains or corn or maize or cut grasses.. worst things you can offer a sick bird.

    Let me know how she goes

    Here a picture of the insides of a bird the area I'm talking about is just below the crop area where you see the liver .. you can't feel the kidneys they are hidden inside the bird

  • rosieann Junior Member
    edited February 2009
    When one of my hens was very sick and wouldn't eat or drink and was rapidly going downhill, in desperation I liquidised her food with water in a blender and syringed it very slowly and gently into her mouth which meant she was getting food and liquid - I never discovered what was wrong with her - I suspected poisoning of some sort as they were free ranging at the time - I assume the food and water gave her strength and thankfully she made a full recovery - best wishes
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