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Tired, hunched up, lethargic hen.

post #1 of 5
Thread Starter 

We have a red sex link hen who is turning 3 this summer that has been acting very tired/lethargic for quite a long time now. I first noticed it during the end of the Fall - she would stand around, often alone, as she didn't seem to want to follow the others, and just stand there, hunched up like she was cold, with her eyes closing, like she is asleep on her feet. She would stand like that for hours. When winter hit, we didn't notice it, mostly because half the hens, including her, would stay in the coop instead of go out into the cold weather.


Before, I checked her for a bound egg, for ascites (no distended abdomen or even larger than normal belly), for impacted crop (emptied in the morning), and so on. Everything seemed normal. But she seemed to have no energy.


Now that the snow has melted she has made her way back outside during the day, and once again I notice it. She is still standing around, hunched up like she's cold, eyes closed, and makes little to no noise. She eats and drinks, but has no interest in treats, even cracked corn. When I threw some out, every chicken and duck came running, except for her, who remained where she was and stood alone, hunched and uninterested. Again I checked her for the usual. Nothing going on there.


She is on the same feed as the rest of our laying hens, and has access at all times to grit. Our hens free-range most of our property and wooded area. I see no sign of mites or lice. I haven't seen any poop with worms in it so far, but we do have a lot of hens.


The other sex links in the batch she was in are all acting, eating, and looking normal and healthy.


Any ideas? Is there any ideas on what could be wrong with her? I know hybrids don't live as long as the average chicken, but it seems odd behaviour to me, as any chicken we've lost has been sudden and a result of an obvious ailment.

post #2 of 5

It sounds like she could be suffering from internal laying, or egg yolk peritonitis. Can you feel of her breastbone and chest to see if she has lost weight? Also check her crop to see if it is balloon-like as it can be in sour crop, then check it first thing in the morning.

post #3 of 5

sounds like my hen she is 5 years old.I have wormed her.Treated her for respiratory and yeast infection,i just finished up with 5 days of penicillin.she is so week and skinny.the only thing she shows interest in is a Piece of cheese or some cooked husband and I have come to the decision to put her down. We separated her from the rest of her coop mates. The hen that hatched her no longer wants her roosting beside her. And I have another hen that's started attacking her.

post #4 of 5
Thread Starter 

She is a little thinner than the other sex-links, probably because she doesn't forage or eat any treats, but is eating food in the morning and before she perches. She perches on the lowest bar and promptly seems to fall asleep right there, without any interest in going up higher.


We had a hen with sour crop once so I checked both her crop and her breath, and it didn't smell rancid and her crop emptied in the morning. I have not seen her laying in awhile but that doesn't mean she isn't laying before I wake up or when I'm away - I just never see her in a box.


The head-drooping and exhaustion seems to happen more and more through the day, and by mid afternoon she's acting like she's asleep on her feet and barely moves. Almost as though she just gets so tired so quickly that she can't continue.


It leads me to believe that either her body is giving up (as though it wasn't made for a longer life), such as that due to poor genetics, or she is fighting some kind of infection. Since infections in people and animals can lead to them becoming lethargic and fatigued quite often. The problem is we do not have a veterinarian in the state that deals with any birds beyond parakeets, and the only one that would charges a 300 dollar exotic fee and is several hours away.


Without knowing what is wrong and if she has some kind of infection, I'm not sure what we can do for her, unless there's a special antibiotic feed that we can try to give her separately to see if that helps.

post #5 of 5

Internal laying, egg yolk peritonitis, and other reproductive diseases can cause weight loo, lethargy, poor laying, reluctance to walk, and other varied symptoms. These are related and very common in good laying breeds and hatchery chickens. Antibiotics may prolong life, but the outcome is usually bad for these hens.I don't know if that is what is troubling your chicken or not, but it is just a possibility.  If you want to read a little about these diseases here is some info:


The Merck vet. Manual:

Egg peritonitis is characterized by fibrin or albumen-like material with a cooked appearance among the abdominal viscera. It is a common cause of sporadic death in layers or breeder hens, but in some flocks may become the major cause of death before or after reaching peak production and give the appearance of a contagious disease. It is diagnosed at necropsy. Peritonitis follows reverse movement of albumen and Escherichia coli bacteria from the oviduct into the abdomen. If the incidence is high, culture should be done to differentiate between Pasteurella (fowl cholera) or Salmonella infection. Antibiotic treatment of peritonitis caused by E coli infections is usually ineffective. Management of body weight and uniformity, reproductive development (ovary follicle growth and maturation), and drinking water sanitation are the best preventive strategies.

Internal laying

In these hens, partially or fully formed eggs are found in the abdominal cavity. Such eggs reach the cavity by reverse peristalsis of the oviduct. If they have no shell, they are often misshapen because of partial or complete absorption of the contents. Frequently, only empty shell membranes are present. No control or treatment is known. This condition is related to erratic ovulation and defective egg syndrome (see Defective or Abnormal Eggs in Poultry).


Salpingitis is an inflammation of the oviduct, which may contain liquid or caseous exudate. In young pullets, it is often due to Mycoplasma gallisepticumEscherichia coliSalmonella spp, or Pasteurella multocida (fowl cholera) infection and can result in reduced egg production. It is a frequent lesion in female broilers and ducks at processing. On gross examination, salpingitis may be difficult to differentiate from impacted oviduct in adults. As the oviduct becomes nonfunctional, the ovaries are usually atrophied. Unless associated with an infectious problem, this condition tends to be found sporadically during necropsy of cull hens.

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