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Can't Find What's Wrong w/ Her, but Lethargic/Snoozing Hen, Liquid Poop, Weight Loss

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

Flock of 9: 8 hens (5 are 6yo and 3 are 4yo) and a 5yo roo.  All doing well (getting 3-5 eggs/day right now) except for one 6yo American Dominique hen.


The Dom hen was laying (3-4 eggs/week) up until about 2 weeks ago.  But ever since last autumn she's often sleeping (on her feet) through most of a day and really hasn't been as active as the rest (not unexpected, she's an old bird).  She will go out and free range with the flock when we let them out of the run, and she will forage some, but often ends up somewhere sheltered just standing and snoozing.


Three days ago, I saw one of the 4yo hens attack her; actually jumped on her, held her down and pounded her face and comb good before I could get across the yard and run her off.  Tore the Dom up good, so I separated her to stop the bleeding, clean her face up, and let her heal so she didn't get mobbed.


Now that we've got her separate and have really been watching her, noticed her poop is watery about 90% of the time; normal colors and no blood or mucous, but liquid and super stinky.  She is eating, but not as much as would be expected, and she is drinking fine.  When she's moving and active, she's perfectly fine, well balanced, nothing out of the ordinary at all.


The whole flock was wormed and also treated (coop as well) for a chicken mite infestation about a month ago.  Everything is cleared up and looks good.  No evidence of parasites on her, and other than her injuries from the hen attack, she looks healthy (red comb, yellow legs, and she's grooming and keeping her plumage up).  Nothing in her mouth or throat out of the ordinary, no sour odors from her mouth, and she fills her crop up and it seems to empty normally (full in the evening, empty by dawn).


She does feel light like she's lost weight, though, which really concerns me, but can't pinpoint anything as a cause.  Can't put her back in the flock as is, as I'm assuming she actually got jumped because the other chickens detect and issue, but no one's telling me what it is. :/  Anyone have any ideas?


Thanks much!

post #2 of 6
If she was laying regularly up until 2 weeks ago, she may have just suddenly gotten ill. Cancer is very common in chickens, as well as reproductive disorders such as internal laying, egg yolk peritonitis, and others. I would insert a finger an inch or so into her vent to check for a stuck egg. If possible, I would collect a few of her fresh droppings, and have a fecal float done by a vet to look for coccidiosis and more uncommon worms. Other than that you have done a good thorough exam on her. You could put some vitamins and probiotics in her water, try giving her some chopped egg or tuna with her usual feed. If you have a crate, you could still put her out with the other chickens so that she is still part of the flock. Place her own food and water there. I might see if your vet thinks she could have vent gleet or some other type of infection. Chickens will turn on ill flockmates sometimes, so it's good to keep them isolated or in a crate for protection. Let us know how she gets along.
post #3 of 6
Thread Starter 
Thank you for the suggestions!

I will check for possibility of a bound egg first thing in the morning. We do perform annual fecal floats and almost always end up with hits on low numbers of cocci, so it's def here/around, but always told you can't really eliminate even if you want to as long as not symptomatic. But if an outbreak, assuming there'd likely be elevated numbers, so worth a check, too!

She's chilling in a big dog crate in the garage now and seems alright. She is alert when we check on her, not dopey or "out of it", so that's something. Also has her own food and water and electrolyte mix in the water just for a boost.

Yeah I know chickens are prone to alot of issues, esp the older they get, but will still try to give them as much of chance as we can to keep them up and running and happy!

Thank you and will keep posted on what is found/happens!
post #4 of 6

We’ve had much the same situation with one of ours, so we’ll be watching this closely to see what happens.


We have 4 Red Star hens and for some reason three of them have decided that they really don't like the fourth. This started a couple of months back and we've tried several things already to no avail. I've been searching and just haven't found any other threads with a situation like this. The hens are all the same age (about two years old). This really seemed to start when Henrietta (the persecuted hen) started molting about 6 weeks ago. She was lethargic and just kinda hung around. She'd go out and forage with the others during the day, but just didn't seem to be her normal self. She seemed to just be a little “wilted” for lack of a better term. We didn't really think too much about it, we'd had another gal that acted the same during her molt and since these are our first chickens, we're learning as we go. Then we noticed that she was being chased and pecked by the other three hens. Several times, they pecked her comb until it bled. They were really working hard to keep her away from the food and water in the coop. After a while, she retreated to a nest box and just hid there all the time. If any of the others noticed her out of the box, they'd jump all over her. We separated her and put her in a quarantine coop for a while so that they couldn't get at her and so that she'd have access to food and water. She was so traumatized that she'd run and hide in the coop if one of the other girls even walked by outside the run. We let her recover for a few days and then tried to reintroduce her, she came out of the isolation coop like a champ, even bowing up on one of the other hens, but later that day the attacks started up again.

We got a rooster about the time we put her back into the coop with the rest of the girls and we tried to keep him separate for a full 2 week quarantine, but after a week of attacks she was in such bad shape that we decided that it would be less risky to put her in with him rather than leave her with the others. We also thought that they might bond and he'd stick up for her once we put both of them in with the other three.


After two weeks, we put Henrietta and the rooster in with the rest of the girls and things were better for a day or so, but then one morning the other hens cornered Henrietta and pecked her bloody again. The rooster did a good job of trying to protect her but he just couldn't keep up with three vicious hens.


We built a separate isolation cage in our storage building and put Henrietta in there for two weeks. While she was in there, she seemed to eat nonstop for the first few days, but then slowed down. Everything seemed normal, except for somewhat watery poo that was terribly stinky. Her crop was full in the evenings and empty by the morning. She even got back to a fairly regular laying schedule. She’s no longer lethargic; she’s peppy and runs about whenever she’s out.


We reintroduced her into the flock after dark last night and this morning the fighting started all over again. We thought that one might be instigating and the others were following, but this morning if any of the three saw her moving around they were on her like crazy. The rooster was all over the place trying to protect her. She finally just laid down in a totally submissive pose while the others ripped at the feathers on her head. Right now she's out foraging, but she's staying mostly on her own. If she gets close to the others, one or more of them immediately chase her off. 

post #5 of 6
Thread Starter 
Sorry you're dealing with what sounds like a similar mystery, n3centz. sad.png We still have no resoltuion with our situation, but here's what we've done so far:

Fecal screen came back clean and no cocci infection. Vet recommended a week of treatment with tetracycline and isolation from the flock to prevent further attacks since the attacks may have contributed to health decline from her possibly not getting enough food/water, plus the stress.

So we put her in a large dog crate in the run so she wouldn't be entirely isolated, but couldn't get beaten and would have free access to her own food and medicated water. Worked well, too! She perked up a lot in less than 2 days and really acted like she wanted out. Ate and drank well, but had diarrhea the entire time - that never changed.

After her medication period was up, we tried free ranging everyone together. Lasted 3 min before the buff orp was on top of her again. So we caught the orp and kept her in and let everyone else range. No problems! Tried that the second day, keeping her in the crate while they were all in the run, and the other dom attacked her!

By day 3, she was still perkier than before treatment, but back to be sluggish and snoozy. We can't let her out of the crate or she gets beaten until she hides and then will spend her time watching out for the bullies and not eating/drinking at all. Still, even in the crate with food/water, she's thin and a bit weak now. Sleeping a lot again, and the buff orp looks for ways to get to her (she's nuts).

I know the orp sees a weak bird and just wants to run her off, as is natural, but even when she can't get her, she's just not up to snuff. Something's def wrong, but w/o bloodwork and/or xray, seems impossible to figure out what issue is besides and autopsy. -_-

Not entirely sure what to do at the moment. Don't have the cash for the next round of tests right now. She's still eating/drinking partly active and doesn't seem to be suffering, but I feel lije it's borderline and she may be at the end of her life. sad.png
post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

Unfortunately, we had to euthanize our poor Dominique yesterday afternoon.


She spent almost all of the morning simply snoozing, not eating nor drinking at all.  I knew it was time.  My DH still wanted to be "sure", or at least hear the that it was the end from a vet.  Fortunately, we have a local livestock vet and even luckier was that their avian expert was in and available to see our hen.  She reviewed her records, our reports, and then did a very thorough exam and found absolutely nothing no tumors, no yolk peritonitis, no impacted egg, parasites, or evidence of any communicable disease, but our girl was definitely dying.  Vet was sure it was just her body failing from age, and once one organ or system became distressed, it usually led to a cascade effect and one thing after another would fail until she died.  She said no treatment was going to reverse it, esp in a 6yo layer.  She recommended we euthanize, and so we took her back home and did so.


Not an easy thing since she was the first loss for our flock since we started it 6 years ago.  We always knew we'd come to this, but it just hadn't come, despite numerous attacks and a few injuries from predators, and one bout of respiratory disease in one hen early on (which was cured). Vet was surprised we had never lost a bird in 6 years, and frankly, so were we.  But still, she was one of the originals, an excellent layer, had the mildest disposition of any of our flock, and had had inadvertently taught me more about veterinary care and first aid than I ever really wanted to know.  She's already sorely missed.

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