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4 year old egg-eating chicken in failing health

post #1 of 7
Thread Starter 

I'm stumped on what's wrong with my nearly 4 year old hen. She is a big, black, beautiful Australorp and currently one of 7, all of different breeds (all others in excellent health). She is a long-time egg eater, compulsively so. She will eat them immediately after they are layed most often. This behavior started when I had a soft-shelled egg layer about 2 years ago. I fixed that issue with permanent access to oyster shells but the egg-eating continued. My girls lay sporadically throughout the day so I try to collect as soon as I hear them chatter, often I don't make it in time. But, I still get enough eggs to make me happy, so I guess I don't mind sharing. 

 

I noticed a change in her behavior a few months ago. My girls are in an unheated barn through the winter. On nice days I let them out to free-range. They mostly hang close to the house hoping I will decide to feed the barn cats (sadly for all involved the cats don't get fed while the chickens are out!) We have 3 acres of which they choose to forage about 1/2 acre. My sick girl has slowed her pace significantly, she will follow the other chickens, but she will not run to catch-up. She is at the top of the pecking order so, to me, her behavior is totally out of her character. I have also found her resting alone with her eyes closed. Also, not a typical behavior.  This past weekend I noticed how significantly paler her comb is from the other girls. Whether this has happened suddenly or has faded overtime, I can't say for sure, only that I just noticed it. Two days ago I also noticed she had droppings on her back. The only place this could have happened is if she was sitting/laying under the roost...which no one EVER does, because they WILL be pooped on!

 

She had also started to waddle recently when she walks, and stop frequently to rest while she tries to roam with the others. I thought maybe her weight was an issue, she is pleasantly plump after all! I was hoping with the nice weather approaching they would free-range more and be able to go to their outside summer coop so she would take some "winter weight" off. But, with all the other behavior and physical changes I went to work searching the internet looking for causes. Nothing quite matches up. I decided to check her vent yesterday. I don't know why I hadn't before but, I have never been able to handle her much she is big, with powerful wings and it is not a pleasant experience for any of us. I was surprised when she let me pick her up. I wrapped a towel over her wings to keep her still, but I don't suppose I needed too, she closed her eyes and snoozed. She has a very fluffy rear end and as I examined her I realized she had feces stuck to her feathers all the way up to the vent (most of the big girls often will get poo stuck on their rear bottom feathers so I truly didn't think there was more involved, lesson learned.) Her vent was almost completely closed off, like pasty butt on baby chicks, with a combination of very hard and very soft (recent) poo. I got a warm, wet cloth and wiped her as clean as I could. I had to peel the hard poo off and as soon as I did that her poor belly began to rumble and grumble. I imagine another day or so like that and that alone would have killed her. I cleaned off as much as I could and applied some antibacterial ointment around the vent. I didn't see any irritation but I thought it might help anything new from sticking to her. This morning I gave her a nice warm soak in an Epsom salt bath. I trimmed her rear feathers that wouldn't come clean. I'm not sure that was the best idea, but I felt it was the right thing to do. I dried her off, sprayed her vent and visible skin with Vetericyn spray and then applied a thick layer of a coconut/olive oil mixture that I use in place of petroleum jelly.

 

Note: I do not believe she is currently laying eggs...I have not seen her on the nest recently. I could be wrong though. I have raised her from a 2-day-old chick. She has been fed the same feed brand all her life. We lost a little Orpington roo early on (something neurological, I think). We lost another Australorp about a year ago...she was in excellent health up until I found her deceased (I think it was her heart). My husband ran over another chicken with the chicken tractor who was about 1 year old, breaking her leg (ugh, traumatic!!). She is still limping along with her VERY crooked leg...she has a "permanent" sports tape cast and wears a little corn pad on her foot to help keep her from getting bumblefoot (that stuff is tough to get rid of!). I take good care of all my girls and we consider them pets.

 

Despite our agricultural community there is no vet who specializes in chickens. The closest vet who is known to care for chickens is over an hour away from me. And, in complete honesty, I'm not sure I would want to pay the bill for having her treated anyway. I hope you won't think me heartless! I'm not completely opposed to euthanizing her if I HAVE to, but I hope I don't have to!

 

Apologies for the lengthy post. I tried to give as many details as I thought might be helpful. Please let me know if you have any ideas what she could be suffering from, or if I can provide more details. Thank you!

post #2 of 7

Hello and welcome to BYC!

 

Sorry about your big Aussie. I keep them too and know how big and lovable they are! 

 

Has she been wormed recently? If not, I would definitely get her wormed. She could have an overload of worms that is draining her system. 

 

Feel her abdomen on the outside from between the legs on up to the vent. Is it big and squishy like there is fluid in there? (compare her abdomen with the other hens in the flock) Water belly can stem from a heart condition or heart failure where fluid leaks into the cavities of the heart and abdomen. If she internally laying, infection sets in and fluid accumulates in the abdomen as well. Same with tumors and reproductive cancers....fluid leaks into all cavities of the bird. If she does have a water belly, you can drain her, however this is not a cure and will only provide some relief until it fills back up with fluid. The muscles in the abdomen help the bird breath and when this area is full of fluid, it puts more strain in the heart and the bird will breath heavier than normal.

 

Does her vent area smell really badly where all that poop is? She could have an intestinal yeast infection...Vent Gleet. Generally with Vent Gleet the feathers around the vent get horribly caked up and stinky. If you think this is the case, you will want to add probiotics to her water. Double the dosage as well. Wash her backside daily (you can trim back some feathers to make this more simple as well) and apply Vaginal cream to the skin around the vent and up into the vent as well. You can even use the Vaginal cream down the throat, 1 ml 2 or 3 times a day so it coats the intestinal tract.

 

Check her for mites and lice as well. They can drain a bird to the point of death too. Look closely behind the neck, under wings and at the vent area. Many mites leave what looks like dirt at the base of feathers. 

 

Finally, you might give her some vitamins either in her food, water or orally. Poly Vi Sol (without the Iron) for kids is great for a quick boost. 3 or 4 drops, 2 or 3 times a day for a week can really help a sick bird out.

 

I sure hope you can find out what is going on with her! I hope she pulls through!! :-)

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply
post #3 of 7
Thread Starter 
Thank you so much for the excellent advice! I've never heard of water belly, (I don't know how I've missed it in all my research!) so I looked it up. I'm going to read further into that. The prognosis doesn't sound good, so my fingers are crossed that it is something less terminal and easily, treated like worms. But, it sounds very similar to what my girl has going on. I appreciate the help!!
post #4 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by prettytreasures View Post

Thank you so much for the excellent advice! I've never heard of water belly, (I don't know how I've missed it in all my research!) so I looked it up. I'm going to read further into that. The prognosis doesn't sound good, so my fingers are crossed that it is something less terminal and easily, treated like worms. But, it sounds very similar to what my girl has going on. I appreciate the help!!

The techical term is actually Ascites. I recently lost an Australorp hen to heart failure. I was draining her every 5 to 7 days for a couple of months. It allowed her to breathe without gasping, but draining is not a cure. However some people have had luck with these drainings and the bird has gone on to live another 6 months or more in relative good health. It all depends on why the abdomen is filling.

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply
post #5 of 7
Thread Starter 

For the last several months I have prepared myself to find her belly up every time I go in the coop, but she keeps on trucking. I’m thinking the underlying issue may be heart (especially since I believe her sister died of a heart attack), but she doesn’t have as much fluid in her as I originally thought she did. Last night, I compared her underside to the others. The only real difference is that she is so much bigger and broader than the others; she’s a big girl, but proportionally I THINK similar to the other birds. I’m going to start her on the vitamins and give her probiotics as you suggested. I figure at this point it could only help her, if anything will. Then I’ll go from there with the other suggestions you gave. Hopefully, she will improve. I truly appreciate the help!

 

I search this forum a lot for chicken advice! Thank you for the time you all put in answering questions!

post #6 of 7
Quote:
Originally Posted by prettytreasures View Post
 

For the last several months I have prepared myself to find her belly up every time I go in the coop, but she keeps on trucking. I’m thinking the underlying issue may be heart (especially since I believe her sister died of a heart attack), but she doesn’t have as much fluid in her as I originally thought she did. Last night, I compared her underside to the others. The only real difference is that she is so much bigger and broader than the others; she’s a big girl, but proportionally I THINK similar to the other birds. I’m going to start her on the vitamins and give her probiotics as you suggested. I figure at this point it could only help her, if anything will. Then I’ll go from there with the other suggestions you gave. Hopefully, she will improve. I truly appreciate the help!

 

I search this forum a lot for chicken advice! Thank you for the time you all put in answering questions!

I have dealt with several birds and heart failure in the past. I have found that the herb Hawthorn is a wonderful herb to smooth out the heart, help it increase it's strength and over a few months of using it, can actually heal parts of the heart. Hawthorn lowers blood pressure on the first time use. But the healing and strengthening aspects of Hawthorn require several months of daily useage. I use this stuff on birds with a failing heart....   http://www.amazon.com/Solaray-Hawthorn-Special-Formula-150mg/dp/B00020HZAQ/ref=sr_1_1_a_it?ie=UTF8&qid=1462478766&sr=8-1&keywords=Hawthorn+special+formula

 

I like this blend because it has other heart herbs in it rather than just Hawthorn. If you have a Hawthorn berry bush in your yard, let them eat the berries. The berries have the most benefit. The dosage for this herb on Amazon is half a capsule 2 times a day. I mix it with 1ml of Gerber Baby Food and squeeze down the throat with a syringe. What's nice about Hawthorn is that a bird with a water belly will absorb this liquid after a few weeks of being on Hawthorn. Many birds will carry around only pockets of fluid on the belly that are difficult to find when draining. Draining is so much easier when they are loaded. But many times when the bird is only slightly off, they have pockets of this fluid and they are hard to find. A couple of weeks to a month on Hawthorn and they will absorb this fluid into their system. As long as the heart is not in full failure phase, Hawthorn can heal it enough to get it to stop leaking fluid into the belly. At least this is what I have learned from my birds that developed heart issues and failure. 

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply

Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul. ~Emily Dickinson~

 

You have not lived today until you have done something for someone who can never repay you.  ~John Bunyan~

 

Treating Sour Crop and Impacted Crop                                    Raising Quail

 

How to Treat Egg Binding in Hens 

 

Leg, Foot and Toe Issues in Poultry of All Ages

Reply
post #7 of 7

Unfortunately, it could be a number of things that is causing this. Worms is most likely. I would worm her now. Ive had a couple chickens die of this in the past month. They died horribly painful deaths due to lack of knowledge of what to do on our part. 

Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes, Ameraucanas, and Welsummers
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Rhode Island Reds, Wyandottes, Ameraucanas, and Welsummers
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