4yo hen died, now another one poorly. Help!

MumOfManyHens

Hatching
Jul 3, 2021
3
1
6
Hi everyone,

I'm new here. Was hoping to start with something more cheerful but here goes.

We have a flock of eight hens. Our half blind Tilly died a month ago after having been unwell for around 3 weeks. Now Klaara, 4 year old Plymouth rock who has always been the fattest and strongest of the flock is quite poorly. She spends most of her days motionless, tail lowered, breathing heavily, eyes closed. Does a little bit of walking about and pecking. Has lost a lot of weight, isn't eating or drinking very much. Not even her usual treats!

The whole flock has pretty much stopped laying. Some days there is one egg with a shell so thin it cracks when you touch it. I found out that hubby had stopped putting grit in with their food and hasn't been putting the shell strengthening extras in with the layers pellets. He also made them new nesting boxes after two were broody and all were getting frustrated as they normally all took turns in one box. Now they have 3 boxes and nobody laying.

We thoughts it was egg yolk peritonitis but her tummy is soft and not swollen. Her bum is a bit mucky but not too bad. Poos normal although some days they have been green.

Our neighbour looked through her feathers and said she had no mites. But yesterday I had a proper look myself as she is constantly cleaning herself and found this in the picture. Anyone know what this is? Depluming mites? How would I sort this and could it be the cause of her being so unwell and off her food and maybe the cause of the other hens death?

I'd be super grateful for any replies!!
 

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Aapomp831

Crowing
Oct 4, 2017
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Lincolnton, NC
I would check for the mites at night; they are most active after dark and you will find them around the vent area.
Your husband was right to stop adding oyster shell to their food (if thats what you meant). OS should be offered on the side, free choice as well as the grit. Idk if this is your issue, but the soft shelled eggs make me suspicious bc too much calcium can build up in their kidneys over time and cause issues. I personally don’t believe in layer feed; it forces to much calcium on them when chickens already know when they need the extra calcium.
I would separate her into a dog crate where you can monitor her poops / crop function / monitor her food and water intake. I would also use a gloved and lubed finger to check for a stuck egg, being very careful not to break it. Make sure that the crop is functioning properly by withholding food and water overnight and checking the crop first thing in the am before eating or drinking - it should be flat and empty.
 

MumOfManyHens

Hatching
Jul 3, 2021
3
1
6
Thanks for replying. What would the diet and fluid intake tell me? I'm monitoring the poos as she's the only hen in the garden at the moment. The others are in the paddock.

I'm just wondering about that black area. It's just above her tal feathers. Her skin is nice and pink everywhere else but in this one area the skin is completely black with something, I'm wondering if the black stuff is just tons of mites?
 

DobieLover

Easily distracted by chickens
Premium Feather Member
Jul 23, 2018
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Her skin is nice and pink everywhere else but in this one area the skin is completely black with something, I'm wondering if the black stuff is just tons of mites?
It's likely just dirt mixed with oil from her preen gland. The black area is around the gland. You can use a damp cloth to wipe the skin to test that theory.
It's concerning that you use the word "fattest" to describe your PBR. Laying birds should not be fat.
How much space does your flock have? Do you feed treats?
Sadly, it sounds like she's coming to the end. The body posture you describe sounds like she may have internal pressure from either fatty deposits on her organs, reproductive tumors, internal laying or something similar. That also causes difficulty in digesting food and breathing.
Have you been experiencing extreme temperatures lately? Where in the world are you located? Stress of any sort will put a hen off lay and you have an older flock that will not lay as much as a younger one to begin with. Add in stress factors and the eggs will stop.
 

MumOfManyHens

Hatching
Jul 3, 2021
3
1
6
Thanks for clarifying about the preen gland. And thank you so much for taking time to help. I hate to see her suffering.

It's difficult to know if she was fat before or not. I never thought she was fat, I used the word just lazily. It was more that her and another hen were much bigger and muscular than the others. When given treats they all used to race from the bottom of the field and the two bigger ones were always so much faster than the others. I think the size could have come due to them being different breed but then I have no idea what an overweight hen would look like.

I'm in the UK. Weather is always pretty mild here so no recent extremes. The only stress I can think of is the change with the nesting box. That's when the others stopped laying.

The 7 hens share a hen house that's about 5ftx5ft. They live in a paddock that's about an acre but often get out of there and go for a wonder in the nearby woods. So they are definitely not lacking space. They eat layers pellets but also quite a lot scraps. Left over porridge almost every morning and after dinnertime pasta, rice, couscous and veg.whatever is left over from the evening meal except for any meat or chicken. We probably do give them too much. They tend to choose to drink from a small pond rather than use their fresh drinking water.

She seems slightly perkier today. I even saw her finding and eating a worm in the garden! And she ran away from me whilst in the past two weeks she's just stayed still when I've approached her.

I had another look at her again. I had a very gentle feel inside the vent with gloves +ky jelly. It's totally empty and just a bit of black and white poo came out with the glove. Crop was completely flat and empty but she feels so skinny, just bones really!!

I've attached a picture of her. I hate to think we've somehow caused the hens to get poorly. I've noticed that the other big hen has lost a lot of weight too. She's probably the next one to get unwell. I worry that this is something that's going to spread through the whole flock. Will definitely call the vets tomorrow and book her in. She's been like this for probably two weeks now.
 

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