5 Yr Old Hen; No eggs in 2 Wks; Staying on roost in the morning, poop smells and looks different; I


In the Brooder
12 Years
May 17, 2007
Orlando, FL
Hi, I don't get to visit the BYC website too often but I really need your help. My 5 year-old Barred Rock hen (Gertie) has recently made a change in not only her routines but I've also seen some changes in her egg laying and in her "poop" (for lack of a better word). She is not broody and not molting at this time.
About 1 month ago, I noticed that her eggs were changing color (from a light brown to very, very light brown -- this never happened before). However, she was still laying as usual and her behavior, appetite and poop was the same. In recent months, I have added some cottage cheese to her diet b/c I can't get her to consume oyster shell.
I keep my two girls on a diet of 16% layer feed, plenty of fresh water daily and a plate of fruits, veggies and table scraps. Each morning they get raw spinach, tomato, apple, cucumber, and whatever else is in season. I do not feed them potato or any spoiled food. I let them out to free-range when my work permits and I can supervise (we have hawks and bobcats),
Normally, Gertie will fly down from her roost early in the morning and wait for me to open the coop door. If I am in a hurry and don't bring the fresh plate of goodies I get the "stink-eye" look.
Approx 2 weeks ago, I noticed that Gertie was not coming down off her roost in the morning. Even after I open the door and her sister runs out to get a headstart on the plate, she remains on the roost, acting almost as if she is afraid to jump down. Of course, my hens feel the need to jump from approx 6 ft in height instead of just descending to the roosting plank inside the coop and then walking down the ladder...No, they jump. And I often worry that they will hurt themselves when they land.
So, the first thing I thought was that maybe Gertie was just sore from jumping down one morning. However, this behavior coincided with her ceasing to lay eggs. Also, as noted, she stopped running out to hog the plate and kick her food everywhere. She just does not seem herself.
Additionally, I noticed that her stool is a bit grainy and has a much stronger smell than usual. When I look at her, she often appears to be flexing her vent, as they do when they are about to poop or lay an egg. I wonder if she is trying to get something out. She is defecating and does not appear to be in pain when she does.
I have checked her vent, skin and feathers and do not see any overt signs of injury or illness. I think she is a bit overweight but I never have success in figuring out whether she is overweight to the point of it being a health hazard. I read recently in Backyard Poultry magazine about a hen who stopped laying eggs for approx 4 months and then died. When an autopsy was performed it appeared that she had many, many cysts inside; theh writer wondered if she had suffered from cancer or something went wrong with her egg production.
Of course, I am having nightmares about eggs backing up inside of Gertie, some blockage of another sort, disease, etc. I don't know if this is normal for Barred Rocks, whether they begin holding off on egg production for weeks at a time in late Spring/early Summer. Gertie has never gone broody and she only stops laying indefinitely in the winter months and during a molt.
Does anyone out there have any idea what might be going on? I note the difference in the poop, the hesitation getting down from the roost in the morning, the slightly decreased appetite, the frequent flexing at the vent and her lack of egg production since her eggs began becoming much paler about 1 month ago.
I wondered if it could be the feed but her sister is not exhibiting any of these behaviors; if it was bad I would think they would both be showing signs of illness or lethargy.
Please offer your suggestions. My two hens are the joy of my life and I want to know what's going on so I can help Gertie.
Thanks for taking the time to read this request. Lisa
Hi smalldog - I came here to post my questions about some unusual behavior in one of my chickens. But as I read your opening post it seems that we share many of the same symptoms. We're on a small farm so our chickens are not considered close friends or pets like many here but I do pay close attention to all of our livestock and I'm very observant to changes in behavior.

I have been finding a very light tan egg once in a while over the past three weeks (almost white). I have been unsuccessful at trying to determine which chick is laying the light eggs. Then I noticed that one black chicken would stay longer on the roost, spend hours in the laying boxes, and stay in the coop more than usual.

Just last night I examined her carefully and found that many of the chest and belly feathers are either gone or ready to come out. Her vent, eyes, and nose look good. I do not think this little girl has ever molted before (she's just turned one year old) so it may be a natural thing. But I'm concerned.

Let's see what our fellow BYC members have to say.
At her age, she probably is suffering from ovarian cancer. Three of my hatchery hens who made it to that age who did not die from internal laying all died from ovarian carcinoma, all same symptoms. I opened up two of them and found the same thing, little growths all along the oviducts and fatty tumors in the oviducts, fluid in body and lungs, all indicative of the same thing.
Doopy, Thanks for writing. Check the Internal Layer feed...this may give you additional insight. It looks like Gertie may have ovarian cancer, according to Speckled Hen.

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