Chicken sick for 8 weeks (mystery illness)! Lemon needs help!

With all due respect for your scientific interest, I think there comes a point in time where it rather feels like prolonging the inevitable and some of the procedures begin to resemble physical abuse.

I know it is hard after all this time of caring for her to acknowledge that all your efforts are in vain, you don't want to give up on her. But to love the bird would also mean to accept when enough is enough and to put her out of her misey and let her go peacefully.

ETA: You can send her in for necropsy to have the 'mistery illness' diagnosed by professionals. There is a list of state vet. laboratories online.
  • ✅ Watery greenish diarrhea
  • ✅ Reduced appetite
  • ✅ Reduced egg production / no egg production
I lost a hen with similar symptoms. I tried deworming, coccidiosis treatment (corrid feed), electrolytes, and antibiotics with no success. (Not at the same time, haha.) Fought whatever it was for a couple of weeks. I'd been looking at what would cause her symptoms and I found this:

My girl Aurora also laid four fairy eggs in a row (which she had never done before) and then quit laying entirely. She lost a lot of feathers too, but I thought she was molting. Molting was always hard on her. Decreased appetite and wouldn't eat much feed. (Gave her fruit and mealworms.) I didn't realize there may be a problem until she started to get weak and fall over when I gave out mealworms. I wonder if there was more I could have done if I had caught it sooner. She was also 4 or 5 years old so she was older, but she wasn't a hybrid like in the linked thread - she was Rhode Island Red. And no one else was sick, just her.

Good luck with Lemon! 💖 I've been following the thread, and I appreciate the update. I was about to ask how it was going. ❤
Lemon Log: Day 63
  • Over the past 24 hours:
    • Weight change: +100g (due to fluid injections, see below)
    • ⚠️🚨 1 bowel movement (see notes from past few days)
    • Crop size didn't decrease much overnight. This is the first morning in weeks where her crop has not drained after vomiting the evening before + tube feeding.
    • Activity level:
      • Lemon can no longer stand up. She will attempt to "crawl" a few steps and/or flap her wings to lift her weight.
      • The antibiotics appear to have caused a huge "nose dive" in Lemon's health. My understanding is that antibiotics kill both good and bad bacteria - They appear to have killed off probiotics in Lemon's digestive system, resulting in the sudden drop in bowel movements.
      • I'm stopping antibiotic treatment, given results are the opposite of expectations.
      • Although her body is weak, her mind is still 100% normal. When I take her outside for a few minutes each day, she gives "warning" noises if she sees squirrels or birds. She "tells off" other chickens when they're too close. She's still super excited to eat treats, she drinks water, etc. Her eyes are still full of life, alert, and focused (not zombie chicken, not 1,000 yard stare, not cloudy).
  • Treatment yesterday:
    • Tube feeding: 1.5tsp peanut butter, egg yolk, probiotic powder, Durastat with oregano, nutri-drench, miconazole antifungal
      • Tried peanut butter, since it's fairly high calorie and existing food sources are not showing significant improvements. Watered it down significantly so it wasn't sticky/goopy. Lemon eagerly ate this formula off my fingers, but I needed to tube feed most of it.
    • Continues to drink water on her own if allowed
  • Subcutaneous fluid injection

Replies to posts

I have no desire to force vomit her. The challenge is, we're stuck in the following cycle:
  • Crop is overfull. Fluid comes out mouth when head is down.
  • If crop is left overfull, contents sour.
  • After force vomiting, Lemon is more perky / seems to feel better
  • I tube feed Lemon before bed
  • Crop is near-empty in the morning (drains successfully)
  • Tube feed over the next ~1.5 days
  • Crop doesn't drain, fills up again, cycle repeats
In other words, if I don't force vomit her, crop stasis occurs, and crop contents sour. What's interesting is that after vomiting + tube feeding, her crop contents drain overnight.
Whatever happened with poor Lemon? I have a hen that has similar issues. I treated with Corid. She is better, but not great.
Lemon, our beloved pet chicken, has been sick for over 8 weeks. I've tried nearly everything, but she continues to decline. No bird vets available in the area, so I really need your help!

Picture of healthy Lemon (scroll down for pictures of sick Lemon)


Main problem: Slow crop / crop stasis, but it's far more complicated than that (keep reading)
  • Breed: Buff Orpington
  • Age: 2.5 years
  • Current Weight: 3 pounds (skin and bones)
  • Normal Weight: 4.3 pounds
  • Flock Size: 4 (first chickens I've owned)
    • All 3 other chickens 100% healthy
    • Lemon is top of the pecking order
  • No signs of injury, bleeding, trauma
  • No signs of mites/lice/fleas/parasites
  • Diet: MannaPro Organic Layer Pellets & free range foraging (bugs, grass, grit, seeds, etc)
  • Poop: Mostly liquid / diarrhea / runny (pictures below). Typically green color. No blood. Occasional cecal poops.
  • Location: California (warm climate)
  • See below for details on eating, drinking, and activity level
Timeline, Symptoms, and Treatments
  • Part 1:
    • Observed vent gleet for months (didn't realize it was a problem at the time)
    • Started refusing treats (sunflower seeds, raisins, peanuts, rice)
    • Stopped laying eggs
    • Comb began to droop. Became lethargic.
    • Quarantined from other chickens indoors
    • Stopped eating and drinking. Slept most of the day.
    • Hypothesis A: Respiratory & Crop issues
      • Observations:
        • Vent gleet & feather loss near vent
        • Sour crop / crop not emptying / "doughy crop" as defined here
        • Algae/scum observed in water (cleaned immediately)
        • Firm hindquarters, flaming red skin near vent (not ascites / water belly
        • Heavy/labored breathing when lying down.
        • Comb turning darker red with purple splotches over several days.
      • Treatment:
        • VetRx 4-5x per day on nostrils via Q-tip
        • Massaging crop & tube feeding:
          • "Crop buster" as defined here (lemon juice, spices, etc)
          • Apple Cider Vinegar
          • Nutri-Drench (1ml per day)
          • Garlic water
          • Electrolyte powder
          • Oil of oregano (2 drops per day)
      • Results:
        • ✅ Breathing problems fully resolved.
        • ✅ Crop started draining
        • Tube-fed Harrison's juvenile formula 3x daily
        • ✅ Significant activity level improvement. Comb began to straighten up and return to normal color
        • ✅ Hindquarters returned to normal softness (no longer firm)
        • ✅ Skin color near vent returned to normal
    • After 1 week, her comb was 90% upright, and behavior returned to normal
    • Returned to the flock. I realize now I returned her to the flock too soon...
  • Part 2
    • 1 week later, she was still not laying eggs
    • Comb started drooping again, crop not emptying, becoming lethargic, etc
    • Quarantined from other chickens indoors
    • Hypothesis B: Internal blockage of upper digestive tract
      • Treatment:
        • Epsom salt flush
        • Molasses flush
        • Vegetable oil
        • Dulcolax stool softener
        • Kefir yogurt / probiotics
      • Results:
        • ✅ Pooping frequency increased.
        • ✅ Increased solid material in stool.
        • ❌ Minimal activity level improvement.
        • ❌ No change to comb droop.
    • Hypothesis C: Internal blockage of lower digestive tract
      • Treatment: Vegetable oil enema
      • Results:
        • ✅ Pooping frequency increased.
        • ❌ No activity level changes.
        • ❌ No comb changes.
    • Hypothesis D:Fungal infection
      • Treatment: Miconazole. 1ml, 3x per day, orally for 7 days. Also rubbed in/around vent occasionally.
      • Results: ❌No improvement
    • Hypothesis E: Worms/Parasites
      • Treatment: SafeGuard Goat Dewormer (fenbendazole 10% suspension). 3ml per gallon of water. 1-2x daily for 3 days.
      • Results: ❌No improvement
    • Hypothesis F: Salmonella / E-Coli
      • Observation:
        • LOTS of burping / crop gas
        • Wild birds bathing in chicken water dish (cleaned immediately)
        • Mice/rat droppings observed in the chicken run (actively trying to eradicate)
        • White goop appeared in front corners of eyes (not bubbles)
      • Treatment:
        • Acidified Copper Sulfate
          • 1/4 teaspoon per gallon of water for 7 days
          • Stopped treatment for 3 days
          • Restarted for 3 days at 2x concentration
          • Did I give her enough? (don't want to overdose her)
      • Results
        • ✅ Biggest overall improvement of any treatment attempted thus far
        • ✅ White goop in eyes disappeared in 1-2 days
        • ✅ Burping / crop gas ceased almost entirely
        • ✅ Poop began to solidify (nearly normal solids instead of runny)
        • ✅ Poop frequency increased to ~11 per day
        • ✅ Comb color began to change from dark red / purple splotches to the more normal, lighter red.
        • ✅ Behavior drastically improved. Highly active, started squawking more.
How is Lemon doing today?
  • Throughout all the above through today, her crop still will not fully drain
  • Her crop overfills, I induce vomiting, she feels/acts better, I give a small amount of food/water, crop partially drains, I provide more food/water, crop stops draining, and the entire cycle repeats itself every few days.
  • Vomit is increasingly strong and foul smelling
  • She is severely dehydrated (super dry comb, dry skin around vent)
  • Comb still has dark discolorations & now has small growths. Our temperature is warm (it's not frostbite), and she is isolated from other chickens (not bullying). Fowl pox?
  • She is skin and bones (lightest weight ever) at 3 pounds
  • She acts like she's starving (because she is) and tries to eat everything (bugs, roots, seeds)
  • I stop her from eating bugs, roots, seeds because these come up in her vomit (they're not being digested / reclogging her?)
  • I no longer let her forage, and only give her Harrison's formula
  • I believe I'm keeping her alive due to tube-feeding food, water, electrolytes, nutri-drench, and forced-vomiting.
    • I understand forced-vomiting is dangerous, but I felt it was the only option
Treatment Summary (everything I've tried)
I have not tried
  • Antibiotics (not sure which ones to use, nor how to obtain - No available bird vets nearby)
  • Corid (coccidiosis?)
  • Subcutaneous injection (to treat dehydration)
  • Crop bra - Tried a few times, but led to liquid coming out mouth. Lemon also seemed super uncomfortable. Should I try again?
Help needed
  • Face / comb




  • Poop
    Ranges from wet to semi-wet to more solid. Generally greenish, but may be due to Harrison's formula being green.




  • Dry skin near vent
how is Lemon doing? Any updates on your beautiful girl?
I'd get a fecal float from a general vet in the area - I know you've drenched, but it may not treat some worm types - particularly tapeworm tends to dodge most treatments.

The urates are quite yellow, which could indicate issues with liver\kidney function. If you are medicating heavily, this could be a possible cause, but if it was like that before treatment, it'd be suspect.

Does she have a fever?

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