Chicken sick


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jun 7, 2009
Just found this site and hope someone can help. Two weeks ago one of our bantams was attacked by a possum and I brought her in to the patio, in rabbit cage. Put neosporium on holes and gave her 1/4 teaspoon tetracycline in her water ever day for the last 14 days. She was doing great, eating, drinking all her water and enjoying bread. Last night she had tremors and today she could not walk and has diarrheah, spurting... I made a concoction I read about with hard boiled yolk, honey and rolled oats which she ate this afternoon. Several hours later she laid an egg but still is not walking. She will eat bread soaked in water. Don't know what to do and hope someone can help. Thanks to anyone who has any answers
I'm no expert but you seem to have done very well so far,have you checked the wound site for infection,as it may have healed over and could now be forming an abscess under the skin. Bites are always bad for infections. I hope things turn out all right for for your little bantam.
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I'm so sorry to hear about what's going on.

When did you stop the terramycin? By the way, terramycin isn't at all indicated for injuries. Penicillin and other drugs ar ethe ones to use. It's not your fault - I am willing to bet that a feedstore guy told you to use it.

What have you been feeding her this whole time? If you're feeding her the complete ffeed, use that to make what you made for her today. If you're only feeding her bread, she desperately needs more. Since she's done with the antibiotics now, add yogurt to the same mix you're using - just a little, about 1/2 teaspoon per 1/2 cup of food. Or acidophilus tablets from the grocery/pharmacy/health food store. Or fastrack, probios, or another livestock brand of probiotics (live bacteria) from the feedstore. Make SURE that it contains live colonizing bacteria.

Most likely you have access to yogurt more quickly. I'd go with that.

She also is going to need electrolytes to replace those she's lost from the diarrhea. You can use vitamin/electrolyte mix from the feedstore (use less than the package recommends) or better yet pedialyte from the grocer. She's likely not walking because she's weak. Or are her legs stiff?

That's good that she ate. Make sure she also drinks.

What color are the droppings? Are they frothy green, reddish or rusty or brown? yellowed?

Using antibiotics kills the good bacteria in a bird's gut alone with the bad, unfortunately. Just as humans can get diarrhea and yeast infections after a course of antibiotics, so can birds. Unfortunately birds are WAY more dependent on the good bacteria in their system than are humans. So it's way more important that you replace the living bacteria with more (thus the probiotics).

Anytime you treat with antibiotics, always treat for 2 weeks afterwards (at least every other day) with PRObiotics. If you're using a ----cycline or ----mycin medicine, do not use yogurt - you'll have to use the probiotic with the least dairy products in it. But you're done with the antibiotics which is why yogurt can help now.

This is NOT a treatment for diarrhea. it is a supportive measure. I suspect she might have a secondary bacterial infection from the inappropriate antibiotics (again not your fault). But try this first - the yogurt - and see if she worsens.

Also, double check where she was injured and everywhere else for anything not found. I'm going to finish this post with a VERY long article I wrote on wound care that hopefully you'll not have to use. But if you have another incident (or have to open up an abcess) this can help. Also, if someone else is drawn here by your post who might need it - hopefully they'll find it.

Please let us know how else we can help you.

The long article:
Here's my usual way of doing wounds. It's worked for some pretty extreme wounds, including one 2x1 wound that went all the way down to the silver covering of the spine of one bird.

First, gather materials:
VetWrap or similar self-adhesive wrap.
gauze wrapping type bandages or squares (depending on what you have to bandage)
non-stick pads (depending on what you have to wrap)
antibiotic ointment (neosporin, Swat for horses if you have flies around)
hydrogen peroxide (h202)
warm water
a needleless syringe - preferably a big one like 30 cc's
suture material if you need it (this ideally should be left to a vet)
a small pair of scissors like cuticle scissors are helpful
large scissors
(duct tape in some cases)
a good safe blood clotter. I prefer Clotisol as it's not poisonous and clots IMMEDIATELY even in high blood situations. You can even use it inside of beaks. It's water based, lasts ages for a small bottle. Seriously - ages. You can pretty much only get it online, but it's a must-have for a cabinet. Once you use it, you won't go back.
clean clothes that can be stained

First, an important note. It would be ideal if, as poultry owners faced with an injured bird, that the bird be taken to a qualified veterinarian who can not only dress the wounds, access the damage, but also prescribe the correct antibiotics and follow up as necessary. This, first and foremost, is what I recommend for any wound situation that is more than minor. Please take that to heart.

If instead you decide to treat the wound yourself, here are some basic instructions on how to do so. Note that every wound, every case, is different. Use your common sense and imagination on determining when this protocol must be flexed to fit your situation.

First, examine the bird and find all wounds. Use your big and little scissors to trim feathers away from the area. Try to only take as many as could touch the wound, no more - they need feather protection and the feathers won't grow back til next moult. Also be careful, if wing feathers are near, not to cut the living flesh part inside feather quills.

If the wounds are under the wing, sometimes you can simply wrap the wing in a t-shirt to keep whatever touches the wing clean. Baby tshirts would be great for this. Neck part at the top of the wing, fitted with a little duct tape on the cloth (not tight please) and just tie the other end of the tshirt.

Make sure to look very carefully against the skin for puncture wounds. There might not be look, and puncture wounds are tricky and hard to find. Note the location and severity of all wounds.

Take your syringe and fill with H202 (straight) or h202 slightly diluted with water. Use the syringe to vigously clean the wound area including in the wounds. If the wounds are puncture wounds, use diluted water/h202, not straight. You only use h202 the first time as it tends to burn tissues and keep them from healing if you continue. But it's great for bubbling out bits of dirt from inside the wound. Do this cleansing about three times per wound.

Follow up by rinsing out the h2o2 with a water/iodine mixture made to be just the color of slightly strong iced tea. You want it warm. Fill your same syringe that you used with the h2o2 and flush the wounds rather vigorously.

At this time, if there are any pieces of flesh that need to be removed, remove them. This is where I use a q-tip dipped in a bottle-cap full of clotisol (so you don't contaminate the original bottle).

Doing this on a table that's ok to stain is best. I've done this on my truck's tail gate as I can clean it afterwards. Place a lot of papertowels under the birds for these two cleansing phases to keep the drainoff from going everywhere.

Use another clean papertowel to dry the wound. You want to leave some iodine solution inside the wound - it doesn't have to be skin-dry. Just dry enough for some ointment to stick.

Once the wound is well cleaned, then you'll want to dress it. I use Neosporin and q-tips most often for this job. If there are flies in the area at all, I will use Neosporin inside the wounds (ointment) and use Swat wound ointment for horses instead. (It has fly repellent that's safe for poultry in it.) I fill punctures with neosporin. If they're deep, I stick the top of the tube into the wound (and throw away the tube after I'm done with everything). Pack it. You usually want air in a wound, but puncture wounds can sometimes heal on top first and leave a pocket inside. The antibiotic ointment (not creme) is a little insurance against too much bacteria and thus abcesses.

If the wound is one that absolutely must be stitched, then pack it with the antibiotic ointment. If you're using a flyproof ointment, wipe the wound and then use the fly-proof on top. Otherwise just wipe slightly so there's a little antibiotic ointment on the important top part of the wound. You don't want to stray too far from just the wound, keep the bird dry.

On closing wounds with sutures. Puncture wounds shouldn't be sutured. Bad bacteria love a place where there's no oxygen. Suturing closes the wound and encourages festering within. As much air as you can get to a wound, the better, except that the interior of punctures should have some antibacterial action going on.

I've had some serious wounds in my flock before. The only time I've sutured was when a very large flap of skin was torn from the front of a neck (read as 3 inches by 10 inch flap). Another recent case involves a possible rather large hole in a crop which, should it leak food, should be sutured. Otherwise try to leave things open. Poultry can regrow an amazing amount of skin back if there's muscle underneath. New skin will granulate and grow in to fill in gaps that would surprise you.

On the areas that are just uncovered, I usually use antibiotic creme (versus ointment) because it's water based. Sometimes I'll just put a thin smear of antibiotic ointment, however, if that's what I have. Or fly-preventative ointment if there are flies in the area.

If at all possible, try not to cover with bandages. The average bandage keeps air out and moisture in and not in a good way. If you must bandage (a dirt floor area, extreme fly issues, etc) then try to keep the bandage to a minimum and very airy. That's why I'm not a big fan of nonstick bandages. They tend to trap moisture and cause a very warm airless area. But sometimes you have to use them. If so, cover the wound with the bandage. Wrap twice with very gauzey gauze wrap. Then put one layer only of VetWrap over. If you must secure (to keep the bandage from falling, for example) you can use very thin strips of duct tape like you would tape a birthday present. Using as little as possible, but a very strong tape like duct tape, helps let the air in.

Sometimes I've even used just one layer of a very clean paper towel rather than use a non-stick. Afterwards, if you have to remove it, you can soak with warm water and pick the bits out if it sticks. Gauze tends to embed in wound seepage.

Think out of the box when it comes to covering areas that are wounded. With my geese who had multiple puncture and surface wounds on their chest, and a high fly area, I used one white sheet that I formed into a sort of front-bib and tied behind their back. T-shirts are also awesome to cover a bird's body. Buy the appropriate size, slip the neck over their neck, their legs through the arm holes, cut two holes through which you slip their wings. Gather the bottom end (cut so that you don't cover their vent) at the top of their back and duct-tape the cloth to make it stay fitted. T-shirts are very airy, cheap, washable, and absorbent.

If your bird requires stitches, suture material with thread attached can be found at many feedstores or purchased online ahead of time. The size you want is for dogs and cats. Sutures aren't stitched like a pillow case, but each stitch is its own knot. The semi-circular needles of suture needles are ideal for going into and out of the skin. Note: stitching is not easy - skin is tough, usually the needle is slippery, and it's rather tough to do. Overestimate the amount of suture material you need as you'll make knots and cut off the excess bit sticking up.

Many wounds, if properly cleaned and dressed and left airy, do not need much maintenance. Oddly, one of the best ways of telling whether or not a wound is doing well is by using your nose. Smell the wound at the time of cleaning. Wounds have a particular almost sweet but not cloyingly sweet smell. Remember the smell. Then smell the wound daily to see if you smell rot. If you do, there's not enough air to the wound and possible infection going on.

Wounds will seep a little - that's natural and the body's way of dealing with wounds. Usually the seepage will be mostly clear and smell of wound. However, if there's any opaqueness to it, or clotted texture, that's infection. Also there will be some natural inflammation as the body tries to bully off the bad bacteria and bring in healing materials to the wound. However excessive inflammation, discoloration (especially black or green), should be noted.

If a wound needs cleaning or examining, take off what bandages you can gently. If they stick to the seepage from the wound, use warm water to soak the bandage parts remaining away from the drainage.

Then examine the wound, determine what needs to be done, and redress from the iodine stage onward.

Many wounds do not require additional antibiotics other than topical (on the skin) antibiotic dressings. However in the case of animal bites that weren't caught immediately, cat bites, and wounds that have been sitting or are particularly deep, it may be a good idea to treat with antibiotics. If you make this decision, please be sure to get one that is appropriate for wounds. The packages at the feedstore are not.

Penicillin G Procaine (Aqueous Pen-G) is commonly found at many feedstores in their fridge section. It's awesome to keep in your own fridge for a rainy day. It's a very thick antibiotic and requires a thicker gauge needle. I would use no thinner than a 22 gauge, preferably something more thick at a length of .75 to 1 inch. At many feedstores, you can buy 3 cc syringes that are together already with needles. These are nice to have on hand as well as that 30 cc syringe that you'll use to flush wounds.

Instructions on how to give an injection are available separately as well as how to treat with antibiotics. If you do choose to use injectable antibiotics, be prepared to go the entire recommended course. Penicillin G Procaine is a concentrated penicillin (they're not all created equally) and only is required to be given every other day. Based on the type of antibiotic you expect to use, buy that many syringes plus two.

Birds in healing mode need help being stabilized, nourished, and hydrated. We all know how delicate birds can be, but it's surprising how resilient they can be at times. However, wounds will often depress a bird or cause them to go into shock. A stressed or shocked bird may not be able to digest foods they're commonly given. For that reason, I recommend only giving easily dissolved feeds when a bird is in the first stages of recovery. Think crumbles, pellets, etc. You don't want to make a drastic change in their diet ever, much less when they're already stressed. If a bird is reluctant to eat, try wetting the pellets/crumbles. You can also add a boiled egg yolk (one per six cups of food) mashed into the crumbles. I like to also give probiotics (yogurt, Fastrack, Probiocs, acidophilus, or whatever I have available) during this time to combat a secondary intestinal disorder from stress and change of way of eating. Yogurt is simple. You can mix 1 tablespoon per two cups of feed.

The added protein in an egg yolk helps the bird to heal. Adding a capsule of vitamin E to that mash (one per 2 cups of mash) also helps healing. If the birds are stressy, or not able to eat normally, I'll use a vitamin/electrolyte mix in their water for the first few days. I never ever use an oral antibiotic for wound treatment. Period.

It's unfortunately common that poultry are victims of predation and wounds. They are delicate and, with their ultra-fast metabolisms, can die readily if they decide to. Remember that an injured bird can often have internal injuries we never see. If you lose them, just remember you tried your best. However you might be surprised, with proper wound-care, how many of these birds recover to absolutely normal lives. Just be patient as healing takes a while. Usually separate the birds, but if they can be near their peers they take heart from it and will do better.

Good luck with your flock, and I hope this information has been helpful.
Nathalie Ross
(Please do not reproduce without permission of the author. The author is not a veterinarian and does not intend to dispense information that at all should replace the advice of a qualified avian vet.)
First, thank you so very much for sharing your incredible wisdom! Now to answer some of your questions.....
First, I stopped the terramycin Saturday, as the feed store person said 14 days. She had been eating her regular laying pellets and drinking all her water up until Saturday and we were feeding her bread along with her food. Today I mixed hard boiled egg yolk, strawberry banana yogurt, honey, oats, some crushed egg shell and she ate some of it. So, I added pieces of bread and some milk and she ate it all. She is not eating her regular food or drinking water. Should I use pedialyte instead of the milk tomake the mixture liquidy? And, get the pedialyte into her?

She's not walking because one of her legs seems unable to have weight put on it.

Droppings today are more mushy than liquid as it was yesterday and it is
brownish with some white it it now. Looks more like regular droppings but mushy.

Her smaller puncture injuries seem to have healed well. The one large one which was about 3/4"x3/4" has a scab on it although yesterday I noticed a bit of bloody oozing (tiny bit) which I put neosporim on again.

Just checked and she is still just sitting there and has eaten all the food I gave her as described. Her eyes are clear.

Do you have any suggestions as to my next move? Thanks again so very much, Susie
Hi i have 4 chickens think theyre golden lay. Lately the maitre de has been having problems, mainly with her foot/leg. She keeps limping/holding it up i thought it may be a strain from scratching around as it got better. Its now back again & getting worsr, she was just sitting in the run until a day ago when she wouldnt come down from the roost (obviously hurts). I have since brought her in & keeping her in a cat transport basket with food etc, but shes panting a lot. tried her outside todaY but all she wanted to do is lay there. wouldnt get up at all. She did lay though today though the shell was soft. Shes eating ok but obviously stressed any ideas for her leg/panting please, do i go to the vets or is it not worth it??!!
On the milk - yes, remove it completely. Birds can't handle that much lactose. The reason they can eat yogurt is because the live bacteria in it have processed out much of the lactose (before pasteurization, and continue after they're reinjected after pasteurization).

Also if possible, please use plain yogurt. (This is no fault of yours - everyone wants to give their birds stuff that tastes better, right?). It's just that flavored has too much sugar which can exacerbate bacteria issues.

I'd cut back on the bread, which can cause yeast blooms and dilutes the nutrition (read as calcium levels) of her food. Boiled egg is good. ''

I'd cut back on the oats a bit as well (again read as lowered calcium levels) unless you need that to get her to eat the yogurt probiotic. Then just feed enough to get her to eat the egg/yogurt/etc.

To replace the milk, try unsweetened applesauce. It has apple pectin in it which helps good bacteria in the gut, the pH also improving the environment for the gut. And no lactose in it.
You can use it to hide the yogurt. I'd cut out the honey if she'll eat the applesauce.

So try egg, a little yogurt (doesn't take much), pellets (ground in the blender and wet with the other stuff), applesauce and see if she'll eat that.

I'm reading the next post now and see a soft shell. This doesn't surprise me. I'm pretty sure that 's the issue - well the first one. The diarrhea etc is from the stress of that. That's why she was panting and unable to walk. She needs a calcium boost quickly. Use a tums tablet crushed in whatever food you can get her to eat. If you can get apple cider vinegar (organic only) then use that in her water: 1 teaspoon to each half gallon. It has vitamin D in it (as does the yogurt) which helps calcium absorbtion. The yogurt will add more calcium as well.

I'd also read up on what to do in case of egg binding here in case you need to use it later on today. Since she passed the egg (soft shelled eggs are hard to pass) that's a good thing. But the urgent thing is to get the next eggs hard so that they don't break inside of her or get stuck there.
Wait wait, did someone hijack the thread and I got them confused? /sigh

I'm so sorry - yours isn't the girl who laid softshelled eggs, Dixie. But you mentioned feeding eggshells - are you concerned about them? If so, I'd follow the advice I gave anyway - just we still need to look for the cause. I'd still adjust the feeding for the same reasons.

Jemb you can follow the advise that I thought was for Dixie, the latter half of my post about laying.

Back to Dixie: on the wound scab, on the puncture, you might pick that off and flush out the puncture if it's at all oozing. Punctures tend to heal on top first and not be healed inside, pocketing bacteria and causing problems. But if you think it's tight inside.... well just watch for heat in the area, any sign of swelling at all, any more oozing (particularly with a smell) and signs of absess. Using saline water (a little salt in clean warm water) to flush the puncture at this point can work well, using a drop of iodine in the last flush water sans salt.

On Dixie's bird's droppings - good that they're solidifying. I'm still betting it's the aftereffects of the antibiotics. I feel positive about her progress for sure! I'm terribly sorry about the post confusion here with jemb's post - I feel a bit sheepish. >.>
Thanks, I talked with my people at feed depot and they talked with their aviary/chicken doctor who suggested that I crush up one of my cipro tablets and give her a pince with her food morning and evening. So, I am off to buy plain yogurt and unsweetened applesauce (I did cut up a small amount of apple and put it with her oats. She is gobbling up the oats, so I need to continue to use this with the egg, yogurt mixture. (Yogurt okay with the cipro?) Also, they thought that the wound which is above her leg that she cannot stand on, might have gotten into the tendon. I'll check back when I get home and REALLY APPRECIATE your help. Susie

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