Concerned about molting hen's appetite

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Young Sauterelle, Dec 29, 2010.

  1. Young Sauterelle

    Young Sauterelle In the Brooder

    Hi, folks,
    In the past, I've received such helpful and reassuring advice from fellow readers, so I thought I would turn to you with a new concern, about my Sussex, Aunt Bee's appetite. She has been molting for the past month (give or take). She never went bald, although I would find handfuls of feathers for 2-3 weeks. I think she is almost finished, and she clearly has new feathers as her front half is more white-speckled than prior to molting. She stopped laying during this time, which I believe is normal, but what concerns me is that she's become a much lighter, pickier eater. She doesn't appear any thinner, although it's hard to say because she has been more difficult to handle recently (both my hens have been feisty, more independent) and I haven't been able to hold her / feel her over during this period.

    I've been giving her more her high protein treats (scrambled eggs, yogurt, etc) to provide for new feather growth but she only will eat a few bites each time before moving on. Same thing with layer pellets or any mashes, grits, scratch etc. My Orpington, Clara, eats like its her job (and is still laying well), so I thought maybe Bee was being intimidated away from the food. I tried separating them to ensure she could get her share, but even then Bee will still only eat a little and then wander off, trying to get back to wherever the other hen is. She seems no different otherwise, and when not eating she wanders about, pecks, preens, does normal chicken things. The only food she eats with any gusto are greens, mostly broccoli and brussel sprout plants I pull up from the garden, but I haven't been giving them more than 1 plant a day so as to encourage them to eat pellets and other foods with more protein / calories.


    1) What type of bird , age and weight.
    Speckled Sussex, hen, likely around 12-15 months.
    2) What is the behavior, exactly.
    Eating less, only eating certain foods well
    3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
    2-3 weeks, that I've noticed
    4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?
    5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
    6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
    Molting, not laying, cold weather
    7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
    See above
    8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
    Normal in quantity and quality
    9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
    Separating her to eat, making a variety of what I thought were tasty treats
    10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
    Treat myself
    11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
    I doubt this would help, but if anyone wants pictures of molty bird, I'll try.
    12) Describe the housing/bedding in use
    two hens sharing 5' x 4' x 3' coop raised off ground, straw-bedded laying area on bottom level with roosting area above, all sides well-insulated with foam board with ventilation strips left open. Also have access to two "run" areas, one covered and one open but encaged with wire. Ground is thick layer of rockdust.

    I guess my questions for y'all are:
    Is it normal for hens to have periods of decreased appetite, such as winter or when molting, not laying, etc?
    Are there other, more worrisome causes of decreased appetite?
    Should I be doing anything different to pique her appetite?

    Thanks in advance!

    Edited to add questionnaire information
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010

  2. AbbyDog

    AbbyDog In the Brooder

    Dec 2, 2010
    Hi, my hens act strange when molting, too. They are going through their first big molt now (in the dead of winter) and now half of them have ended up with an impacted crop. So, I would be cautious with what they are eating and don't let them eat too much of anything all at once. My first hen ate too much clipped grass, the next too much hard pumpkin rind, and I don't know yet about the third. I have not yet received a definite response from others but my observation is that their digestion slows down when molting and as they are more susceptible to predators their behavior really changes, too. Good luck!
  3. Young Sauterelle

    Young Sauterelle In the Brooder

    Thanks, Abby. I had never read much about impacted crop, but now I'm a little concerned as hers does seem large. I'm going outside now with dear husband's enlisted help to capture this wile hen so I can feel her crop and get a better idea about whether she's actually thinner and the status of her feathers. Will post an update with more information.

    Thus begins chicken think they were tame little lap chickens this summer when I was constantly around them doing my gardening, letting them forage. Now they run up to me to see what I have to eat, but they aren't interested in being held.
  4. Judy

    Judy Crowing Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Be sure to compare her crop to how it feels early in the morning before you make a judgment.

    It is quite common for the lap bird types not to want to be held when molting, and to eat less. They just feel lousy, and of course their skin doesn't feel too great. Hopefully she will return to her old level of affection when she feels better. I'd be tempted to give a baby aspirin.

    Have you tried BOSS? The protein and oil combo is ideal, and mine at least still went for it when molting, so the group got a handful every morning.

    Yes, there are other causes of decreased appetite. Thing is, you know molting will do it, so there's probably no point in getting excited as long as she's acting more or less normal, if a little withdrawn and quiet. It would be better to let her weight drop a little than overload her with some treat that ends up doing more harm than good.

    I have never had a chicken get an impacted crop. I don't ever give treats late in the day -- those crops are already so big from the day's foraging, I wouldn't tempt them to add anything.
  5. Young Sauterelle

    Young Sauterelle In the Brooder

    Ok, chicken rodeo (phase 1) is complete. Both hens had the same size and consistency crops: clementine sized and soft. I admit I've felt their crops rather infrequently, so am I wrong to believe this isn't too unusual given that they're towards the end of their day and the Orpington visibly ate a good bit? It was somewhat reassuring to see that the Sussex's crop also appeared full, so maybe she is eating more than I see. I will recheck tomorrow morning (phase 2, maybe I will try to catch them before they leave their roosts) before they start eating to see that they both emptied their crops before I draw any conclusions. She was a bit lighter than before the molting began, but I noticed no other differences, and she appears to be feathering well. I will try to stop obsessing and let the hen decide when she's hungry.

    Thank you for the suggestion of BOSS. I have not tried giving any, but I was meaning to buy some more scratch grains as we're out, and this is one of the coldest Decembers we Southerners have had. I will pick up some sunflower seeds as well and see what the girls think of those.
    Last edited: Dec 29, 2010

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