Gargling noise in ex-bat hen's breathing?


5 Years
Dec 29, 2016
The hen is about 5 years old now. For the last couple of months, I have sometimes noticed a slight 'rattle' sort of sound in her chest which appeared to match her heartbeat. On two occasions during this time, she has gone off her pellets for a few days, but would fully recover from being fed 1 egg per day and plenty of water. To me the symptoms in those few days seemed like heatstroke, as it would happen alongside it getting hotter outside.

As of yesterday she has had a third wave of these symptoms, so I've been giving her lots of water and 1 egg per day as I have before. But, this morning when she stood up after sunbathing, she had this gargling noise, seemingly in her breathing, which reminded me of that subtle rattling sound I have recently heard in her chest. This was much louder though, it was as if she was vocalising, whereas I could only hear the chest sound when I put my ear next to her. As soon as I fed her egg though, this gargling sound stopped and she hasn't made it again all day.

Other symptoms she has:
- during these phases of symptoms, her back end feels quite swollen, BUT it's not like when they're egg bound, it feels more like fluid.
- in these phases she is also less vocal and less active, but still responsive, talkative with the other chicken and really eager to eat egg
- generally there is a bit of heavy breathing when she's sat down. I notice she won't settle on her perch right away at night, and will stand for a while.

I've got videos of both of these sounds. I can't upload them here but can email them to anyone if needed!

Does anyone have ideas of what this could be? I am wondering if she's having fluid build up that's compressing her organs, as that would seem to explain the sounds in both her chest and her breathing.


Free Ranging
7 Years
Feb 12, 2015
North Florida
It does sound like she has ascites (fluid in the abdomen). That happens with reproductive problems like cancer or infection, and also with organ failure. And as it build up it does put a lot of pressure on the internal organs. It's uncomfortable, affects their breathing, and they often don't roost normally. Some people will drain the abdomen, which may make her more comfortable for a time, but it will recur since the underlying issue is still there. And it does come with some risk, draining too much too fast can cause shock, which can be fatal, and there is some risk of infection from the needle stick.
This is one video on how to drain ascites:

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