Hen all puffy & lethargic


In the Brooder
9 Years
Mar 26, 2010
Help! Several years ago I lost my four hens, one-by-one, to something I never could identify. They'd start by getting lethargic and sleepy all day. Then their wings would sag and finally their feathers would get all puffed up before they lost coordination, fell over and died. It wasn't the crop that I could tell.

Now I have a lovely new Chantecler hen I just bought three weeks ago. She came with the back of her head badly pecked from an aggressive rooster in the shipping crate with her, but that injury is mostly healed up.

I put her in our coop last Thursday when I was satisified that she and the rooster she came with were free of bad stuff. He's doing grand. She started getting sluggish almost right away though, and today, alas, her feathers have puffed up.

As I said, she is a Chantecler. She's about four months old and can't be more than 2.5 pounds at this time. She started getting sleepy four days ago. Yesterday her wings were droopy and she would go an unusual breathing movement where she sort of juts her head out, opens her beak, gasps, and sets her head back to resting position before repeating the whole thing again, for each breath. Today she's puffed up. She is still on her feet, jerks awake if we move her, then goes back to a doze.

None of my other 15 birds have any symptoms and are alert and active. The hen has no sign of trauma, and is either in the coop or in a 60' x 30' electric mesh pen on grass. I dipped her beak into the water and she drank a bit, but not enough to be significant. I've brought her in the house hoping I can see if she is passing any manure.

At this point I'm planning to give her sugar water in hopes of perking her up, and then a boiled egg.

Has anyone experienced these problems and managed to cure them? She's a beautiful little hen and the start of my Chantecler flock next spring, I really hope I can save her!!!

Here's my ten-minute follow-up!

After dipping her beak in some sugar water a few times, she realized she was very thirsty and has been taking frequent drinks. This is good. What is bad is that she makes a rasping sound after drinking and sort of snorts/sneezes/coughs afterwards too. At least I know when she's drinking if I'm not close to her! The bone or whatever it is that moves when they swallow can be seen and easily felt in the soft spot of the bottom beak. I took pictures I will try to figure out how to post. Her breathing sounds either rattling or raspy, so I'm guessing this is pushing into her airway as well. She's drinking like a sailor at this point in between coughing fits.



Any insights? Anyone???

i first thought cocci from reading your 1st post (i first lost a lot of chickens to that before realising what it was, same symptoms sleepyness lethargic droopy wings puffed up eyes closed etc..theyd die within a few days of first symptoms so its always important to have cocci meds on standby i find)
but then i read the second bit and thought respitory infection (if the sneezing/coughing isnt caused by her drinking and happens at other times too)
is she only coughing/sneezing when she drinks? does she have any discharge from her nose/eyes/mouth?

i would keep her isolated and sheltered in the warmth, and see what her poo looks like....
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She only sneezes after drinking, but her breath is always raspy and a bit strained (has to lift her beak up and out to get air). I listed to her back, and she takes deep breaths, with no sign of raspiness there, so hoping it's not an infection. Hubs will have a fit if I go spend $50 on a $10 chicken! I'm wondering if a burr or small stick could be lodged in her throat? Would I feed her oatmeal or something for that?

Well, "Helouise" is still up and actually looking better!

Still no idea what her problem is, but her feathers are almost back to flat although her wings are still at half mast.

She has to put her head up straight to breath in, and there is a rasping sound when she breathes out. I managed to get her beak open to look for obstructions, and saw none. But the little gland in the middle of the tongue (salivary?) is blowing bubbles when she exhales! That can't be good. I haven't done any anatomy searches, but I thought they breathe through the throat, not the tongue!

She has a great appetite and has eaten watermelon along with at least a cup of water with dissolved food pellets at the bottom.

She's peeking out of her bushel bucket cage! Her two poops are smelly, loose, but brown with a bit of white, which look normal for the flock.

I decided to give her a very small amount of ground up clarithromyacin I had left in the cupboard to hopefully ward off any infection, so maybe that's kicked in too since noon (five hours ago).

At any rate, it looks like she'll survive the night at least. If they have an appetite and bright eyes I like to think we have a chance! I just wish I knew what the problem is!


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