Hen has been very ill for several days... Looking for any kind of advice!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by jon1984, Jan 27, 2012.

  1. jon1984

    jon1984 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2012
    Hello BYC!

    This forum has provided me with a TON of useful information since I got my chickens about 6 weeks ago, so I am already grateful to the community. But now one of my two hens has become very sick and I am hoping someone might be able to offer some advice. At the very least I can share my experience with other chicken owners and hopefully we can all learn something.

    These are my first birds. Both were great for the first 4 weeks or so. They were very active and both laid eggs pretty much every day. The australorp quit laying first, somewhere around new year's day. She acted a little unwell for a day or two, but snapped out of it and was right as rain. Shortly after this the RIR started laying soft shelled eggs (they do get layer feed and free choice oyster shell). She may have even laid a shell-less egg or two.. I once found her sitting in the nest in a pile of egg goo. She showed some broody behavior as well (naked underside and sitting on nest all day, even though there were no eggs). She began to have diarrhea and after a couple days her butt was pretty filthy. I bathed her and it was then that I realized how weak and skinny she had become! The next morning I checked her crop (after removing the feeder the previous night) and found that it still had food in it. Since then she has spent the last 4 days inside and has shown no real sign of improvement... Today I also discovered some lice! I had checked her before but never saw any. She doesn't seem to be badly infested but I will dust her. Her eyes are bright and feathers are beautiful. She still talks. Here's a pic I took today of the hens enjoying the sunshine :)


    1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
    - She's a Rhode Island red, about 1.5 years old, and probably weighs 3 to 3.5 lbs (she is very thin)
    2) What is the behavior, exactly.
    - Lethargic, stands around, barely moves, very weak and skinny, diarrhea, little or no appetite and not much desire to drink water. Her crop is not emptying properly, though it is not very full nor is there there any solid mass inside. I can feel pebbles and seeds that have been in there since I first noticed it wasn't emptying. It is squishy / doughy feeling. She wheezes / breathes hard occasionally. Seems kinda like a sigh of pain...
    3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
    - About a week that I am aware of
    4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?
    - The australorp, my only other bird, was under the weather for a day or so but got better on her own. This was before the RIR showed symptoms. The RIR is acting differently than the australorp did.
    5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
    - No
    6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
    - Can only speculate... Soft egg burst inside? Ate something that got stuck?
    7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.

    - Very little. I've been feeding and watering her with a dropper just by dripping things onto her beak. I brought her outside in the sunshine today. She drank water and pecked at the ground a little. She normally has a HUGE appetite.
    8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
    - Watery, yellowish, maybe a little mucous in there. Yesterday she had some slightly more normal-ish poops but today they look awful again.
    9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
    - Warm baths, oil and crop massage, keeping her inside where its warm and I can watch her. ACV in water. Have tried to give her probiotic foods. Have attempted to give her some dissolved aspirin (vet's advice) and dissolved calcium. Vet and I gave a subcutaneous injection of fluids a few days ago.
    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?
    - I did have an avian vet check her out. She suspected a problem with her reproductive system, but couldn't really diagnose without x-rays and such, which I can't afford. The vet visit was $50 and I may get a fecal sample tested for parasites.
    11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
    - The pic is of her napping in the sun today. She's pretty cute. They both are :)
    12) Describe the housing/bedding in use
    - In the coop there is mostly straw with some cedar shavings around the nesting/sleeping area. I clean the whole coop every day or every other day. Keep it as dry as possible, and replace straw frequently.

    Well that's a lot of info!

    I'm wondering if a static crop can lead to these symptoms... Should I consider operating on it if it doesn't get moving soon? I have been massaging several times a day. Crop contents did not smell sour last time I checked, but that stuff has been in there for several days.

    Thanks for any replies! I have really enjoyed getting to know this hen and would love to see her back on her feet.

    P.S. Her name is Alice :)
  2. Judy

    Judy Chicken Obsessed Staff Member Premium Member

    Feb 5, 2009
    South Georgia
    Since you found some lice, you need to treat for these aggressively. Dust both birds, change the litter, and dust the coop. Repeat in 10 days. You may even have to repeat again. To dust a bird, put her in a pillowcase with the dust and hold it snug around the neck and shake. Then rub some of the powder on the head and the rest of the neck, avoiding eyes and nostrils, of course. You have to be thorough about this. Some of these critters stay in the coop during the day and only get on the birds at night. Sometimes the underside of the roost is full of them.

    At that age if it were me I would just worm them with Valbazen as well. They may not have a heavy load of worms, though being thin suggests they do -- but it would be odd for a chicken of that age to have no worms at all. I recently wormed mine after not worming for about a year, and their feed consumption dropped by almost half. I do feel the worms were eating the rest of what they ate.

    Good luck!


  3. jon1984

    jon1984 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2012
    Thanks, flockwatcher.

    I will treat for lice today and will get her poop tested when I get back from class.

    She seems worse this morning. Getting weaker. Can't stand up for very long. I will add a pic of her droppings, which are very yellow.

    She sighs when she poops, like it takes some effort.

  4. bawkbawkbawk

    bawkbawkbawk Chillin' With My Peeps

    My own experience with a shell-less egg-layer was that it turned out to be an internal laying problem and was quite serious. When I initially looked up shell-less eggs most of what I saw indicated that they are harmless, but in my EE's case, at least, it was a harbinger of internal laying, which is deadly.

    I don't know anything about lice so can't comment on that.
  5. jon1984

    jon1984 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2012
    Well, I've got a not so good ending to the story.

    After a week of trying my best to save her, I ended it for her today. She was so weak and thin and had a developed a strange involuntary head rolling behavior... Her last day was spent outside lying in the nicest sunshine.

    As advised by the vet, I performed a little post-mortem. She definitely had egg yolk peritonitis. There was runny yolk goo in her abdominal cavity as well as other nasty fluid and pale yellow gunk. Her crop didn't appear to be blocked, though it had mushy old food in it. Her gizzard was full of food and grit and very hard. It was as if her digestive tract had just stopped functioning...

    I learned a lot from this, but mostly it sucked.

    I also took some pictures from the necropsy which clearly show the peritonitis. If anyone would like to see pics I can send them to you.

  6. LLB66

    LLB66 Out Of The Brooder

    Dec 9, 2011
    New Douglas IL
    So sorry to hear you lost your hen!
  7. CMV

    CMV Flock Mistress

    Apr 15, 2009
    I am sorry to hear about your hen, Jon. Please post the pics you took at necropsy. Any help you give to other BYCers is always appreciated. Pics make it very clear what folks are dealing with when they have hens with reproductive issues.

    Sorry for your loss. I hope you consider getting a friend or two for your remaining hen. She would like that.

    Good luck.
  8. wildrose41

    wildrose41 Out Of The Brooder

    Apr 3, 2011
    Can you tell me how you calmly and humanely put her down? I have 2 sick hens and not too sure what to do with them. They both have paralysis in their legs and not improving with all I've done. Thanks.
  9. jon1984

    jon1984 New Egg

    Jan 22, 2012
    Thanks for the condolences! I'm working on getting a couple more hens. I have just one chicken at the moment. What steps should I follow when introducing two new birds to a flock of one? I know there is a recommended quarantine time, but my backyard is fairly small and it would be tough to accommodate two separate groups of birds. Any advice on this is appreciated.

    I'm sorry to hear about your chickens, wildrose. Well, this was the first time I had dispatched a chicken, and needless to say I was not looking forward to doing it. I am not squeamish, but am a bigtime animal lover. I really liked this bird and tried hard to help her while she was sick so killing her felt really lousy. After doing some research and consulting the vet, I decided to break her neck by holding the feet and pulling the neck, just behind the head, in the other direction. I did it exactly how I read to, and felt a pop. I thought she was dead at first, but realized a moment later that she was still breathing. Ugh!! I quickly grabbed my knife and cut her throat and she died within 30 seconds or so. It happened fast, but I'm pretty sure she was conscious after the neck breaking and I felt awful for it. In retrospect, I should probably just have chopped her head off... I don't know if this helps you at all, haha, but unless you are really good at the neck-break maneuver I think decapitation is likely the quickest and most effective (though messy) way to do it.

    Here is a photo from the post-mortem. You can see the yolk in there and the "scrambled egg" looking gunk. There was quite a bit of fluid in there as well that I already drained out.


    Also, here is a link to a thread with GREAT post-mortem pics from a hen with really really bad peritonitis.


    The poop pic I posted could also serve as a good reference.

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