Hen Won't Eat - Wasting Away


12 Years
Jan 30, 2007
We've had this happen in the past, but thought I'd post this time and see if anyone has any thoughts.

The situation is this:
Chicken seems a big under the weather, but otherwise okay.
One day think "you know, she hasn't been roosting and is just standing around".
Pick her up and there's no weight to her - no food in crop.
Bring her in and she won't eat.

Thanks in advance.
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Try offering her some hard boiled egg...or warm oatmeal...cooked. Is she drinking at all? Might need to rehydrate her. Maybe some electrolytes for a day. I hope she makes it.
Try offering some mealworms, chickens will kill for them. They are really good protein and fun for them to eat. Mealworms, hardboiled eggs, the oatmeal, and chickstarter are all good for helping a chicken. You can also get an electrolyte and vitamin powder for her water(I get mine at TSC) and that will help rehydrate her if she is dehydrated.

Is she low on the chain of command? Sometimes, the more submissive birds will starve themselves because they are run-off the feeders by the more aggressive and dominant.

How many chickens do you have and in what size space? Sometimes overcrowding can leave birds without a roost and without spots at the feeders. How many feeders and waterers do you have available and how far apart are they space?

Examine her closely looking for any signs of illness or wounds. The loss of appetite can a symptom of something bigger.

Keep her isolated, and see if she is drinking. If not, you need to drip water in her mouth. She needs electrolytes to get her strength back up. Once she is hydrated, mix some of her food with the electrolytes into a type of mash, and offer this to her.

She should, after this, have her srength back enough to be able to eat and drink on her own.

Kepp her separated until she is back to normal, and then re introduce her back to the flock. make sure that there are enough feeders and waterers so that they are not fighting, so bullying does not occur. Keep an eye on her to make sure that she is not harrassed again.

Just went through this with my SIL (silkie sue).

Good luck!
I would mix up some oatmeal with electrolites and force feed her, if she doesn' eat anything. I would also treat her for coccidiosis.
Thanks for all the thoughts.

It's not a matter of offering the right food - she won't eat or drink when presented with food. She stood all yesterday afternoon over a bowl of chicken "treats" (whole corn) and a bowl of water but never even seemed to notice. We're to the point of force feeding soft foods.

She's in our laying flock, so I don't know where she stands in the peck order - there's 60 birds out there. Access to food is not a likely problem though as there are often times I go out and only see a bird or two at the feeder. Never see squabbles over layer, though we do have a turkey hen in the coop for the winter who is possesive over any treats given out.

Someone mentioned a silkie. The last bird we had go through this was a silkie roo who was the alpha of our hobby flock. Same thing happened to him last year. He "didn't seem right", and when I picked him up there was just nothing to him. He wouldn't eat or drink. He ended up dying, btw.

We'll look into coccidiosis. I've no experience diagnosing their presence, so I can't say for sure.

If you have a vet that will do a fecal float, that is your best option. They can tell you if the bird has cocci (which seems very likely) and give you the meds to treat all of your birds.
I hope this isn't true, but you may be too late with this one. But don't give up on her... If you can get cocci meds for her she will turn around very fast.
Give a couple of the vets a call and see if there is one that will let you just bring a sample in. Do everything you can to NOT take the bird in there... They will charge you an arm and a leg for that. Also, make sure that they will prescribe enough meds to treat all 60 birds. If one has it, they pretty much all do.

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