Hen won't walk - covered in parasites


In the Brooder
10 Years
Jun 4, 2009
Errington, Vancouver Island
My husband came into the house today to inform me that one of our hens - one we hatched - was sitting on the floor of the hen house facing the wall. I asked her if he tried to get her up, and he hadn't wanted to 'disturb' her. I sent him back with instructions to try picking her up, and if she let him, he was to bring her in for me to examine. He showed up a few minutes later with our lovely black orpington. She looked really dejected. In the process of feeling her out to see if something was broken, I turned her over and discovered these big (1/2 a cm) white blobs at the base of the feathers on her 'belly'. Moments later, looking closely at her skin, we spotted parasites - she is crawling with them.

I have to own this: we have been completely negligent in checking our birds for parasites or doing anything preventative. (Please don't berate me on the fact - I'm guilty and know it). I know we need to clean out the entire hen house and treat it with dusting powder and/or lime, but in the meantime, I need to deal with this sick bird. Given that she's not mobile, can she be saved? Aside from thoroughly dusting her, is there anything I can do? Should I move her into our house in a box, or would the stress of that make things worse? (Hen house is going to take several days to deal with, perhaps a week... it is about 200 square feet... so I want to get her out of the parasite infested environment asap). Would an Ivermectin topical be suitable? The only thing I have on hand is a mixture of Ivermectin, mineral oil and DMSO. How can I get the hen to drink water? Do you think she'd take a syringe?

Tomorrow we'll check the other hens. All of them are mobile, though, so they should be okay if we get the house cleaned and put out dusting powder for them.

Thanks for the help.
Well, first I would dust her ALL OVER with Diatamaceous Earth - food grade - to start. I have never had a problem because when I clean out the chicken house. I dust the whole house with DE - from ceiling to walls to floor. But since my chickens free-range I periodically dust them with food grade DE and put it in their food for parasites. I do the same with my goat pen and goats - feed included.
I've given her a good dusting and brought her into the house. Even with the stress, it is warmer in here (it is about 0 outside - the hen house is a little warmer, as we have a space heater to keep the water from freezing), and I know the other hens can't pick on her now. I gave her some (20 ml) water by syringe (way, way easier to syringe-feed a chicken than an alpaca, btw). Guess we'll wait and see.
I'm hoping she gets better.

@ syringe feeding an alpaca...I can only imagine.
DE will not work for an active infestation. It is only a preventative. Sevin is good but won't work quick enough.

Get some flea and tick shampoo ASAP and give her a bath. Soak her up to her neck really well. Follow the directions to make sure you leave her in the medicated water for the proper amount of time. When the time is up soap up her feathers and gently rinse her thoroughly in warm water.

This must be repeated in 3 days and again in 3 more. Put her in a box turned on it's side lined with a towel. Somewhere in the house. This way if she wants to walk she can. Give her water and treats like quartered grapes, cut up strawberries, scrambled eggs, chopped up pasta etc. Fruits with lots of water are best. Nothing citrus.

This will be a good start. If the other girls are OK for a day treat them with Ivermectin pour on tomorrow and get that coop cleaned out.

If she is unwilling to drink get a dropper and drop water on the top of her beak a drop at a time and let it roll slowly into her mouth so she will swallow it. Do this until she won't take anymore but get liquids into her. Do this every 30 min.

No berating on this site.....you made a mistake are are willing to fix it. We're all human.

Take away the space heater. The change of temp from outside to inside is actually a lot of stress. She doesn't need to be warmer. It will also make dehydration worse.
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When you bath her make sure you dry her well with a big towel and then a hair dryer on low.

Rethinking my thought about the space heater she might need it after her bath but you don't want to over heat her if she can't walk. Tough call to make.
A couple years ago I noticed a couple of my porcy's lacking in energy and feathers rough - parasites. DE'd and within three or four days, they were more active and could see where the feathers were rough, missing or broken were, now, little buds of new feathers coming. DE has always worked for me - not just as a preventative.

Hen is still alive, and appears to be improving, so we'll keep her around for another day. I did go out and purchase the flea soap, but after inspecting her again 12 hours after applying the dusting powder, the visible number of parasites has hugely diminished, so I didn't think that a bath would be worth the stress.

She now stands occassionally and will take a step or two, though she may have been doing this before and we just didn't know it. She has pecked at a little bit of food and even at some banana (though I think she would rather have her layer pellets). She fights me now when I try to give her water by syringe, though I can tell she wants to drink. Trying to five her water one drop at a time is ridiculous, though.

I've brought her out of the box she was ina nd she is trying to roost on the edge of the table she's on. She appears to strain quite a bit: like every time she stands up she wants to poop.

We'll move her out to the hen house for the day tomorrow (because I'm sick of the smell in here) and see how she does, though I may bring her in because it is so cold. I'll start mucking out the hen house, too, but it is going to take several days.
I had a silkie come to me like that. Get some ADAM'S Flea and Tick Shampoo and bathe her in that, then blowdry her and keep her warm until she is dry. Unfortunately, if she has them, it is likely that everyone else has them too. But for an infestation like that, you will have to bather her right away to get them all off and dead. Some say the shampoo doesn't kill the "nits" but I found that it did a great job on my silkie hen. She was majorly infested when I got her, it was very sad for her. Definitely dust with the sevin, if they have a lot. I found some on my standards 2 weeks ago and I treated them all with the Pour On Cattle Wormer. They are all clean and lice free now! Within a week, all lice were gone. It is cheap and a great preventative after the problem is taken care of. DE did nothing for me
I'm glad she is doing better. If she wants layer pellets let her have them. Anything to get her strength back. Have you given her a dish of water? Maybe she is ready to drink on her own. One more suggestion would be to give her some red meat or cooked liver or scrambled egg. Protein from both a little extra iron from the liver. She is probably anemic from the lice and mites sucking on her blood.

I hope she continues to do well.

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