Injured, possibly sick Americauna hen


Mar 9, 2018

I found my Americauna hen trapped in her coup ladder yesterday before I put the birds in for the night. She couldn't have been there long-- but long enough to have possibly injured her wings. She is less than a year old. Also-- was a great layer up until this week (haven't had an egg in 7 days. She's free range so we thought she had found a nest in the yard. I'm kicking myself for not checking on her sooner.

She was traumatized last night--- wouldn't stand or correct herself if on her side. We took her in and set up a pen inside, gave her access to fresh water/food. She also seems underweight. We think she may have been kept off food by another hen.

In the AM she was standing upright (yay!), and her wings seemed minimally droopy so I was hopeful. She hadn't touched her food or water however.

I read a lot of threads on this forum last night, and watched a bunch of videos prepping for the possibility of syringe feeding her. I made little chicken feed balls that, currently just consist of her feed, some veg, and some pedialite but when I put it in her beak-- NO MOVEMENT. No effort to fight, no reflex to swallow, to spit it out. Nothing. I didn't try to srynge feed her water because if she truly isn't having the reflex to swallow-- I don't want it to go down her esophagus.

So I'm extremely concerned. I really would like help this girl, but not sure what to do. i know that tube feeding is an option but wouldn't mind some feedback!

I don't know of a vet that works with hens. I'm not sure I could afford the vet bill if I did. Please help!
Tube feeding is pretty easy once you learn where to put the tube (into the back of the right side of the chicken’s throat, avoiding the large air hole (trachea in the middle.) You can get tubes from a vet or make one from aquarium air tubing, and get a 35 ml syringe. If you get a regular feeding tube or red rubber catheter, you will need a catheter tip syringe. A nurse or EMT friend might help, or you may look online. Read “Go team tube feeding” by Casportpony by Googling it, or look at some videos on YouTube.
Welcome to BYC - Sorry for you to join under hard circumstances... the same thing happened to me!

Here are the emergency post guidelines:

Can you provide a little more detail per those guidelines? These are unfortunately ambiguous symptoms (at least to me with my admittedly limited experience).

Also where roughly are you located? There are concerns with chickens acclimated to cold weather being treated in a warm environment - she may not be able to join the others until the outdoors are warmer... if they are currently cold where you are, that is.

I believe @aart has cautioned against hand feeding chickens for exactly the concern you state.

In emergencies we have used a small measuring spoon that fits under the tip of the beak: We use Nutri-Drench (poultry variety of course - found at any Tractor Supply Co) and just wet the end of her beak with the spoon and she naturally drinks down what gets in her beak. You can try Rooster Booster as well (I haven't met a chicken that didn't like it). Will she try to swallow with this approach?

A chicken that won't eat or drink is in a critical situation. I'd try to start with the electrolyte and then see if you can slip the Nutri-Drench in there - at least it has calories! I've found a couple chickens that dislike the taste of full strength nutri-drench (that's when it's used as an emergency food substitute)... you can dilute it to see if that makes it more appealing.

If you can entice her to eat soft food that would be a great start. A mash made of electrolyte and crumble is good. Cooled, cooked scrambled eggs can work. Canned sweet corn, while not very nutritious, is at least easy-to-eat (and tasty) calories.

I would advise against any medicinal treatment unless you are reasonably confident in what you think the ailment is. But I think I'm in the minority of BYCers in that regard. I think it's foolish and risky to start medicating an ill bird when you don't know what's wrong. But don't be surprised if people do suggest that.

You can ask your county extension office for a list of poultry vets in the area if you at least want to have that option open. Good luck!!
Thank you Thank you Thank you. I will look for the measuring spoon and nutri-dench. I am located in the SF Bay Area - Hayward, California. Temperatures are moderate but we did have a rain spell last week.

As you suggested, I got her to eat a blended soft mash (YAY!). I tried scrambled eggs and she wasn't having any of it. I'll give the corn a shot. How much food is too much though? At this point, she only seems to eat freely when I'm holding her (which is extremely unusual because she doesn't really like people).

So, It was a big victory that she ate on her own-ish. But I still have not figured out the injury side of things. Also, how she lost the weight to begin with. @Eggcessive mentioned Mareck's, and I'm not certain all of the symptoms-- but her eyes seem alright (vision and appearance).

Anyone have suggestions for checking her wings? I'm worried that if I start messing around with her she'll refuse to eat and the weight issue is my number one concern. Also-- I bought save-a-chick probiotic and electrolyte packets but have not used them because I'm not sure how I feel about them. Anyone have an opinion?

Thanks everyone for the suggestions. I'm glad I found this forum, and I've read the link and posted specifics that may help clarify things (maybe not, I'm not sure what I'm looking at here).

1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
Americauna, Less than one year, weighing 3lbs. Definitely lighter than the other Americauna that weighs in over 4.5lbs
2) What is the behavior, exactly.
Possible injury related symptoms: One wing appears to be drooping (but not as excessively as I've seen in many 'broken wing' pictures upon searching. She has difficulty balancing but that has improved since last night (when she wasn't able to right her self when on her side). I looked at her feet/legs and she appears to be able to retract one foot better than the other (seems like her toes are always extended on one foot). I have not seen her walk. She shifts, turns, stands, and lays down but never really moves more than a couple inches of where she was places. This could change with time-- but that's what's going on now.

Possible illness related behavior-- dropped significant weight (prior to getting trapped and injuring herself). I'm actually wondering if her weight loss/illness prevented her from adequately getting to her perch causing her to fall and get stuck. She stopped laying eggs (about 7 days ago). She does not move much but is able to turn around and stand. She does not run, or put up a fight when picked up but appears alert and vocalizes her irritation.
3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?

Injury -- 24 hours. Illness (she has probably been dropping weight for a week).
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?

No, we weighed everyone and checked in after this and everyone seems good.
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.

No bleeding, does not seem like any critters got to her. Worried about a broken wing, or dislocation.
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.

Injury -- She fell from the ladder leading to her coup/perch. She got caught between two rungs (yes, I am in the process of fixing this). When found, both wings were extended above the two ladder rungs, and her body was trapped between them. We have surmised that she could not have been in this position for longer than a half hour-- but that's a pretty long time for a trapped chicken.
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.

Originally no-- but after suggestions on this forum, I waited for her to adjust to her new space (indoors with a dog kennel and surrounding puppy pen). She ate a few dried meal worms but wouldn't go for any thing else. I picked her up to weigh her again, and tried to coax her into eating (without syringe). She ended up eating the blended laying pellet, electrolyte, veggie balls from my hand. Still not drinking water freely.
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.

Mostly runny. Small solid droppings.
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?

Currently, I'm trying to get her to eat. Because she was so traumatized, I have tried to handle her very little so I'm not certain how to diagnose her injuries. I've been giving her electrolytes-- but she's not really drinking so I'm not sure what good it's doing. I did mix it in with the food she ate however.
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?

Depends. I'd prefer to treat myself if possible. I don't know of an avian vet in my area.
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.

I will take and update later.
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use

Wood shavings, straw. Outdoor chicken coup.

Hi, @Cassowaryy and welcome to BYC!:frow
I live across the bay from you... in unincorporated Los Gatos. :)
I have had great success enticing a chicken who would otherwise not eat with live mealworms. Also, my sick hen would drink if I put the water in a plastic water bottle lid and held it up to her. Crazy, I know, but it worked. It might be worth a try. If you can't get her to take fluids soon, you may need to tube feed (not that I have done this myself yet!)
If you can get her to start eating a drinking again, I am wondering if she might benefit from some pain killer in case she is sore from the ladder incident. Somewhere on these forums is information on administering aspirin. One of my avian vets prescribed babu ibuprofen once, too (though I've read somewhere that's not good for chickens, I trusted the vet.)
Sorry not to be of more help. I hope your girl improves. I do think we eventually need to get the root of whether she dropped weight from being ill which caused her to be weak or lost balance or she dropped weight from pain due to injury. Good luck and please keep us posted.
@Cassowaryy Great information! And congratulations on getting her to eat! I have zero experience with Marek's, but the motor control problems and appetite issues could be a symptom of that. If she was laying regularly prior to a week ago I think it's likely you're right: that was when the illness set in and started her going downhill. Her weakened condition very well could have been the reason she was trapped.

Have you read this yet?:

Your instinct is right, eating and drinking are a priority! If she prefers to do it on you lap, that's great, you get to spend some quality time together :) She can't overeat at this point, so don't worry about that. The runny, small poops can be the result of lack of food. Parasite signs can often be found in feces, so definitely keep monitoring that.

Also if you try dried (or fresh insects) make sure to offer her grit a couple times a day when you feed her.

Save-a-chick I have no experience with, but Rooster Booster is vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, and probiotics (lactobacillus, but I can't remember if there are other bacteria). Our girls LOVE Rooster Booster and there's nothing in there that can hurt them, especially if they're needing food and water like your girl!

Since she weighs less than your other girls, have you weighed all of them or just a few?

I'd suggest continued quarantine and hand feeding for your sick girl. Careful observation for changes in any symptoms as you research possible illnesses...

Further I'd suggest you weigh each hen, record it, then monitor them closely for signs of disorientation, motor control issues, lack of laying and, most importantly weight loss. If the rest of the flock remains healthy while your other girl remains in quarantine - it's less likely that her condition is caused by a communicable illness. But until you've ruled out communicable illness (including parasites) maintain good quarantine hygiene: don't wear the same clothes/shoes around the flock that you wear when caring for the sick hen. Wash hands regularly when you transition into/out of quarantine.

Did you visits someone or someplace recently that also keeps chickens (or is frequented by other chicken people)? Or perhaps did you have visitors come see your chicken recently who also are in contact with other chickens? Shoes and clothes can be vectors for spreading illness. If you suspect this might have happened you can contact those others and ask if these symptoms make any sense to them.

I'm afraid that's all I can offer at this point. You're doing all the right things! Remain vigilant and know we're pulling for you both!! Chickens are tough! They have been known to recover from what seems dire. Good luck!! I'll keep watching this thread in case you have other questions.

Take care of both of yourselves! :hugs

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