Is 3 years old or not?


13 Years
Oct 6, 2010
Bay Area, CA
I have a 3 year old Buff Orpington who is not herself. She is molting and this is her third time molting. While you can barely tell she's molting by looking at her, she's always had a rough go of it and been moody and keeps to herself in a safe corner while she molts.

But my gut tells me something else is wrong. She's staying on the roost after the other 5 hens go out to forage. I lifted her down yesterday and she rested back on her haunches and almost sat upright. I gently pet her for a bit and after several minutes, got up and walked normal and went to the feeder to eat.

Today, same thing, still on the roost an hour after the sun was up. I put her out in the run and this time she just walked normal and went to go eat. But more slow that normal.

I'll run a dropping to the vet to test for parasites and salmonella later today but my gut tells me that something is internally wrong. She's not laying so I don't believe it's an internal egg. Her poops are normal looking and she's got an appetite.

This bird has ALWAY been very timid and is terrified of the other birds even though no one picks on her. One hen did a long while back but I got rid of that bird two years ago. But I think she remembers.

Anyway, I'm just wondering what others thing might be up and if 3 years is old. I think it's middle aged and that she could have cancer or something internally wrong. I won't go through major hoops to save a bird. But I would do a round of wormer or antibiotics if that seemed in order.
Get her off the roost one evening and give her a good checking over. See if she feels like she's lost weight, is her keel bone prominent? Feel her lower body, see if she feels swollen in her lower abdomen, like from between the legs on back. Check a couple of birds so you know what a normal belly feels like. Also check for mites while your at it.

Three years isn't old but it's common for hens this age to start having egg laying/reproductive tract issues, like internal laying as well as cancers/tumors etc. Hopefully your hen is just going through a cranky molt.
Molting can be hard on birds, especially older ones. My birds don't act themselves when they molt, so your bird might just be acting strange because of her molting. However, as you said, I think that something more is wrong than just molting.

Check for mites and lice, and think about worming. Worms could cause her to be weaker, and you might also notice other symptoms like lethargy, weight loss, and a prominent keel bone. In case you decided to worm, I'd recommend either Safeguard (for goats) or Valbazen, as these are two good, broad-spectrum dewormers.

Older birds are more prone to diseases. As Cafarmgirl said, egg-laying disorders are especially common. Ascites or internal egg laying are two possiblities. Lymphoid Leukosis is another disease that affects older birds. It causes lethargy, greenish droppings, lack of appetite, drop in egg laying, and death.

In the meantime, give her some electrolytes and vitamins to help boost her energy. Some moistened cat food, moistened chicken feed, scrambled egg, and applesauce and yogurt would be good ideas as well.
Thanks. She's easy to pick up so I've checked her for mites. She's clean. I've felt her up and I don't feel anything swollen or out of the ordinary. She starts molting in June so she's almost done. She won't start laying again till March. Anywhere else, this bird would have been Sunday dinner a long time ago. But I just have the 6 hens for eggs and we get plenty w/out her so I don't care.

She does lose weight when she molts. But she's been stable for 3 months now at 4.5 lbs. So no weight loss. Her droppings look normal.

But it's the way she's acting that is just not right. And maybe since I only have the 6 and I'm always out gardening and spending time w/ them that I've picked up on some signals that others might miss until a hen is further along.

I will take a dropping sample to the vet and have it checked for worms and salmonella. I might even spring for an xray just to get a visual into what's going on. Cuz something is just not right.

But really appreciate the advice. Tells me I'm on the right track in my thoughts.
The vet took one look at her dropping and said there's no way she has worms or salmonella. She suggested an xray and it clearly shows a mass inside of her. She was able to confirm that there is no blockage in her digestive tract. So the next step is blood work. Could be an enlarged liver or could be a tumor. Either way, the prognosis doesn't look good for my sweet little hen.

She's back home with her buddies and we'll keep her comfortable for now.

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