Lethargic Chicken


6 Years
Sep 16, 2013
I have an Americana hen who is just over a year old. She is generally very active and loves to eat. We recently had really hot weather- over 100 degrees. She had plenty of shade and water but started acting lethargic about 1 week ago. She was standing in the middle of the snacks just sleeping. She then was laying down in odd spots in the yard barely moving. I took her into my garage with a fan to see if she just got overheated and kept her there for a few days. Now it appears one eye stays open and the other one opens and shuts. At first I thought she had an impacted crop so I was feeding her oil in her water and massaging her several times a day. Now she just appears to barely eat at all and drink occasionally. She is still jumping over my fence (neighbors allow her to visit) and still roosting on top of my shed. She started out being lethargic and then making a weird motion with her neck and opening her beak like she is choking. She is still doing this on occasion but last I felt her crop it was empty. I don't know what to do for her- is this a neurological issue? She doesn't have any crust or congestion around her eyes or beak. She is no longer laying eggs and doesn't appear that she needs to- (stuck egg) because she isn't going into the nest to lay.
100 degrees is considered lethal to a chicken. When they are too hoe they will pant with their mouth open and hold their wings slightly away from their body to let air get under their wings. If she were mine I would dunk her in a bucket of water and slosh her around a bit to get the water down to the skin. Of course, shade and breeze are necessities; I run a fan all summer in my coop. You can freeze milk jugs and leave them near her, leave a shallow pan of water for her to stand in. set up a mister, wet the soil down to dool it, wet the coop down, or other measures.
Thank you for your reply. Unfortunately, the weather has cooled down and she has been eating a little and drinking. But she still is lethargic and the one eye still opens and closes while the other one is wide open. I was reading something while I was researching the impacted crop issues about neurological issues with chickens and can't seem to come upon it again. She hasn't laid any eggs in over a week and has been acting lethargic all this time. The past few days have been breezy and cooler with some rain- temps in the 70s so I know she isn't overheated anymore if that were her issue. She just keeps doing the weird beak opening like she is choking and then also being sleepy with the one eye acting strange. Has anyone else had this? Do I give her antibiotics just in case even though no symptoms of illness other than lethargic and not eating much? Her poop was runny on the hot days but I heard that is good since that helps cool their insides. Then she was pooping normally. I haven't been able to watch her poop the past few days due to work and getting home after she retires for the night. I really am desperate to know what to do with her. I'm new to the chicken community- I've had them since April. All have been healthy and normal until Ruthie lately. I appreciate anyone's advice. I surely don't want her to suffer and I don't want to humanely euthanize her if she can be cured!
It is true that some diarrhea is normal in very hot weather. It happens because they drink extra amounts of water to cool down.

I wonder if she has a form of Marek's; just a guess. It is very dommon and can manifest in several different ways, but is basically a neurologicsal virus. There is a vaccine but it is not 100% effective. It is by no means always fatal. Some people have had good results treating it with vitamins. You could try two or three drops of infant vitamin drops without iron on the side of her beak every day. You can buy them in the drug store or feed store. A common brand is PolyViSol. It may not help, but at least it won't hurt.

Here is an overview of Marks's, but a Google search or a search here will also yield lots of information.


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