Lethargic Hen- Reoccurring Illness Monthly? What's Wrong?

Nbugaj

In the Brooder
Sep 7, 2018
26
13
46
Hi All,

I have a Giant Brahama pullet who is full grown and recently laying that has had repeated instances of intermittent lethargy the last few months. She gets lethargic, huddles in a corner and sleeps all day, slow to respond, isolates herself... I put her in a "hospital crate" separate from rest of flock, feed probiotics, watch stool and for other symptoms. The first time a combo of tube feeding, antibiotics (tylan), worming (safegaurd), and corid in water finally kicked her back to normal. Then about a month later... lethargic again, back into the hospital. No other symptoms besides lethargy and reduced drinking/eating makes it hard to figure out what's going on. Second time she 'kicked it' with some probiotics, scrambled eggs, and rest for a few days. Also, dusted whole flock for mites that time around. Here we are...third time, about a month later again, and she's back to being lethargic, no other clear symptoms. My three other hens are fine, no issues and haven't been ill in between. What the heck is going on with her? I can't figure it out. Any ideas on treatment or if she has some kind of underlying disease that's flaring up I haven't actually treated yet? I'm not finding anything in the forums that matches this ongoing cycle of healthy/sick/healthy/sick... her only symptom is the lethargy. Any and all advice is welcome. I just want this little lady to be healthy for an extended period of time. Crating her and watching her hunched over and sad every month only to recover and then do it again is sad. Thank you for your help!
 

Nbugaj

In the Brooder
Sep 7, 2018
26
13
46
Where are you located? What do her droppings look like? How is her crop feeling—empty, full, hard, doughy or puffy? Have you seen mites or lice? Is she laying eggs often?
Where are you located? What do her droppings look like? How is her crop feeling—empty, full, hard, doughy or puffy? Have you seen mites or lice? Is she laying eggs often?
We are in Austin TX. Nothing off about her droppings. Crop was normal this morning and empty. Have not seen any mites or lice. Egg laying has not been consistent for her I think because her illness prior to laying has affected her laying consistency, but nothing has changed there.
 

coach723

Free Ranging
Feb 12, 2015
5,837
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561
North Florida
How old is she? What illness did she have prior to laying that might be affecting her laying?
If she is having trouble laying eggs on occasion that could be a reason for the on again/off again symptoms. If she has soft shelled, no shelled or large eggs, those can be difficult to pass and make them feel terrible. Once she passed it she would feel better. Could be a reproductive issue.
 

Wyorp Rock

Blessed
Premium Feather Member
Sep 20, 2015
33,438
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Southern N.C. Mountains
Egg laying has not been consistent for her I think because her illness prior to laying has affected her laying consistency, but nothing has changed there.
ongoing cycle of healthy/sick/healthy/sick... her only symptom is the lethargy
It would be good to know how old she is.
Photos of her and her poop?

I'm also wondering what illness she had prior to coming into lay.

An ongoing cycle like you describe along with her not being consistent with laying - I too would consider a reproductive disorder.
Any bloat or fluid in the abdomen when she's not feeling well?
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
Apr 3, 2011
56,514
47,283
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southern Ohio
Whenever I have had a hen who was not a consistent layer, or who laid eggs with abnormal shells, they have died rather young with reproductive disorders. That is the most common cause of death in hens. My hens had a respiratory virus, infectious bronchitis early in their laying years, and that caused a lot of problems with wrinkled shells, soft shells or weak spots. Several died at 2, 3, and 4 years of reproductive disorders. When I started doing necropsies on my hens who died, I found a lot of internal laying of lash material (salpingitis,) ascites (water belly,) some cancer, and several crop disorders due to pressure from reproductive issues. I lost a couple around 1 or 2 years, and did not do a necropsy. Most state vetz will do thorough necropsies (autopsies) and will vary in cost, but it is a great way to find a cause of death. Without lab work (fecal float for worms or coccidiosis,) xrays, or testing for a respiratory disease if they have symptoms, while they are alive, it is hard to know an exact cause.
 

Nbugaj

In the Brooder
Sep 7, 2018
26
13
46
How old is she? What illness did she have prior to laying that might be affecting her laying?
If she is having trouble laying eggs on occasion that could be a reason for the on again/off again symptoms. If she has soft shelled, no shelled or large eggs, those can be difficult to pass and make them feel terrible. Once she passed it she would feel better. Could be a reproductive issue.
She is probably about 10+ months now. I got her as a pullet and they didn’t know her exact age. Started laying with the other around late august/early September.

I’m not quite sure what she had before, but when she was introduced to my flock along with another pullet she got ill. It was respiratory she was wheezy/gurgling and a mix of a bunch of treatments did the trick. She recovered with Tylan and a worming of safeguard and copper sulphate in her drinking water that time. I also used a humidifier and ozone. The copper sulphate is what finally kicked her over the end to recovery I think? A few years ago I had a chicken come in to the flock who gave the entire flock some kind of underlying respiratory disease and when I’ve introduced new flock members over the years some of them have become ill and then recovered. Others have shown no symptoms. The other pullet I just brought in this summer same time has never been ill or had any problems. Not sure if it’s related. She has no respiratory symptoms this time around. She was really ill for a couple weeks and I wasn’t sure if she was going to make it. Tube fed her, tylan, safeguard. She turned up and then went back down. Added copper sulphate in her water, humidifier with oxine and she finally pulled through. I’m not sure which of those treatments did it of it was the combo or exactly what was wrong. Again her symptoms were mostly lethargy and lack of appetite. Just thinking she may have a general “failure to thrive”. I will watch for the egg laying, though last time she was ill she stopped laying. If it is a reproductive issue and she is randomly having issues passing an egg (also last time this happened I checked if she was egg bound and she wasn’t)...what do you think it may be and any recommendations for treatment or how to minimize her pain in the future? Thank you!
 
Last edited:

Nbugaj

In the Brooder
Sep 7, 2018
26
13
46
Whenever I have had a hen who was not a consistent layer, or who laid eggs with abnormal shells, they have died rather young with reproductive disorders. That is the most common cause of death in hens. My hens had a respiratory virus, infectious bronchitis early in their laying years, and that caused a lot of problems with wrinkled shells, soft shells or weak spots. Several died at 2, 3, and 4 years of reproductive disorders. When I started doing necropsies on my hens who died, I found a lot of internal laying of lash material (salpingitis,) ascites (water belly,) some cancer, and several crop disorders due to pressure from reproductive issues. I lost a couple around 1 or 2 years, and did not do a necropsy. Most state vetz will do thorough necropsies (autopsies) and will vary in cost, but it is a great way to find a cause of death. Without lab work (fecal float for worms or coccidiosis,) xrays, or testing for a respiratory disease if they have symptoms, while they are alive, it is hard to know an exact cause.
I appreciate that. Yes I’ve lost a few hens relatively young over the years and I wonder if there is an underlying illness affecting them. It hasn’t been all of my flock, but some. I haven’t sent any of my birds in for necropsies before, but I have heard of it. Maybe I will do that next time and see what I hear back. Thank you for your insight!
 

SurferchickinSB

Crowing
Feb 23, 2018
2,555
3,946
442
California
Hi All,

I have a Giant Brahama pullet who is full grown and recently laying that has had repeated instances of intermittent lethargy the last few months. She gets lethargic, huddles in a corner and sleeps all day, slow to respond, isolates herself... I put her in a "hospital crate" separate from rest of flock, feed probiotics, watch stool and for other symptoms. The first time a combo of tube feeding, antibiotics (tylan), worming (safegaurd), and corid in water finally kicked her back to normal. Then about a month later... lethargic again, back into the hospital. No other symptoms besides lethargy and reduced drinking/eating makes it hard to figure out what's going on. Second time she 'kicked it' with some probiotics, scrambled eggs, and rest for a few days. Also, dusted whole flock for mites that time around. Here we are...third time, about a month later again, and she's back to being lethargic, no other clear symptoms. My three other hens are fine, no issues and haven't been ill in between. What the heck is going on with her? I can't figure it out. Any ideas on treatment or if she has some kind of underlying disease that's flaring up I haven't actually treated yet? I'm not finding anything in the forums that matches this ongoing cycle of healthy/sick/healthy/sick... her only symptom is the lethargy. Any and all advice is welcome. I just want this little lady to be healthy for an extended period of time. Crating her and watching her hunched over and sad every month only to recover and then do it again is sad. Thank you for your help!
Sounds like she could possibly be having internal laying issues. Do you give her oyster shell?
 

Eggcessive

Enabler
Premium Feather Member
Apr 3, 2011
56,514
47,283
1,202
southern Ohio
You said that adding a chicken brought in a respiratory disease. MG is a common one, and the bacteria from it can affect many areas of the body, including the reproductive organs, in the synoviae form which affects the joints, and the respiratory system and air sacs which cNspread anything to all organs of the body.
 

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