Mystery Illness, can anyone suggest what my chicken died of?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Oct 13, 2013
We have had our flock of laying hens about a year and a half and have learned a lot in that time, but this is a new one...

Our flock is fairly large, almost a hundred birds, Two weeks ago I noticed a hen looking "off" first thing in the morning. (I'm getting a good eye for that now, after having lost a few birds to parasites and such). I isolated her right away, gave her electrolytes as she had watery stool (no blood, just watery and cloudy/white), and put out a few goodies for her to eat. She drank a LOT, pecked at a bit of scrambled egg, and devoured as much watermelon as we could give her, seeds and all. She was up and moving about, talking a bit, and generally quite responsive but continued to have diarrhea and minimal appetite.

She continued this way for a couple of days, and we thought she was going to improve. I wormed her (even though the entire flock had been wormed not two weeks ago, two treatments 8 days apart) and also treated for coccidiosis, kept her in CGH (Chicken General Hospital) for observation, kept her clean, dry and warm, etc. Unfortunately, she gradually worsened. I started giving her an antibiotic as well, but she began drinking less and less and sleeping more and more.

Funny thing is that when I tried to dropper liquid into her she would fight me. would have thought she would be so thirsty as she wasn't drinking much on her own and was obvious dehydrated. I made her all kinds of yummy chicken foods...yogurt with oats, scrambled egg, fresh berry mash, etc but she only pecked once or twice and didn't really want to eat after the first couple of days, and the 2nd week I don't think she ate anything. I even put molasses in her water to make it extra yummy and to try to get some calories into her and fortify her with vitamins, but she was no longer interested.

She became very thin after two weeks of this, and finally today she became non-responsive, almost like she slipped into a coma. I asked DH to send her to chicken heaven as it was obvious she wasn't going to get better and I didn't want her to suffer anymore.

I'm so puzzled by this and I can't find any information on what it might have been. Do chickens get anorexia? What has me really worried is I've noticed a watery stool in the coop the past couple of days, and this evening I saw another bird with the same droopy look that this one had. I couldn't get hold of her as she went to hide under a shed, but I'm afraid when I go in the coop tomorrow to let them out I'm going to have another sick bird on my hands.

Any suggestions as to what this might have been? And more importantly, what treatment to give?
There are many things it could have been, no way to know without having a necropsy done. With that many birds it would be wise to have one done, preferably by a state lab, so you know what's going on in your flock.

Have you checked them carefully for mites or lice? What did you use to deworm them with? Parasites would be the first thing I'd be looking for but it could be any one of a number of things.
I'm in Canada and unfortunately we don't have the support of extension offices or provincial (state) labs. Not sure if a vet would do a necropsy, as we don't have any avian vets in our area, and our farm vet is a 2 hour drive away. Might be worth asking though.

We did have a red mite infestation recently that we worked like mad to get under control, but we did win the battle on that one, finally! The birds really perked up after we got rid of them, combs got nice and red again, egg production increased, etc.

The sick chicken did not appear to have either lice or mites, but knowing how hard it can be to catch mite in particular in the act, I did give her a dose of Eprinex and spritzed her with tea tree oil solution around her vent and under her wings.

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