Pale, Very Tired/Lethargic Chicken

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Chewbagawk, Dec 25, 2018.

  1. Chewbagawk

    Chewbagawk Chirping

    UPDATE: My hen has since passed. Feel free to post what you think it could have been, and any steps you think I should take for my other two hens (who aren't currently exhibiting any symptoms). This is the third member of my original flock (which I'll now probably add to; yay?) that's died in 3.5 years, and the second to die in my arms. My sympathies to anyone else that has gone or will go through the same experience; I'll never get used to it. Merry Christmas.

    I'm more focused on caring for the chicken in my lap than writing anything other than what comes off the top of my head, so I might sound cold or say something in a way I didn't mean to. Try to bear with me haha.

    I have a 3.5 year old SL Wyandotte Hen. She's always been small, and last year she had a very rough molt and she didn't fully grow in her feathers this year. I just want to know if you can relate this to any specific condition and if there's anything I can do.

    With my prior experience with chicken illnesses, I'm pretty sure that her chances of survival are pretty low. As I write this, she is on my lap asleep.

    Here's the problem, long version:

    A couple days ago, I noticed that Anna Molly (the hen) was pretty pale, scraggly looking, and she was hanging out in the nesting box in the coop. Here's why I didn't immediately do anything: it's molting season, she was already scraggly looking, and she's subject to bullying (I have two other hens) so she hides out all of the time. I put her outside, threw out some scratch and a little color came back and she seemed fine.

    Today (Christmas, what a great day for this to happen!), she was in the nesting box again, and I picked her up (which I usually can't do during the day). She's very thin and light. Bony, unhealthy. Again, she's always been real small, and I've been very sick the last two weeks and only gone out to feed/water my three chickens without really watching them, so without picking her up recently, I didn't notice. She's still white pale, but her comb has gotten some color back since I've been handling her. She's also asleep, very lethargic (this is the main problem). She's not supporting herself, but if I put my finger in her talons she wraps around them. Her eyes are closed 99% of the time.

    Immediately I went inside and put on some warm water for a bath/soak in case she was egg bound. I had this problem with a RIR earlier this year, and while the bath was soothing, her problem was caused by cancer so she didn't make it. I collected some food and made a paste that I could syringe down Anna Molly's throat (did this with my last chicken).

    The 15 minute warm soak didn't do much besides get her bottom-half wet. She kinda reacted to the water, but immediately resumed her sleepiness. I was able to get a little food and water in her, and while her eyes don't open she did swallow it. I only did this because her crop was empty besides a little grit. I only put in enough to where I didn't think she would suffocate but still get a little energy. I might consider some yogurt later if she gets more energized; good idea?

    She is asleep for most of the time, but she has instances where she gets very alert and she'll look around or go to preen her feathers (the bath messed them up too much for her liking apparently), but she'll fall asleep mid-action suddenly. Like, she'll turn her head and grab a feather and fall asleep, limp, right there.

    In summary:
    -She's skinny, she's pale, she's scraggly (70% of her feathers are around, maybe), and she isn't awake for more than a few seconds at a time.

    -She seems to keep her head back a lot. As if she's looking straight up, neck fully exposed.

    -She swallows, she grabs on to my finger, and she still feels like preening.

    -She isn't wheezing, her vent isn't covered in poop, she doesn't have any obvious signs of trauma, and I don't see any mites.

    -I don't see any weird poop in the coop/run, and I don't know if she even has pooped recently. I'll look more in a bit.

    -Her bouts of consciousness are getting more frequent, and she might be reacting more to me touching her, which is better than a couple hours ago I think.

    Does anyone have any experience with anything like this? I'm pretty sure it's not sour crop or anything respiratory.

    Could this be starvation? Again, haven't been able to keep a close eye on them, there's a small chance she's been bullied away from the food without me watching. If so, can I bring her back from the brink of starvation?

    Is there anything else I can do to make her better until I can take her to the vet tomorrow? No one is open on Christmas.

    4:15 PM - Once when she woke up, she put her head back so far that a little water leaked out of her mouth. IDK if anyone has ever given a chicken medicine orally, but her waking up resembles the struggle that they put up when you try to give it to them. The "leakage" is just gravity doing its job.

    4:30 PM - I'm now more sure that her bouts of consciousness are more frequent. She reacts to just about every time I massage her chest or pet her head; compared to her not reacting at all to sinking in the water if I let her go during her bath. Still no full-fledged "consciousness," eyes aren't opening, she settles down seconds after she moves.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2018
  2. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    Do you have any antibiotics on hand? Penicillin? Amoxicillin? Anything left over from someone in the household taking for an illness?

    I have treated sick hens with the same symptoms you describe. I tentatively diagnosed them with Clostridium perfringens. The were falling asleep in mid stride coming up the ramp and through the coop entrance. No appetite at all. I treated with amoxicillin and they started to get better after the first few hours. I continued for ten days, and they all recovered fully. I figured they had dug down deep in the compost pile and found some moldy squash, probably contaminated by anaerobic bacteria.

    You can tube feed if this hen refuses to eat. I got a syringe and tube at my vet's for $3 for the set. I used strained baby food mixed with yogurt and tubed it right into the crop. If you already understand where the esophagus is, it's easy to slip the tube into that opening on the right side of the throat and directly into the crop. I warm the food to body temp so it's easier on the patient. You can get water into her that way, too, also the medication.
    Chewbagawk likes this.
  3. Chewbagawk

    Chewbagawk Chirping

    Thank you for your reply. About 15 minutes ago Anna Molly died in my arms. I think I do have some antibiotics left over from when I was trying to care for my hen Rosie, but I don't know if it would have resulted in a different outcome. I thought of giving Anna Molly some, but I was afraid to put anything in her without knowing what was up; sour crop, cancer, etc. I was afraid I'd make it worse. I'll be guessing myself to death for a while now; maybe I could have drug myself outside for longer while I was sick and maybe I'd have seen something unusual sooner.

    I'll now be keeping a close watch on the other hens (who seem perfectly fine; fat and happy), and deworming them. Probably give them yogurt, AC vinegar, and the like for good measure; but I'm pretty sure it was isolated to Anna Molly. At least I'll actually be able to go to the vet if anything goes wrong.

    She was a really good girl; preened her feathers more than any other chicken, right til the end. I'm not feeling very well, now.
    Last edited: Dec 25, 2018
  4. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Crossing the Road

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    Sorry for your loss. It could have been an intestinal infection or even something like Mareks—hard to know for sure. You can refrigerate the body and send it in for a necropsy by your state vet to get a diagnosis. Here are some contact numbers and how to send:
    Wyorp Rock, Chewbagawk and DobieLover like this.
  5. Matzwd

    Matzwd Chirping

    Apr 9, 2018
    St Louis, Missouri
    So sorry.
    Chewbagawk likes this.
  6. Mrs. K

    Mrs. K Crowing

    Nov 12, 2009
    western South Dakota
    I think that she was an elderly bird, went into decline and died. I do not think that you could do anything to stop it. I would not worry yourself about this, it was beyond your control.

    Giving medicine without knowing what you are doing as to dosages, or the bacteria you might be fighting, is just guess work. I do not think it would have helped this bird.

    It is not uncommon for layers to die around this age. Especially birds that you may have bought in a feed store or from a hatchery. Those birds do not tend to be long lived birds.

    Don't beat yourself up for what is beyond your control. If you give them good food, water and shelter, the living is up to them.

    Mrs K
    Chewbagawk likes this.
  7. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    I'm sorry and sad that our little patient died. If it was C. perfringens as I suspected, it moves into the gut and destroys tissue very quickly. The only way I was able to save subsequent hens with these symptoms was being able to recognize the symptoms after one hen died and getting the next one with these symptoms at the very start of the illness. It killed the first hen in less than 24 hours after onset of symptoms.

    You mentioned a previous hen had died from cancer tumors. Tumors in chickens are caused by avian viruses. This hen could have had the same thing. A necropsy as mentioned by @Eggcessive is the best way to find out the nature of the virus since all your flock are likely carrying it.
    Wyorp Rock, Chewbagawk and Eggcessive like this.
  8. Chewbagawk

    Chewbagawk Chirping

    The first hen to die (months ago) was sent in for a necropsy, and they didn't detect anything besides the tumors. Rosie was a hatchery quality Rhode Island Red, and cancer is pretty common among them. This girl, Anna Molly, a Silver Laced Wyandotte, came from a different feed store but I have a feeling that she was "weak stock" as well. Her brother was the first to go a couple years ago, and there was no detectable reason for it. He just up and died one day. She's always been smaller, submissive, and molts beat her up more than others. Really, whatever happened to her (unless the weight loss, molt, etc. was unrelated) has been happening for weeks and it's my fault for not catching it and trying to deal with it sooner. The timing of her illness really couldn't have been worse.

    While I'll be monitoring my two remaining hens (that'll be weird, only 2/5 left), I'm going to chalk it up to feed store chickens and cruddy health unless anything changes. The necropsy for Rosie cost a few hundred dollars only to find out it wasn't anything avoidable (no Marek's, respiratory disease, etc.), and I can't afford an expense like that right now. I'll ask the vet tomorrow what they think.
    azygous likes this.

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