Question about old hens....

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by krista74, Nov 22, 2014.

  1. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Hello, I'm seeking some advice please about aging hens.

    Up until recently I had a flock of 5 hens (3 x RIR and 2 x BO) and a BO Rooster, all 1 year old. I decided to add a couple more girls to my flock to boost egg production, so I sourced three more pure RIR's from a local hatchery. I was told when I ordered them that they only had 2 one year old pullets available, but that they could give me a third hen, who was two years old, and the last of their breeding stock - their hatchery had made a Management decision to move into Hylines instead of keeping/breeding RIR's. They gave me her for half price, primarily because she was 2 years old and also because she had lost a toe as a chick, which was fine by me.

    They have been with us for a few weeks now and have integrated well. They had no sign of any lice or mite infestations but I dusted and wormed them just the same. Their feathers are all great, they have good body condition and the two younger hens are laying almost every day now.

    The third hen is not laying at all. I have heard that it is hard to tell an old hen from a younger hen by looks alone, but when I opened the box that the older one was in I said to Hubby "Wow, she looks old!" Her comb and wattles are paler pink than the other girls and the skin around her face and eyes looks wrinkled with age.

    She is what I would call 'very fat' in comparison to my other girls - even her legs are twice as thick and she has fat ankles, lol. She spends an inordinate amount of time staring into my chick pen each day! She stands for ages and talks to the Momma Hen in the chick pen and stares at the chicks. She does free range, but is always the last one to meander out of the run and the first to return 'home' afterwards, preferring to only go out for 20 minutes or so and not going far from the run. The others would spend all day out if they could and go all over our 5 acre property! She has walked slowly from Day 1 and she is in no hurry to get anywhere. She won't even run for food. She does preen herself with the others, and socialises with the two birds she came here with, but is otherwise a bit of a loner. Even the rooster, who is 1 year old, shows absolutely no interest in her - and this is the rooster who has balded one of my hens from mounting so often (yes, she now wears a saddle!)

    She eats and drinks fine (better since I discovered the old flock were blocking access to the feeders and waterers for all of the new girls). She roosts with the other girls too but it takes a lot of effort for her to jump up the roosts, despite the fact that they are only 1 foot off the ground at the lower level - where she sleeps. It sometimes takes her a couple of attempts to get up there. Her eyes and nostrils are clear - she just looks very old and very wise. We even call her The Old Girl, or Old Momma Hen!

    The main thing that worries me is this strange noise she makes. All day, every day, she makes a low groaning sound. It's not a wheeze, and is not a respiratory/breathing sound. It just reminds me of an old man groaning from exhaustion. She is making the noise from her throat, and I can see her throat contracting as she makes the noise, much as if one of the other girls was bok-bok-boking. She does not speak in any other way that I have heard - no egg song (no eggs, lol!), no bok-bok-boking, no squawking. Just this low groan. She seems perfectly healthy (apart from being overweight which does worry me) but she just seems old and slow.

    I have never had an old chook before. I only started owning chooks in March of this year. So I don't know how an old hen is supposed to behave. Is this normal? Does this sound 'old' to you? I can deal with her not laying but I just want to look after her as best as I can - does she need anything different provided for her because of her age? I suspect my "2 year old" hen is much, much older than I was told, and that they gave her to me in the hopes that I would give her a good home - eggs or not. They were right, lol! Any advice would be welcomed.

    - Krista
     
  2. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Wow. Have you looked down her throat and in her mouth to see if you can detect anything abnormal? Does she have any gray feathers? WE have one hen who's almost nine years old. She has gray feathers around her head now. She doesn't go out much anymore, shes got arthritis, and limps, but she gets around ok. She does go out for a walk when the weather is nice, but she spends most of her time sitting on her perch in the barn. However, she's bright and alert. She eats and drinks well and is feisty. She's not particularly a slow mover, except for the limping. She doesn't have a comb, but her color overall is good. And I haven't noticed any wrinkles. She doesn't cackle or say bawk bawk either though, she sort of makes a little eerrrk noise when she wants to communicate anything. I think that's all she's ever said though. [​IMG] She went broody for a couple of days earlier this fall but it didn't last. It's hard to say as I imagine all breeds and even individuals exhibit their age in different ways, but if your hen were mine I'd give her a once over, look down her throat with a flashlight,(if you can without upsetting her too much) and feel around for any lumps or anything. If all seems normal and she's eating and drinking well as you say, I guess I wouldn't worry about it too much. Just keep an eye on her and let her enjoy herself as best she can..

    You could try giving your old hen a crushed up baby aspirin twice a day for a couple of days, mixed in a treat, like a chopped up grape, and see if that helps her get around any better. We do that for Onyx, our hen, when we feel like she could use it. It seems to help.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2014
  3. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    She is fairly new to me having only been here about 4 weeks, so she's not particularly trusting of me as yet. I could catch her easily enough as she is so slow moving and will often just stop and sit in the door way of the coop - probably to catch her breath, lol. I'm not sure if I'd be able to get her mouth open - I've never done it before and have no idea how one would do that. I take it that "Open up and say aaahhhhh" doesn't work!

    It's hard at the moment too, we are in Spring and it's over 100 degrees today. She, like the others, is having trouble coping in the heat. They have ice water and shade but that's the best we can do as there is no power down to our coop - we are remote and the coop is a fair way from the house. I lug water in buckets to them every day and in hot weather change it out a couple of times too.

    She has no white feathers yet and she dos not limp but she finds jumping difficult. I might try and get a picture of her this afternoon.

    - Krista
     
  4. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Well, looking down her throat isn't something you need to do right away, but it's pretty simple if you have two people, one to hold her, and the person holding just gently grasps the tip of upper and lower beak and gently pry open while person two looks down the opening with a flashlight. Probably shouldnt be trying to do that (catch her and look down her throat) anyway in the heat, as it will just stress her out and might make things worse.

    Anyway, try the aspirin, if you can, and see. It won't hurt her, and if you can, try to hand feed her the aspirin in a grape or piece of tomato or something, that way she'll get used to you, too. Even if others eat it it won't hurt them, in fact, aspirin is a good thing to use to help keep chickens cool in extreme heat. Or so I've read.
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2014
  5. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    OK, I've got a couple of pictures for you...!

    [​IMG]

    This first picture is a good one to show what I mean about how old she looks. It also shows how fat she is! Unlike all my other RIR girls who are sleek and svelte, this girl is a chunky monkey. She is the only one (other than my Buff Orps) who wears the XL sized saddle. All the other RIR's wear a Large size. Don't get me wrong, I love her to bits already but it can't be good for her. Oddly enough, whilst she does eat, she does not eat anywhere near as much as the other girls. Then again, she is not expending energy by laying either....


    [​IMG]

    This picture I chose so you could see a full body shot. She is definitely in good condition, and is VERY heavy. She is most certainly not wasting away under those feathers! You can also see how thick her legs are, and also the bad toe she got when she was a chick (refer to my first post.) When I went to get these pictures I threw some lettuce leave in the run to distract everyone. Everyone went for them but her. She just stood quietly by, observed the others, sniffed at a lettuce leaf (but did not taste it) and stayed under her tree.

    You will see she also wears a saddle. All the girls do. The others need it because George (my roo) is very big and heavy and has dragged out some of their back feathers accidentally whilst treading. This girl got an apron because I wanted to protect her (and the two other new girls) from hen pecking during integration with the flock.

    So, do you concur - an Old Girl? Ant thoughts or comments would be appreciated.

    - Krista
     
  6. ten chicks

    ten chicks Chillin' With My Peeps

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    As long as she has no swelling in abdomen area and she is eating/drinking and pooping normal,then just keep an eye on her. The heat may bother her more due to her size and this might be one reason she moves much slower than the other girls. Her age is difficult to judge,i have one hen who is only a year,she has never been a great layer and has not laid any eggs for months,but she is my much loved Juniper.
     
  7. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    To be honest I haven't checked her poop. Looks like another stint on Poop Patrol for me!

    I can see how those pictures might make it look as if she is somewhat swollen at the front. I think her crop and abdomen are ok though. Here is another picture which better shows her profile, and I think she looks fairly 'normal.'

    [​IMG]

    She is certainly similar in structure to our other girls, she is just plumper! I did have a girl who passed away a few months ago from a sour/impacted crop and she did look abnormally swollen out front. This girl doesn't look like she did.


    Really, aspirin? As in human aspirin? I am surprised it is safe for chickens. How much per bird should I give? A whole tablet? Half? Very interesting....

    - Krista
     
    Last edited: Nov 22, 2014
  8. krista74

    krista74 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Victoria, Australia.
    Brief update:-

    I managed to catch her - which wasn't hard because she stands still a lot of the time [​IMG]

    Her crop feels fine - swollen a bit but I think it's just the day's food. It is not full and watery like a balloon, like that of my girl who passed with sour crop.

    Body weight is...well....how do I put it delicately? She is NOT fading away, lol. She is by far my heaviest bird so whatever is wrong with her, she MUST be getting enough to eat!

    No weird bulges on the undercarriage which might lead me to assume internal laying.

    Nothing of interest to be seen or felt really.

    Poop a little loose but we are now at about 105F and she is drinking more water than usual, as they all are. I think loose stools are to be expected.

    She is out under the sprinkler, digging in the compost bin at present.

    She seems, for all intents and purposes, happy and healthy. Just old and slow at the same time.

    I'd be interested to hear of other people who have "old" chickens, and what they have noticed physically changing in them as they have aged.

    Thanks in advance!

    - Krista
     
  9. chicknmania

    chicknmania Overrun With Chickens Premium Member

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    Oh, that's good news! I hope she continues to do well, she sounds cute. Onyx is the oldest chicken we've had, except we did have a rooster who was ten and still going strong. He was a white leghorn and you could never tell he was that old. He didn't act or looke old at all. He was killed by a weasel, defending his flock. [​IMG] I remember a few years back someone on here had a hen who was 17. If I remember correctly, that person lived in Australia.
     
  10. A Lee

    A Lee Out Of The Brooder

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    Our old hen just died this past summer and was 14 years old. She laid two eggs in the last month of her life. She didn't have grey feathers but her legs looked pretty gnarly...
     

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