Sick chicken! Urgent, please help!


In the Brooder
8 Years
Dec 1, 2011
Three days ago I came home from work to find our 5 month old silkie/polish bantam slumped on the ground in our back yard. She is very unwell.

It started off with her head drooping forward and her keeping her wings slightly out from her sides and progressively got worse so that she now slumps down on her side with one of her wings out and her head droops right down onto the ground. She also loses her bowels when you pick her up to move her (quarantined her from our other chickens, who all seem to be doing fine). She can stand occasionally but seems to be completely out of energy. She stopped eating two days ago. She is very tender in the abdomen.

Her droppings are very watery, slightly yellowish with white streaks through them. When she was eating she also passed a couple of very green more solid looking poos.

Since she stopped eating her crop has shrunk so I don't think it's an impacted crop.

She hasn't laid for about a week even though she was laying every second day before getting sick.

Also, we have had some pigeons visiting the backyard recently, maybe they could have passed something on to her?

Finally, we had a 5 year old chicken put down about two weeks ago after about 2 weeks of ostracising herself from the flock. The vet said she had a large growth under her crop and was carrying a lot of fluid. The sick chicken does not have either of these symptoms.

We took her to the vet and we recieved a broad liquid anti-biotic which she is now on day 4 of taking. We wormed her (as it had been about 6 weeks since her last worming) and I noticed a few mites on her so I dusted her yesterday (along with all the other chickens and the coop).

I'm at a loss as to what more we can do and don't know if/what I should be syringe feeding her to keep her going etc.

Any help would be greatly appreciated and thank you so much in advance!

If she's holding her wings out a little, she may be having trouble breathing. Otherwise it could just be "wing droop" from being too weak to hold her wings tucked in. This doesn't really help narrow things down, but a bird that is having breathing troubles is in a tricky place. With her signs, her problem could be due to bacterial infection, fungal infection, trauma, eating something toxic or obstructive, or even due to a viral disease like Marek's. She could also be either egg-bound, or egg-yolk peritonitis. If her abdomen feels tight and swollen, I'd figure the latter. That condition is a real bear; sometimes they live, sometimes they don't, and they may never lay again.

Did she have X-rays? They would show it if she ate something nasty, like a nail or a screw (zinc poisoning from eating galvanized metal can also cause signs like these), and would also show if there were fluid in the abdomen (peritonitis).

The broad-spectrum antibiotic is a logical place to start, and in a situation like this falls into the "can't hurt, may help" category. I would recommend keeping her away from the rest, in a warm place, and offer her plenty of water and moderate amounts of whatever she'll eat. My birds when ill have variously wanted mush (regular feed with water so that it forms a peanut-butter-textured mush), hard-boiled egg, fresh greens, or scratch. Try to get her to take some variety in the food. For maximum nutrient value on minimum volume, hard-boiled egg yolk is excellent.

Sorry to not have something more concrete to offer. I will keep my fingers crossed for both of you!
Thank you so much for your help, even if it doesn't narrow it down too much. It's so good to have people to talk about it as I don't really have that out here in the real world where no one I know keeps chooks!

We didn't have Xrays sone so it could be something like that. She is very inquisitve ... curiosity may well kill the chicken!

Her abdomen doesn't feel too tight but I haven't really given her a good squeeze because she's obviously in a lot of discomfort when I pick her up as she poos as soon as her legs are off the ground. The poor little thing.

Even though she hasn't eaten in a couple of days she's not actually getting worse, or better, so I am just keeping my fingers crossed that something changes.

She liked some two minute noodle scraps I gave her yesterday, but won't go near her normal feed or bread anymore. Are there any foods I should be avoiding? Is it worth trying to get some yoghurt into her to help with her tummy?
I'm so sorry to hear about your sick chicken. I, too, have a sick (but recovering) I have some idea of how you feel.

I'm lucky enough to have an avian vet in my town, and I took my hen to him. He put her on anitbiotics, but he also taught me how to tubefeed her. He said that a chicken that isn't eating stands a MUCH better chance of fighting off illness (of whatever kind) if food and fluids are given. I put together a post on how to administer tubefeeds and subcutaneous fluids, and folks have been kind enough to add comments and tips. I'd suggest getting a crop tube from your vet and some baby bird hand feeding formula (recommended by someone on the forum) and try getting something substantial into your hen.

Good luck...
Did the vet run any kind of tests? Blood? Fecal for parasites and cocci? I think if this were my bird, I'd have treated her first off with a round of Corid to rule out coccidiosis and then gone on from
there. In fact if it were my bird I'd start it tomorrow, like as soon as you can possibly get your hands on some Corid. Just in case that's what this is, if it is you don't have much time.

Good luck, I hope you can figure her out.
She liked some two minute noodle scraps I gave her yesterday, but won't go near her normal feed or bread anymore. Are there any foods I should be avoiding? Is it worth trying to get some yoghurt into her to help with her tummy?
Foods to avoid: ugh, hard call. Apart from stuff like avocado, chocolate, alcohol, star fruit, raw rhubarb, and (I think) chard, which are toxic to any bird, I would also lean away from anything that is high in sugar. A little sugar is OK, but too much sugar can cause more problems.

I haven't tried yogurt with any of my birds when they're ill, but we've fed stuff like soured milk and freezer-burned vanilla ice cream to the main flock and had an enthusiastic response. I would say that yogurt shouldn't hurt. Stick with plain because flavored yogurt has a lot of sugar in it. Most yogurt these days has live cultures in it. I have also heard of people using products like kefir when they want to boost healthy gut bacteria in their chickens.

Many of the natural-approach folks on this forum speak favorably of adding some live-culture apple cider vinegar (with the "mother" in it) to the drinking water. It is supposed to encourage the growth of beneficial gut bacteria and inhibit the growth of troublemakers. I think it qualifies as another "can't hurt, may help" sort of thing, although you might check with your vet to see if the antibiotic is hampered by an acid environment. Or, for that matter, if the antibiotic is hampered by dairy! If either is the case, I'd just make sure to give the antibiotic about an hour before giving the food/drink that hampers it. An hour should be long enough for drug absorption to take place.

Be on the lookout for belching and a distended crop, possibly along with bad breath. Since she isn't eating much voluntarily, she may develop sour crop, which happens when digestion is slowed and food doesn't leave the crop in a timely manner. Fermentation results, and that can encourage overgrowth of some unpleasant bacteria and yeast, depending on conditions in the crop. It's not a dooming thing, but it sure does make it rough on the bird.

Many formulated diets for birds (including layer ration, chick starter, and parrot hand-feeding formula) ferment readily. This isn't necessarily bad if digestion is moving at its normal speed; it's only a problem if digestion is slowed down severely. Likewise, feed can ferment with either troublesome yeast species or beneficial ones. Live-culture apple cider vinegar is supposed to inhibit the troublesome yeasts...which is probably why it gets recommended as an additive to the drinking water when a bird is ill.

Definitely discuss tube-feeding with your vet--it may be helpful. Remember to go with small volumes, though, to give the food time to leave the crop between feedings.
Definitely discuss tube-feeding with your vet--it may be helpful. Remember to go with small volumes, though, to give the food time to leave the crop between feedings.
X2! I also have one that's very sick right now, and I am tube feeding her just fluids (lactated ringers solution) until I'm sure she's hydrated enough for more solid food. I've been giving her between 10-25cc's at a time and waiting until her crop clears before giving more.
Thank you all so much for your support and advice!

We had to put the poor little thing down yesterday. I had a long conversation with a family friend who is a large-animal vet and has kept chickens for almost 40 years and we both agreed that the symptoms were looking more and more like Marek's disease. When we took her to the vet to be humanely destroyed, the vet agreed that that Marek's is very likely. I am keeping my fingers crossed that it isn'tbecuase I don't think any of our chooks were vaccinated, being backyard bred.

I definitely found all the advice on tube feeding very useful and will be prepared for any cases where I need to use it in the future.

Thanks again,

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