sick hen, not sure what to do :(

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


7 Years
May 16, 2012
Hey all,

First post, my wife and I just got hens six days ago. 6 about 1yr old, and 2 about 11 weeks old.

One hen has been sick ever since we got her. The other hens seem fine. We didn't notice it until after we got her home, but at the time blamed it on stress and figured she would be fine. Also, we are new at keeping hens so have no experience in identifying chicken problems. The hen in question is a rhode island red/white leghorn cross. I have browsed the forums, but still can't really figure out what to do.

She tends to mind her own business in the coop, and will just stand alone, not moving, with her feathers puffed out, and bobs her head up and down while closing her eyes (as if she is fighting the urge to fall asleep). She also has diarrhea. I haven't noticed any blood, the color seemed to be tan when we first got her, but I think it has changed to a more green color now. We checked her vent and she doesn't seem swollen and there is no discharge - it looks clean and normal. Her comb is red, haven't noticed any spots or discoloration, although it looks brighter today than it did when we first got her. It seemed to be red, but dull in color when we got her. She also has some feathers missing, mainly on the back of her neck, but they seem to be regrowing, it isn't just bare skin. Also, the people we bought them from said they fought off mites several months ago, but that they had gotten rid of them. I checked her for mites and couldn't find any.

One improvement I think I have noticed: They first day we let them outside, she just stayed in the doorway of the coop, but the next day (after a day of the Sulmet treatment) she seemed to follow the other hens around more and I saw her take a couple dust baths. But, when in the coop, she will continue standing alone and looking like she is about to fall asleep.

We started Sulmet treated (sulfamethazine) and followed the directions on the bottle. We have administered 2 treatments at 1 tbsp per gallon (to the hens main water source). Tonight will be the 3rd time to treat the water, reducing the dosage to 1tbsp per 1 gallon. We also sprinkled diatomaceous earth in the coop floor and added a bit to their food.

The people that sold us the hens said they would replace her, but we would rather save her if we can! It would also be nice to know what's going on in case another hen gets sick so we know what to treat her for.
Do you know what sulmet is used for? Sulmet treats 2 types of cocci, fowl cholera, coryza, and salmonella pullorum. If you suspect any of these diseases with the exception of cocci, I would cull the affected bird(s.)
You better check with the previous owner and find out if they've ever been wormed. DE doesnt prevent nor kill worms neither.
We got Sulmet because the bottle said it is an antibacterial and also treats cocci. Do the symptoms sound like worms? I called the previous owners and they said the were de-wormed, sprayed for mites, and when they were younger they had some kind of respiratory illness/cold which they were treated for and were fine afterwards.

After I wrote the original post, we followed her around and she is keeping up with the others, just not scratching as much. She is definitely looking for food, though, which I would think is a good sign. Her comb still seems dull compared to the others, but I think it is brighter than when we got her. Also, I found an egg outside, which I believe is hers, as it was in a nest/hole she made outside yesterday and was white (she is the only chicken we have with any kind of white egg-layer in her bloodline). The egg was small, but I don't think she has laid since we got her, so is it a good sign that she may be laying again?

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