Sick or cold-intolerant

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Jasonb61, Jan 23, 2016.

  1. Jasonb61

    Jasonb61 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 22, 2014
    I want to start off by saying I've done a lot of searching before posting but the answers I came across don't fit my situation.

    I live in Georgia and we've been having temperaturea in the 30s and lower 20s which isn't really that cold. All of my 30 chickens seem fine except for one young hen. I can't remember her hatch date but she is several months old and has been fully feathered for some time. She is a game breed but I'm not certain what kind exactly. With the past few days being colder than normal, she has been walking around with her feathers fluffed up and making little chirp/trilling noises and visibly shivering. She also can be seen closing her eyes for a minute or so and a little lathargic. She's even allowed me to pick her up and handle her. Actually, she is perched on my lap right now which is unusual because none of my game breeds like being handled regardless of how much I try.

    Anyway, I brought her inside last night for a moment and it seemed as if she was perfectly fine once she warmed up so I'm uncertain if she is sick of what? I plan to isolate her and put her on electrolytes to be safe but I was curious if anyone else may have some insight or a different opinion?
  2. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 23, 2015
    Yeah, research often comes up with a million wrong answers. [​IMG] I hope I can help.

    I have around 50 chickens of various breeds right now and currently days are around 10-20 F and nights 0-10 F, wind-chill making it below zero in some cases. My chickens walk stiffly, huddle up a lot, don't eat as much, don't lay as often, and try to stand where it is warmest. However, a chicken that closes its eyes or makes sounds may be more then just cold.
    We do have some Old English Game Bantams and Sebright Bantams which can stand up to the cold here, however, game breeds do naturally come from more tropical regions (in most cases) and so if your breed is not adapted to a cold climate she may not have the proper feathering to keep herself warm. Our birds will shiver sometimes when cold, and when being held (some birds will shiver when being held no matter the temperature). We set up a heat light for them in the room they sleep in, but they aren't really using it much right now, at least not standing directly under it.

    If she seems to be acting a little sick I would suggest bringing her inside and placing her in a crate for a few days. The reason I say this is because I had a hen acting a little sick like you described and when I brought her in it was too late and she died. Two others died of the same cause over the next couple weeks. I would isolate her, keep her warm and comfortable and clean and offer her plenty of vitamins, food, and water.

    I hope she's just cold. Sometimes its hard to tell if a chicken is just having a bad day or not. Best of luck!
  3. oldhenlikesdogs

    oldhenlikesdogs I Wanna Be A Cowboy Premium Member

    Jul 16, 2015
    central Wisconsin
    She does sound unwell, sudden drops in temperature can be stressful and brings out some problems that we might not have noticed. I have had cold chickens but they usually still move away from me, it's possible she could be slightly hypodermic, so warm her up and see how she is afterwards, getting some food and water into her will help.
  4. azygous

    azygous Flock Master

    Dec 11, 2009
    Colorado Rockies
    An important word of warning regarding warming a chicken. They can't tolerate wide fluctuations in temperature. If your hen is used to 30 degree temps, bringing her into a 70 degree environment is not advisable. Better to keep it within a narrow range of just twenty degrees, and then later, bring her into the 70 degree range after she has acclimated.

    You will be able to tell if your hen isn't tolerating the warmer temp well by the color of her comb and wattles and facial tissue. If it turns bright cherry red, she is heat stressed. She will also gape her beak and start to pant. If that happens, get her into a cooler room asap.

    It sounds like your hen may be merely uncomfortable, not sick. A sick hen usually won't vocalize at all, and she will hang out immobile with her tail held down low. You might consider providing a warming lamp out where the chickens usually hang out. That way, they can choose to warm themselves or not. Beware of a heat lamp in a confined area like a coop. It can raise the temp too much and cause the sort of problems I referenced in my first paragraph.
    1 person likes this.
  5. GitaBooks

    GitaBooks Overrun With Chickens

    Jun 23, 2015
    Very true what you are saying. Just thought I would add that our coop is so cold the heat light makes nearly no difference. [​IMG] I don't know how I survive going out there, let alone my chicks that are only a few weeks old (they have their mother and a heat light, but still.....)

    Cold chicks are very noisy, cold chickens tend not to be, but it depends entirely on the individual.

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