1. Come check out hundreds of awesome coop pages (and a few that need suggestions) in our 2018 Coop Rating Project!

Very sick hen 'chattering' and bobbing tail - with Videos

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by Hens_in_Melb, May 28, 2017.

  1. Hens_in_Melb

    Hens_in_Melb Hatching

    May 28, 2017
    Hi all-
    I have a very sick Isa Brown cross who, in the last 24 hours, has started this strange 'chattering' call while bobbing her tail and stretching out her neck. She's also very sleepy while doing this today (second video), although was not yesterday (first video).
    She is about 19 months old and has been sick on and off for 9 months and has not laid in that nine months either. Over the last two weeks she was looking and behaving at her healthiest within that 9 months, until 3 days ago when she's taken a sharp turn for the worse, and now this new symptom has appeared that I can't find any information on.
    Has anyone encountered this before / what is this a symptom of?

    1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.) Isa Brown, approx 19 months.
    2) What is the behavior, exactly. She is clearly sick: Lethargic, puffed up, comb has been floppy for past few weeks but she's also been going through her first moult, comb and wattles pale but not purple at this stage. She will eat oatmeal/mash and is pecking at grass, but lethargic. She has not laid in 9 months and has had various periods of illness throughout, however this new 'chattering' and tail-bobbing is a new symptom and she is looking at her most unwell to date.
    3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms? This 'chattering' and tail bobbing symptom only in the last two afternoons (not mornings, afternoons only).
    4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? No - they are all healthy and symptom free.
    5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma. No
    6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation. Nothing known - weather has been dry this week, all very 'normal'.
    7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all. Fed her the usual mash today, has not been very interested in grains past 3 days since appearing sick.
    8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. Runny but not green (has been when previously sick but not for several weeks).
    9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far? Mixed in some Aristopet oral antibiotic this morning in her mash/porridge, yesterday just garlic and spices in mash (fenugreek, mustard, aniseed, ginger), apple cider vinegar in water - all standard practice for my hens.
    10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet? Prefer to treat myself.
    11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help. Video's above.
    12) Describe the housing/bedding in use Coup and fully enclosed run, shavings for droppings and hay for egg boxes - cleaned daily or every second day.

    Many thanks for any help.

  2. BullChick

    BullChick Not who you think Premium Member

    Apr 17, 2012
    Coffee shop
    Internal laying is a possibility. Right now totally sounds like she's eggbound. Let her soak in a warm bath, and hope she makes it.
  3. Eggcessive

    Eggcessive Free Ranging Premium Member

    Apr 3, 2011
    southern Ohio
    She sounds like a reproductive disorder, such as internal laying which can also include egg yolk peritonitis, or salpingitis. There is a lot of information on BYC and online if you look and do some research. Hens with these problems either don't lay or lay odd eggs, lose weight, may not walk much preferring to sit, walk with an upright stance or waddle, have runny poops, and be weak. Some may have ascites or fluid collecting in the lower belly. Keep her near her food and water, give her some chopped egg and a good balanced feed, and some probiotics. They can get to a point of suffering when they should be mercifully put down.
    Wyorp Rock likes this.
  4. Hens_in_Melb

    Hens_in_Melb Hatching

    May 28, 2017
    Thanks so much Motorcycle Chick and Eggcessive.
    Do you think internal laying would still be possible if she hasn't laid for 9 months? I have researched internal laying and ascites a lot previously and just did a refresh... seems unlikely that she would start laying (even internally) after 9 months?
    However just now learning about the 'penguin' stance of internal layers, that may well match up somewhat with her 'tail bobbing' and chattering call. She is only doing that in the late afternoons which is also baffling me. Poor thing. It seems like it may be a pain response; something really uncomfortable happening inside... more to your last point Eggcessive about potentially putting her to sleep.
    Thanks again.
  5. rebrascora

    rebrascora Crowing

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK

    The fact that she has not laid an egg in the past nine months is the biggest indicator that she is laying internally. Instead of passing into the oviduct when an egg yolk is released from the ovary, it drops into the abdominal cavity. These egg yolks build up over time producing a heavy mass that starts to press on the other organs as well as making walking more difficult. I had a girl last 9 months after I noticed the abdominal swelling and it had clearly been going on for some time prior to that. Several of those months were autumn/winter time when she moulted and stopped ovulating and there was a noticeable improvement during that time. As soon as spring arrived and her comb got brighter, her belly started getting more distended and eventually she had to be euthanized.

    The chattering and bobbing may be an indication that her digestive tract is getting obstructed. A warm Epsom salt bath and abdominal massage may help her to pass whatever she needs and make her a bit more comfortable short term but I think you probably need to consider ending her suffering.

    I'm so sorry not to be able to offer you hope on this. It sounds like you have done really well to get her this far. The green runny poop is usually an indication that the digestive tract is shutting down, so to bring her back from that even once is good going let alone multiple times. Unfortunately the underlying problem is not going away.

    I wish you courage to deal with this difficult situation whatever you decide.


    Wyorp Rock and CTKen like this.
  6. Hens_in_Melb

    Hens_in_Melb Hatching

    May 28, 2017
    Hi Barbara,

    Thank you very much for your input and sharing your experience.
    What stands out to me is the timeline - my hen's condition seemed to be getting better than it had in a while as her moult/re growth was coming to an end, and her green runny poop had cleared up in to completely normal droppings for the first time in absolute weeks... and I wondered - if she's looking this much better, maybe there's a chance for her yet, maybe even to lay! And then so quickly she got really ill again just as most of her feathers had regrown - this may have coincided with her ovulation starting again perhaps? Although it is only the end of Autumn here, not even in to Winter yet.
    Her abdomen does not seem swollen which is baffling me, but perhaps I'm not familiar enough with what it should feel like when normal, and she does not like to be handled and gets quite distressed.
    Are you able to describe what a normal abdomen feels like in comparison to the abdomen of an internal layer? And where to feel - is just in front of her legs, or just behind, to feel for internal laying?

    I also found a lash egg in the laying box at the end of summer, but can't be sure which of my four girls produced that.

    Thanks again for your insights.
  7. rebrascora

    rebrascora Crowing

    Feb 14, 2014
    Consett Co.Durham. UK
    The swelling will be between the legs. If you compare her to a healthy hen, it will be obvious if that is the problem. They are also noticeably heavy when you pick them up, compared to a hen of the same breed. As the swelling increases, the pelvis often gets pushed apart and they adopt a wide, more upright stance and gait. The easiest way to examine and compare them is when they are roosting at night. They are much calmer then and no chasing around required trying to catch them.

    If she was responsible for the lash egg, then it may be a persistent and recurring infection in the oviduct, rather than internal laying, but it is extremely unusual for a hen not to lay for 9 months, which is why it suggests internal laying.

    I wonder if analysis of a faecal sample might shed light on the problem if it isn't internal laying. It shouldn't be too expensive and most vets and some independent labs will do them via the postal system. Feed stores sometimes have sampling kits that you can buy and send it off in the same way as horse egg worm counts are done. That said, I'm obviously not familiar with what services are available in Australia.

  8. Hens_in_Melb

    Hens_in_Melb Hatching

    May 28, 2017
    Thanks again for your help Barbara.

    Just closing this one out for anyone who reads in future:
    - The 'chattering' behaviour stopped one day after this post.
    - The hen seemed to mildy pick up for a couple of days, continued to eat some spiced mash and definitely enjoyed any treats (brown rice, brown rice with a small amount of tuna, probiotic natural yoghurt etc.), was drinking plenty, however was still puffing up feathers and lethargic. We spent a lot of time together through these days (outside) as she was not keeping up as well with the flock during the afternoons when fatigued, and she seemed to relax with company and have a little chat to me now and again.
    - On the fourth day she would not take food in the morning and after bringing out some mash, took just a small amount. She was sleepier and didn't keep up with the flock well when free ranging, rather would stop and sleep regularly, however always standing. In the afternoon I gave her a warm bath and blow dry, both of which she seemed to enjoy and relax into very much.
    - On the fifth day, she was still in the coop when I came out for the morning feed. She stumbled out of the coop after hearing me but just stood in the bottom of the coop. I approached her and after trying to offer her food unsuccessfully, I just sat and kept her company to observe. After a few minutes she sat down and went to sleep within a couple of minutes. She stayed there the whole day sleeping, did not eat or drink. When the sun set and the cold set in I brought her inside for warmth (still sleeping/sleepy), wrapped in the towel I had placed over her outside for warmth. About an hour later from the next room I heard a strong flapping noise for three/four seconds, came into the room and she had passed away - I assume the flapping was a heart attack or seizure at the moment of death?

    Both while bathing her and before burying her I checked her over as thoroughly as able -- there was no swelling in the abdomen at either point, no swelling near or around the vent, no bound egg to be felt, and no issue with the crop. However, when she had died I did notice her breastbone was quite prominent. She was still regrowing some feathers from her moult. Cause of death still remains a mystery to me, at this point I'm thinking perhaps tumours or something long-term internal with less visible outer symptoms.

    Remain curious for anyone's additional expertise or read of the situation.
    Many thanks again for all the input.

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by