Why are my chickens getting sick and dying?

Feathered Landings

10 Years
Mar 27, 2009
Eatonville, WA
I have been gone on vacation for 8 days, my neighbor who was watching my chickens said 1 died. When I got home today I noticed they ALL seem sick and I found another hen dead and 1 almost dead (I don't think she's gonna make it throught the night) I am extremely upset and need to find out fast what's going on with my chickens. Here's what I know as I just got home and am trying to still figure it all out myself...

1) What type of bird , age and weight - black austro/rir hen 6 months-died, RIR hen 3 1/2 years -died, millie fleur 6 months very sick and prob will die also

2) What is the behavior, exactly. - Again I just got home but the reast of my chickens are sneezing, watery around their beaks, heavy breathing with a watery sound coming from inside....wheezing is a good description. The one that looks like it's going to die is very puffed up almost like when they're cold and her one eye is swollen shut and the other seems puffy. The best way to describe this is it's as if they have pneumonia or a very bad respritory cold.

3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms? 1 week, they were fine before I left but I did notice one sneezing about 1 1/2 weeks ago but I thought she had just put her beak too far in the water.

4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms? Yes, almost all of them from what I can tell

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. - It's been very hot the last week and their water supply did not look good when I got home. There was water out in the run but the 5 gal one in the coop was full of shavings and empty.

7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.- Not sure, I just got home

8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc. - 1 of the hens has lots of poop stuck to her feathers and she was pooping a lot, diarrhea possibly the best way to describe it

9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far? I removed the Millie cause she looks like she's gonna die, she was laying on the floor when I found her

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? Not sure, I want to do what ever I can for them but I don't have a lot of money either

11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help. - I will try to get a good one tomorrow but it's dark right now
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use- I use the "deep litter" method and just changed their pine shavings/bedding about 3 weeks ago and added to more shavings right before I left.

Pleas help me!!! I really have a bad feeling that all my chickens will die if I don't figure out what's wrong....I had chickens for 3 1/2 years and NEVER had any get sick and die...I'm extremely upset and my kids won't stop crying. We can't handle losing all our chickens, we're too attached to them. Any help anyone can offer will not be ignored!!!
Not sure but look up Oxine, it's very good if it's fungus related respiratory thing.
Has your weather been damp? Could be a fungus...shrugs....sorry couldn't be more help.
Thank you for your fast response
I am going to the hay market tomorrow and will see if I can find that there, or get more ideas from them too. It has actually gotten really hot and dry here while I was gone and am worried they did not have enough clean water for how hot it was.
Not nearly experienced enough to take a guess, but this may help:


With fairly generalized symptoms (particularly respiratory) it's sometimes easiest to work on excluding what it can't be, to narrow it down.

Also, in general, it's a good idea to get them on vitamins and electrolytes at the very least.

Hope you can get it figured out.
Thank you for the link chickenscratchin....it's very helpful and I'm reading all the diff disease/sicknesses to help narrow it down. Good idea to weed out what it is NOT and go from there.
@ hot2pot...I did add 1 millie fleur about 2+ months ago. My girlfriend went and picked up 1 for herself and 1 for me so she was able to see the other birds and conditions and didn't mention it looking bad but I will double check her opinion on the other birds being healthy. If it was over 2 months ago tho shouldn't I have know by now? or can certain sicknesses/diseases take that long to show up? Thank you again EVERYONE for all your input....I knew I could count on my fellow BYC family to help me out. I'm truly upset right now and can't stop crying....our chickens are our pets and we love them, I'm just devastated right now
I do know there are illnesses that can show up months after adding new birds, and the infected can carry illnesses which they show no symptoms for, but which your flock can be more vulnerable to.

So sorry you had to come back to such a heartbreaking loss.
I am so sorry. I came home from vacation today to a similar trauma, albeit on a smaller scale.

My one surviving chicken is lonely, and now I'm afraid to add new birds, after reading about the problems.

I hope we both can heal. What a hard loss, but I think our late birds would want us to remember the fun and joy and beauty they brought us, and try to go on...

I can't imagine how said it must have been for my neighbor who was babysitting my chickens to deal with the death. He had given me the birds and knew how very much I loved them and had assured me they would be just fine in my absence. Sure makes me hesitant to ever go on vacation again.

Thank you for your sympathy, concern and support chickenscratchin. It didn't occur to me that a healthy chicken could still be a carrier but after reading all the different disease from the link you gave me it states that a lot. I always knew to be careful when introducing new chickens but didn't think about them being "healthy" but still carriers. I'll keep you posted on what else I find out tomorrow and what I do...the millie that I pulled out tonight and quarantined has a very watery sound to her breathing, almost like a gurgle...it's also very hard for her to breath and she's taking really deep and slow breaths. She's my absolute favorite and I just have a really bad gut feeling that she's not going to make it through the night, but I don't know how else to help her tonight other than just separating her, having her in a warm dark spot and letting her rest. She won't drink any water...in fact her eyes are swollen closed, I tried to put her beak in the water but she fought me so I just let her be, I don't want to make her worse or use up what energy she has left.

Also, I was thinking I should prob throw away all the eggs I have until I find out what's wrong with them...I've never had to deal with anything like this before so is that the "norm" if your chickens get sick to throw the eggs out?
Thank you clarescifi...I'm really sorry for your loss too. I completely understand how you feel as I too am very hesitant to ever go on vacation again. I know my neighbor would never do anything to harm my chickens (she has chickens too) but part of me feels guilty cause I know I would have made sure ALL the waters were filled AND I would have recognized there was a problem much sooner because I know my chickens better than anyone out there. I feel as if I'm part to blame for all this happening and wished I would have just stayed home. I know I can't change what has happened but at the same time I need to revisit how I'm doing my vacations and how long I stay gone for next time. Again, I'm really sorry for your loss and really understand your pain and hurt right now. I'm just going to say prayers that my Millie Fleur will make it through the night so I can get her the help she needs in the morning. Good luck to you as well

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