Chicken Acting Drunk

by MIKE
(MICHIGAN)

This bird is a 2-1/2 year old she just started acting a little slower than the other birds. Today when I got home from work she was still on the roost where she was last night. I took her down and put her out with the other birds but when she walks its like she has no control she doesn't seem interested in food or water and tries to avoid the other birds. What can be wrong?

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Difficulty Walking
by: sharon

Hi Mike in Michigan,

Sorry to hear this hen isn't well. I'm wondering what breed she is. This could be a clue as to what is wrong.

If she is a production breed, she may be done with her expected life span of about 2 years.

Production breeds were genetically designed to have a high production value in the first two years of life or less. They mature early and begin laying earlier than non-production breeds. They don't experience the usual reproductive cycles of non-production breeds. Once they begin to lay, they generally keep laying until they are out of eggs - aka "laid out". This breed type was not designed for longevity, but for short productive lives.

They basically have one cycle of constant laying which pushes their resources beyond what is normal and natural for a chicken. This can be seen most dramatically in the Cornish Cross, a meat production breed, which reaches a physically mature size in about 6 weeks. Non-production breeds can take 6 months or more to reach full size.

This accelerated growth and maturity is best for factories, and why the production breeds were designed. They reduce feed costs and present marketable products quickly. But there is a price to pay of a fleeting over-all health much sooner than is natural for many other breeds of chicken.

I bought a production hen with a group of other breeds. When she reached 2 years old, she developed a condition called "egg yolk peritonitis". Her abdomen became very swollen, she stopped laying and each day she got worse. The increasing swelling made it difficult for her to walk.

She waddled with difficulty and unnaturally spread legs. Soon she stayed in the coop all day, was too heavy to roost, and passed away one night. I knew what was wrong and knew there was little to be done.

The only cure for this is literally to "spay" a hen. Of course the surgery, if you can find a surgeon, is very expensive, but I've read of people having this done. Of course the hen can never lay again.

Sorry to go on about this, but it's the only thing I can think of. Of course your hen could have eaten something toxic, have a sour crop, have internal weaknesses she may have hatched with, or she may have a disease. I would recommend separating her from the flock and other birds in case this is a disease and for her protection. The flock can be brutal to the weak.

Short of veterinary testing, I would give her a thorough physical exam. Check her crop for emptiness or lumpiness, keel bone for signs of being under weight. If you can't find anything specific I would just support her with a safe place, food and water, maybe supplement with vitamins and minerals. Offer her a heat lamp, since your nights are probably getting cool. She might snap out of it with some TLC.

Hope that was helpful.

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