Hen not feeling well

by Lorna
( Australia)

Question
Hen not feeling well: I have a hen (1 of 3 roam backyard, hen house at night)she is about 3yo, don't think has laid for months.

Fed pellets/ hen seed mix/ oats and eat grass bugs etc in yard. She has had runny poo for a while and her rear feathers always affected by that.

Seems to have a swollen abdominal area. Her legs are more spread and one foot turned in a bit. Has trouble jumping up or down now.

She got weak with the heat (Australia) and possibly dehydrated, but see her drinking a lot more now and seems to be back on her normal food.

Had fed her yolk mix and tuna when she wasn't eating. Apples (for runs) which helped. She seems much better but runs or stool in a lot of liquid, often greenish as still having lots of grassy stuff to eat.

She sleeps a lot. and often shakes her head (??) like something has touched her. Can't see signs of bugs on them, although the other two hens came in (unknowingly) with mite type affected legs, which don't seem to annoy them.

I spray with betadine now and then. Sick hen does not seem to have ever been affected by the mites, but do spray her legs too a bit when do others in case.

Could it be the egg bound problem?
Oh yes, she did seem to pass egg white at one point (at least) but no yolk.

If egg has hardened but gone back in can her body deal with that in time or not? She seems to be tender but have not felt for egg or been ABLE to have a proper look - not sure where I'm looking, but presume is below the bowel 'exit' point!

She also tends to make little tweety noises when she sees me, or I talk to her. Much quieter than she used to. Seems to have energy at times, but can't move very fast, sometimes better than others.

She can still go up steps but not jump a foot high as she used to (3ft high)

Answer
At 3 years old, she may be past her prime. This depends on how much she has laid over the years, her care, and her genetic programming for a longer or shorter life.

Once a hen has reached full maturity, egg production slowing or stopping and health issues arising, she is probably on her way out.



The lack of strength and swelling are definite signs she has some internal issues going on.

Exactly what that might be is a matter for a medical professional that may or may not be able to give you a clear answer other than “old age”.

Sadly, short of expensive medical intervention, there is probably nothing that can be done and money/feed/care would be better used on younger birds, possibly adding younger hens to replace her.

You might want to research some of the Heritage breeds that are longer living.

On some profitable chicken operations, older (2 year old) hens are systematically replaced with younger in order to put money/feed/care into the most healthy and productive hens.

Older hens are sold in reasonably good health (before they decline seriously) for their meat. Pet chickens are a different story.

We love them and tend to keep them alive as long as possible, even with health issues.

For any pet, a chicken, dog, cat, etc, I believe the best rule is for the owner/caregiver to evaluate the animal’s quality of life.

If the animal is willing and able to keep going and live a reasonably normal life, even with a few problems, there is probably no need to take action.

If you don’t mind having them around and other animals aren’t bullying them, then there is no harm in keeping them.

At the point you see they just can’t keep up and might be suffering, it’s time to consider humanely putting them out of their misery before they suffer more.

Some people choose to cut their losses and prevent any suffering at the first sign of declining health.

This is really up to the individual, and often the hardest part of keeping animals. Some choose to let nature take its course and allow the animal to die when it will.

The only problem with that is as chicken health declines (immune system failing), there is the possibility of disease which could spread with an infected chicken in the flock.

Separating her and taking special care to keep her comfortable might do your heart good and she may enjoy being treated like a queen.

At this age, I’d say the chances of her recovering her past good health are slim.

Some breeds are designed for short productive lives and there is nothing we can do to change that.

Hope this helps.

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