Lethargic Chicken, Acting Strange

by Christie
(San Francisco CA)

Question
Lethargic Chicken, Acting Strange:
Here are the details:

- 3-4 year old hen (not sure of age, we got her and her sister last year from someone who could not keep them)
- Sister is fine
- Sick one is acting very lethargic
- She laid egg yesterday afternoon but sat on it, has been acting strangely since yesterday morning.

I thought it was broody behavior but we took the egg away and she still sat, but in the lower level of the coop (not in the nesting boxes)

- Just sort of sits, does not peck in the garden, but she does eat when I bring food to her (I made her a bowl of yogurt grated apple, oats and she ate it up so she does have an appetite).

- She is eating, but not much since she's barely walking (though she will walk, and she slowly walks away when I come up to her...)

- She is not as feisty as she usually is, she will let me get right up to her before moving, very unlike her

- I just got up close since she came out of the coop (she is sitting in the sun now), and she has feces on her back feathers, it looks dry, but can't tell color - could this be a sign of a problem?

- She is all fluffed up

That's it for now -- any ideas? I'm so worried about her, she's such a sweet hen and we are concerned.

Answer
Something is going on with her. Could be broodiness, but sounds like something more. I’d check her keel bone, that runs up and down the center of her breast.



If the bone feels sharp to the touch, she is under weight. If thin I would suggest putting her in a separate area, where she doesn’t have to compete for food and you can keep it close to her.

She may have internal or external parasites. She may be a bit egg bound and benefit from some supplemental warmth.

Whenever a chicken is having problems I like to treat with vitamins first. Sometimes one depleted vitamin could set a bunch of trouble in motion.

I use a vitamin electrolyte product available at most feed stores. Just follow the directions and give to the whole flock, just in case.

I keep it on hand and give 3 – 5 days each month. Getting a stool sample checked would be best in knowing if she needs to be treated for worms. If she does, the rest of the flock probably does too.

You didn’t mention her breed. It’s possible she is nearing the end of her life expectancy. Some breeds were designed for short productive lives.

There are several “Production” breeds and often they don’t live well past 2. Heritage breeds can live much longer, some 10 years.

If you notice any rattling sounds in her breathing, and the vitamins don’t help, she might benefit with a round of antibiotics designed for respiratory problems.

The dirty vent feathers could be a sign of parasites, or just a poor appetite or poor digestion.

If she is thin you want to try to encourage her to eat as much as she will. A conditioning feed may help her regain her strength.

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