Sick Cockerel

by Pam
(Village, Norfolk, UK)

Question

Sick Cockerel: Our Bantam cockerel is not himself. He is not really crowing and wants to sleep a lot of the time.

He is free range in the garden with the other chickens but is put in a pen/house at night. He is eating and drinking when we put food out but most of the time he just wants to sleep.

We give them good quality pellets plus we have started to give them cabbage and apples (we read one of your other answers and felt that this would help).

About four weeks ago we did get a couple of new 16 week old birds so not sure if this has had an effect. We do worm regularly and put vitamins in their water. Not sure what to do.

Answer
I don’t think cabbage would be a good food for chickens unless cooked well, and even then not often.

It’s not a green vegetable and can produce a lot of gas during digestion; it doesn’t break down easily.

Apples are very beneficial and good for digestion. Lettuces, especially dark colored reds and greens are beneficial and easy to digest.

If not organic, they need to be washed well. Fresh grasses are good and all the little plants chickens like to nibble on in lawns and gardens, especially chick weed.

You don’t mention how old he is (though cockerel would be under a year?), how do his droppings look, or if there are other roosters and cockerels.

He possibly has some digestive or intestinal illness. Chickens often act this way when they have a “stomach ache”.

I’m not sure how regularly you worm your chickens. Do you have a big problem with worms? Not every wormer treats all possible intestinal parasites.

Many worm treatments call for not using eggs for a week or so after treatment, if you’re treating the whole flock.

Vitamins in water are good, but it’s important to follow directions and not over do it. Vitamin over dose can be as dangerous as deficiencies.

Layer pellets are not the best food for roosters and cockerels, especially not a good growth food, though most do fine on it.

The layer feed formulas are usually high in calcium and other minerals to meet the demands of laying hens.

Not being able to see what’s going on inside him, one of the best indicators of a problem is droppings, what’s coming out of him.

You might want to get a sample to your vet and see if testing can come up with a reason for his sudden change in behavior.

I would consider him sick and separate him from the flock. You might try some probiotics and conditioning feed.

Check his keel bone that runs down the center of his breast muscles. If it’s sticking out and sharp feeling, he is under weight.

I would try him with a heat lamp and see if that perks him up. A teaspoon of apple cider vinegar in each cup of water you give him for a few days may settle his “stomach”.

Raw vinegar contains valuable digestive enzymes and can help balance the digestive system.

There’s nothing from what you’ve said here that points to something specific. When chickens are acting sick, something has been going on for a while, so it’s important to act fast to help them.

If the vet can’t give you specifics then it may just be one of those problems that would be very expensive to try to treat and cure.

I would check him over top to bottom, front to back and side to side to see if there are any external parasites, wounds or marks on him.

Hopefully you and the vet can discover more that can tell you what the problem is.

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Similar problem
by: KN, Cheshire

We've had exactly the same problem with our bantam cockerel. It started after a second dose of Ivermectin for parasites that we gave a week apart as per our vet's instructions.

He developed diarrhea and a temperature (but no respiratory/nasal problems) . He was hospitalized for five days and given antibiotics, blood and faeces tests, without any clear resulting diagnosis.

He's happy to be home - eating, drinking and gamely ranging with his girls - but he looks so frail and worn out. I don't know what to do and it's breaking my heart. All advice gratefully appreciated.

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