Sick Red Star hen

by Robin
(Moselle, MS)

Question

Sick Red Star hen: I have a Red Star hen that is approximately 3 years old. She lives in a 3 acre free-range area with a rooster and two other hens (and Nubian goats).

She recently became listless and is not eating. She isn't moving her feet at all - just laying around on hay. I move her - put outside during day and back in house at night on a pile of hay.

She has not walked or moved for over a week. She has putrid smelling feces - white and yellow with dark green streaks - pretty messy.

She has released several "balls" from her vent that are egg shaped or oblong and appear to be some type of fatty tissue.

They are easily broken apart - but are the texture of a thick dough. I have been massaging her feet - but she isn't using them.

She moves her head from side to side and up and down - but nothing else. None of the other chickens in any other flock is displaying this behavior.

Answer
I would suspect this might be something contagious and separate her from any other poultry.

The putrid feces and unusual “balls” sound like an internal infection or infections. Her symptoms don’t cause me to think of any specific disease, but it’s possible she is just too weak to stand from depleted resources and not eating enough.

We can’t do as accurate a job diagnosing here as vet could, with hands-on and being able to test feces and this other discharge.

Getting to her a vet would be best in order to find out if this is something that could affect your other chickens. There is the possibility of an intestinal infection or virus.

Treating her with an antibiotic best suited for that would be good. Several different antibiotics are available over the counter for animals at a feed store.

By reading the labels you should be able to decide which seems best. It’s also possible she has an infection in her oviduct and these “balls” are the result of infected material moving through her, collecting albumen that mixes with this discharge.

If you want to nurse her through this you will need to offer her food and coax her to eat often. Some vitamins may help her feel better and stronger, and a conditioning feed may help her recover some strength.

There’s no telling what kind of damage there could be internally and if she can recover and lay again. But a course of antibiotics will tell you if she can improve her general health.

Infected feces can cause problems for other animals that come in contact with it. Ruminating animals like goats can develop serious digestive problems grazing in a yard with infected feces. (I used to raise sheep and goats.)

Internal parasites, like worms and smaller living organisms can cause some real damage. Robbing a chicken of nutrients they need is one part, but there can also be lesions in the intestines that bleed. The head gestures you mention may just be a sign of how weak she is as she struggles to stay alert.

Offering her an electrolyte product may help her become more alert. Electrolyte imbalance, caused by illness, or not drinking enough, can kill an animal if it goes on too long. I buy a vitamin/electrolyte powder at my feed store, that is good to have on hand.

I wish I could say specifically what this is and what has caused it, but from all you have said here I believe an infection of some sort is likely. I would check her over for any wounds, external parasites and thinness.

Putting her in a cage or small pen, with food and water close, and a heat lamp may help her do better, but I doubt she can get well with out medication.

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sick Red Star
by: Gary

The parasitical infestation advice you got is well founded and should be followed. There is one other thing to help with any weakness especially with gastronomic problems.

Warm an egg yoke for each feeding, mix 1/3 with warm whole milk. Feed with an eye dropper or syringe 2x daily.

This is NOT a cure, it will sustain the animal to heal. I have brought a few of my hens back from near death with this method. Good Luck

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Sick Red Star Recovery
by: Neal the Vet TechAnonymous

Your bird is on the edge of life. I'll tell you a fact about sick birds, almost any species, chickens included. Over the eons birds have developed a highly crafted genetic ability to hide sickness and weakness. It stands to reason that a sick bird falls prey to predators so now you know why those able to hide illness survived to pass along that trait. So by the time you notice a sick bird, it is generally a dying bird no longer able to conceal the sickness. At this writing I doubt that your bird may still be alive. Please confirm.
Years ago when I was a lad I was reared on a chicken ranch belonging to my grandmother. They were broilers (aka fryers) on contract to Rockingham Poultry. BUT! She maintained a sizeable flock for her restaurant as she butchered her own for fresh table birds. We had a few layers too. One of them, a New Hampshire Red, finally revealed her illness as you have described. Nanna wanted to destroy and bury the hapless avian. I begged her not but was required to move the bird to isolation from which I was to put my shoes through an antiseptic foot bath and wash my hands after taking care of her. The bath was made up of bleach and water. I reasoned that if the chorine could kill the "bugs" on my shoes maybe it could kill the infective agents in my pet bird. So I started a campaign to introduce water treated with liquid bleach by eyedropper into her beak. No other water! The ratio was critical as it had to be strong enough to kill the problem and not the hen. Just as a guess I settled on one tablespoon of Clorox per gallon of water giving her ten droppers full three times a day. Within 5 days she began to perk up and in ten days all symptoms were gone. No more infected droppings! She resumed her appetite and filled out. You can tell the physical condition of a bird by feeling its keel to see if it has flesh or is gaunt. To this day I routinely put one teaspoon of Clorox in every gallon of water as a prophylactic and have not had a sick bird yet. I hope I have been of some help. Let me know how it comes out. Write to polymath @clearwire.net. Sincerely, Neal

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