Suddenly off colour

by Helen Davy
(Blackdown Hills, Devon, UK)


Suddenly off colour: Lucky is off colour. She was ok yesterday but today when I went to let the chooks out she just stood in a corner, huddled up, shaking her head occasionally.

She didn't want to come out. She also has the runs - normalish but a bit yellow and slimy. Her crop feels full and she doesn't seem to have a temperature but she definitely isn't herself.

She has come outside this afternoon and is standing with all the other chickens but isn't taking much interest in what’s going on around her. She is about 7-8 months old but is a small bird.

We have 9 chickens in total, 7 female and 2 male. They have free run of where ever they want (we are very rural) and go in at night. I feed layers pellets and mixed corn with kitchen scraps on occasion.

If she is off her feed and acting this way I would suspect digestive problems. Just because a crop is full doesn’t mean it is working properly.

A healthy crop should feel soft and mushy, the contents like soft oatmeal. Chickens can get a condition called sour crop or an impacted crop which means toxic levels of bacteria may be growing in crop contents and giving your hen all the signs of food poisoning.

(If you’ve ever had it, you know just how bad this hen might be feeling.)

When a crop sours the best thing is to offer much warm water with a tsp of cider vinegar and gently massage the crop to hydrate the contents.

If these sour crop contents have to move through her body she could become so sick she will give up and die.

You will need to hold her upside down and gently “milk” the crop contents out through her mouth. If this is hard to do, you may need to add more water.

A sour crop and impacted crop can block her entire digestive tract, making her not wanting to eat or drink any more. The crop being full can hide the fact that she literally can’t eat and is starving.

Once the crop is empty, it would be good to continue to offer cider vinegar water to cleanse the crop and give her a fresh start.

Offering her feed soaked in vinegar water for a couple of days may help her digestion. You can purchase probiotics from the feed store, which will help re-establish good digestive bacteria and help her recover.

You can also get a vitamin/electrolyte product for chickens that will help restore nutrients she may have lost, not being able to eat and dink and digest normally. Hope this helps and she gets better.

If the crop is not impacted she may have a bacterial infection and need antibiotics. But you would need a good diagnosis from a vet that knows chicken diseases to know the right antibiotic. If available, it would be good to get veterinary help with a sour crop as well.

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