I have a flock of 12 chickens of many various breeds, one rooster and the rest are hens. They live in a large pen, weekly going out to forage. They have a nicely sized coop, are well watered and fed, have a balanced diet, and all are very content. No problems have been encountered so far with lodgings. No stress is being induced to my knowledge. I went out today and one hen (she is a 1 1\2 yr old Buff Orpington hen) was sitting there listlessly so I looked her over. Normally she is very perky and has actually never been sick or had any diseases before. She had a discolored, dark purple comb and wattles, whereas normally they're bright red. Her feet were swollen, and she does not have the desire too eat or drink. She has no respiratory symptoms of any kind, and her vent is not obstructed. She looks healthy in every other way. No other chickens have these symptoms yet.


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Swollen Legs, Lethargic, No Apetite, Purple Comb
by: Sharon

I'm not a doctor, but have a bit of basic medical training. If I saw similar symptoms in a human, I would suspect a heart problem. Symptoms in chickens can be similar to humans health problems.

Swollen legs, bluish coloring where normally reddish, lethargy, & no appetite all sound like her heart is not working well to keep fluids flowing and oxygenated.

A weak heart makes the whole body weak. I could be wrong, but that would be my guess based on what you have said.

Just like humans, chickens can be born with defects in major organs. For humans and animals medical care, drugs and treatment are available, but expensive.

For her breed she sounds way too young to be suffering from age related problems, but a weak heart can bring on similar problems.

If she were mine, I'd make her comfortable in a private pen and offer her a heat lamp. Often a bit of warmth is soothing as well as therapeutic. Low blood pressure from reduced heart function can make her feel cold & weak. The color change in her comb would be like a human's lips turning blue from cold or lack of oxygen.

If you can afford it, taking her to the vet would be the best option, but you could be looking at hundreds of dollars for testing and care. You could dissolve a 1/2 baby aspirin in water and see if you can get some into her drop by drop, if she will swallow. Aspirin can help a chicken feel better, especially if the heart is in distress.

If she does have a heart problem, short of very expensive vet care, there probably isn't much you can do to save her. Possibly with some vet care, they might not be able to save her either.

The fact that the rest of the chickens are healthy sounds like she has had great care, so it is probably nothing you did wrong.

If she perks up with some heat and aspirin, I'd try to get her to eat some mushy very moist food, so she is getting food and water. Sounds like this came on very suddenly, so she might have enough fat stores to do OK without a lot of eating for a bit.

You could try some Gatorade or electrolytes in water, which could help restore her system and perk her up.

Wish I could tell you more but long distance diagnosing is difficult. These are not symptoms I've seen in chickens before, so her condition is probably unusual, and probably not likely to affect your other chickens.

I hope this is helpful and you can get her to do better. If you see any similar symptoms in other chickens, I might suspect some kind of toxin. Rodent poisons cause internal bleeding, which can certainly effect the heart. Always make sure if that kind of poison is used, that animals you want to be safe can't get to it, or the target animals. Though it's rare, an animal that eats a poisoned animal can suffer similar consequences. It's not rare for chickens to eat mice.

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