Sick Chicken Questions

A Sick Chicken works hard not to show any signs of weakness for as long as possible. This is a survival instinct that prevents predators from choosing it as prey. If sick long enough a chicken will be unable to hide its condition and will have reduced activity and appetite. The cause of this has many possibilities.

A chicken will become sick from infection, injury, internal and external parasite infestation, virus, old age, becoming egg bound, malnutrition, dehydration, hypo or hypothermia (getting too hot or too cold), eating poisons or rotten foods, digestive disorders, vitamin and mineral deficiencies, organ failures, lack of sunshine, lack of fresh air, damp housing and lack of clean environment.

When spotting a sick chicken with signs of weakness, other signs may be present, like:

  • Discharges from nares and beak
  • Diarrhea
  • Sneezing
  • Coughing
  • Choking
  • Seizures
  • Limping
  • Unable to walk
  • Runny or bubbly eyes
  • Unusual feather loss
  • Discolored bumps on skin
  • Sometimes these signs can be spotted early. The sooner you notice anything out of the ordinary in a chicken’s behavior and begin treatment, the better its chances of survival. Chickens are flock and prey animals and have survived thousands of years by developing good instincts.

    Our domesticated laying chickens are usually heavy bodied and unable to fly when adults, leaving them vulnerable to ground attacks by predators. Once a sick chicken becomes weak it has little hope of survival, even in a coop and yard, without help. Predators often seek out the weak of a flock, but one weak member of the flock can draw the attention of predators and endanger the whole flock. Survival of the fittest in nature has long fed the stronger with the weaker, strengthening genetics and weeding out disease in flocks.

    Other chickens will often recognize the signs of sickness in a flock member before we do, and respond with aggressive pecking and bullying in order to remove the sick one from their presence.

    Once you see obvious signs that your chicken is sick, it has probably not felt good and not been right for weeks, depending on the problem. Veterinary testing is the best way to accurately diagnose any chicken.

    Testing of droppings may reveal:

  • Contagious disease
  • Bacterial or viral infection
  • Internal parasites
  • Any of these problems can lead to the death of a sick chicken.

    Isolating a chicken is important for its safety and the flock’s. A chicken that is sick may be harassed, kept from feed and water by the flock and chased in an attempt to distance it from the flock.

    Serious injury, dehydration, starvation and even cannibalism can result. A good poultry veterinarian can tell you what medication may be needed, once the cause of the sickness is determined.

    The longer you keep chickens and make a habit of watching, observing and taking note of their normal behavior, the easier it will be to know when something is wrong.

    You might notice a reduction in egg counts, unusually colored runny droppings, smells of infection, or a chicken that just isn’t keeping up with the flock. For the best success in raising and keeping chickens always investigate anything abnormal.

    You will be rewarded with increased flock health and reduced losses in the long run, even if it means you have to spend some extra time with the chickens or on-line doing research.

    You may need to spend some money at the local poultry vet’s office, but the longer you keep chickens and pay close attention to how they are doing, the better you will do at keeping them healthy and happy, and producing healthy offspring, eggs and possibly meat for you.

    If you have questions that you would like to ask a vet, use the service below. Ask a Vet has qualified doctors that can answer questions about chicken health.

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