by Linda


I have a hen that has been breathing heavy only when lying down or when you hold her. I took her to 3 vets and no one knows what is wrong. After the vet visits we discovered she has lice or mites(not sure). We treated the bugs and we think they are gone now. During the bug treatment we were putting vaseline around her vent area and it helped her breathing so now even though the bugs are gone we still put vaseline on her so she can have some relief. At first she was eating and playing well but now she doesn't eat as much and walks slow. We thought maybe she became anemic from the bugs so she is on nutri-drench vitamins and we give her hard boiled eggs daily. I have also been hand feeding her baby food and offering her yogurt. She isn't sneezing or coughing, and there is no discharge. She has been going through this for almost 3 months. We love her so much and want to help her. I thought maybe sour crop but there is no odor. She extends her neck with her beak open gasping and sometimes she will shake her whole body then she stops the heavy breathing for a while. She has been on Baytril twice for 5 to 10 days each. Please help! Thank You!


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by: Sharon

Wow Linda -

You have really gone all out for this hen. I'm so sorry she is still having issues.

I'll try to address each issue from most important on down:

1) I don't understand why two rounds of Baytril, when the problem hasn't been identified. When giving antibiotics, it's good to know what bacteria you are wanting to get rid of when there are signs of infection. Dosing with antibiotics can be counter productive to good health - if not necessary.

If you are giving oral antibiotics, I would stop. Oral antibiotics for birds can interrupt their natural digestive system by killing good bacteria in the crop. A good digestive system is vital for a good immune system & health. Injected antibiotics can do the same, but with less concentration in the crop. But: Why antibiotics when you don't know what's wrong?

2) Mite or Lice infestation. I'd suggest some on-line study of the two parasites to better know what to look for. Did you treat her with a topical anti-parasitic or oral? Did you treat the environment as well? Did you check other chickens for signs of external parasites? Did you do a thorough cleaning of the coop and nests?

A single hen in the flock infested with parasites can be a sign that her immune system was already weak.

I prefer to use the most natural - non-toxic parasite controls. My favorite is DE - Diatomaceous Earth (food grade - not the chemical one sold in garden supplies). It can be fed to chickens to flush out internal parasites - worms, sprinkled in the environment to dehydrate mite eggs, and sprinkled on chickens or in their dust bath to kill or deter external parasites. It also offers trace minerals when ingested, so mixing some in feed is very healthy.

2. Sour crop - odor is a good way to check, but a crop should smell a bit sour as food is breaking down normally with liquids, enzymes, and good bacteria in the crop. It's also important to feel the crop from the outside. A healthy crop will feel mushy during the day and should be empty first thing in the morning. If you feel a more solid lump in the crop, this can mean food that has sat too long and can't pass normally from the crop. It's important to help break down that lump with fluids and possibly some massage to help dissolve it. Raw apple cider vinegar in water can help.

If her crop has a lump of feed stop feeding any dry foods. Only give her wet - like soupy feed in cider vinegar water. Plain live culture yogurt or a probiotic product mixed with soupy feed can help restore good crop function, too.

3. The gasping could be due to a crop issue, some kind of parasite - worms or throat mites. I like to give a few drops of injectible Ivermectin orally if DE hasn't helped. Vaseline on her vent (back end of chicken) helped her breathing?

4. Not sure what all you have been feeding this chicken. Hard boiled egg is OK - I like to crush up the shells in it as well. I wouldn't feed this without adding 50% water, maybe with yogurt alternated with cider vinegar water. Does she get fresh fruits and greens? Do you feed scratch or layer crumbles/pellets.

I think the key concept I would employ for this girl is to do everything possible to help her body return her to normal. She's had plenty of antibiotics, so now it's time to replenish her good digestive bacteria. Too little of good bacteria can make one just as sick as too much of a bad bacteria.

If you haven't, I think she should be isolated from the flock. A sick chicken in the flock can spread problems and attract predators. I would offer her some sunshine everyday and supplemental heat at night - like a brooder, where she can choose how much heat she gets. Make every meal of hers count with vitamins, minerals, good bacteria, enzymes with plenty of liquids - especially if you suspect her crop is slow, sour or impacted.

After 3 veterinary visits with her and them unable to diagnose her - I certainly can't tell you why this has happened. What I'm suggesting is the most natural treatment possible for any symptoms you see and become aware of. Chemical treatments & antibiotics can actually be something that a chicken needs to recover from, as well as any symptoms.

If she had lice, make sure all the egg clusters are removed, so they don't re-infest her. Check other chickens for lice & egg clusters. And don't worry, chicken lice don't like people. Mites can live in the coop and travel to other chickens on roosts, from floor litter and nesting materials.

A thorough cleaning of the coop is important - even to the point of removing all old litter & dust and hosing out, scrubbing with soapy water + a little bleach, and rinsing; on a warm day so it can dry out before evening and you can put new litter in.

I like to sprinkle DE on the clean dry (mostly dry)floor & nests before putting down new litter & nesting material by the end of the day.

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