Dealing with a Sick Chicken

October 20, 2010

Every morning when I let the girls out, I always watch them for a few minutes.  Mostly to make sure everyone is feeling good, happy and acting themselves.  I pick each of them up almost on a daily basis.  Just to check-in.  About 2 months ago, Tilly was not acting her normal self.

Tilly seemed sad.  Her head and tail were both down.  She was sluggish and not pecking at the ground like everyone else.  I continued to watch her for a few days and she became worse.  She started sneezing, breathing like she had something stuck in her throat and had a runny nose.  Tilly was definitely ill and not getting better.  I became worried for a few reasons.  First, she was our head hen.  We like her in that order.  She keeps the girls calm and when she free ranges, she never goes too far away from the coop.  Second, she was just a baby.  She had so much more life to live.  Third,  we were raising them entirely organically.  This meant no medications.  Fourth, she was a beloved pet.

Initally I read all my chicken references on hand.  The diagnosis was still unclear.  Cape Cod being small and rather rural, I was unsure that I could even locate a veterinarian with chicken experience.  After making a few phone calls, I was able to reach a vet that does treat birds and has started to spread over into the realm of chickens.  She was about a half hour away.

I caught Tilly, and put her in a Pampers box.  She was quiet the entire way.  While checking in and waiting in the waiting room, she only wanted to be held in my lap.  She nuzzled into my arm and closed her eyes.  This was not my Tilly.  Finally, we saw the vet.  After her exam, it was not entirely clear as to what was going on.  Therefore, the vet decided to deworm the entire flock and give Tilly an antibiotic for a respiratory infection.

Tilly was on the antibiotic for 5 days.  By day 4 she seemed to be getting better.  Afterwards though, I noticed that her crop became rather enlarged, soft and squishy.  After extensive internet research, I figured out that Tilly developed a sour crop from the antibiotics she was on for her respiratory infection.  I subsequently treated her with Nystatin for 10 days.

Tilly’s crop was distended for about 1 month.  It has since then made a full recovery.  This is the point at which I started giving the chickens the weekly yogurt and adding apple cider vinegar to their water supply.  I feel that both are adding to the overall digestive health of our chickens.

What about raising the chickens entirely organically?  Well sometimes life takes those unexpected turns for the worse.  If I hadn’t given her the antibiotics which did violate organic chicken raising, then we would not have Tilly.  The antibiotics saved Tilly for that I am sure.  We still have our chickens on an organic feed.  So our eggs will have an organic component.  I’m just glad that Tilly is still with us.


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9 thoughts on “Dealing with a Sick Chicken”

  1. Hi Melissa. Love your blog! It's a place I usually turn to when I need some answers. My dilemma today lies with one of my Silkie girls, Golly. I noticed, a couple of days ago, that she was walking around with her mouth open, but appeared to be in overall good health. This followed an incident when I heard her on the bank, sounding vocal in an alarmed sort of way which had me dashing out the door to see what had upset her. Because of the amount of hair on her head, I assumed she had 'temporarily' lost her way from lack of visibility. Then I noticed her open mouth. Naturally I thought she was distressed, so I calmed her down and she appeared to settle down. Now I'm wondering whether she may have been bitten by a harmless green tree snake as they do lurk in and around the grevillea bushes on the bank. Since then, she seems to have deteriorated and is quite hot to the touch. I also noticed this morning that she had this foul smelling stuff attached to her beak and inside of her mouth. My research led me to believe it could be sour crop, so I turned her face down at a 60 degree angle and massaged from her crop up to her throat. Nothing came out. I found that the feathers around her throat had that dried look to them, post being wet. Could she have perhaps vomited by herself? Her mouth is still gaping, the smell seems to have gone, but she's hot to the touch. Could you perhaps shed some light on what's going on with her. I would hate to lose this little one as she really is my favorite girl. All help gratefully accepted with thanks. heather

  2. Oh my goodness, I am so sorry to hear about your sick henny girl. Sounds like she might have a fever. It could be from a snakebite, or some sort of illness. I was thinking maybe gape worm. Do you have a chicken bet near you? I might suggest you try some antibiotics next. You just need to be sure you are using the right antibiotic for the right problem. I would also push the fluids and add some vitamins and electrolytes to the water. Good luck I'll be thinking about you

  3. Verm-x…. does anyone use it for digestive health? I too am concerned about worms at the moment. I have verm-x and it's been recommended to me by good chicken ppl.i wish i had advice but I usually am the one needing it!I found what looks like redworms or young earthworms in a knot in the water dish. They were in either a clod of dirt or a clump of poo the chickens must have kicked in. I give them fresh water so it's not like it's been in the water but for a day. big sigh

  4. Melissa, where do you buy your vitamins and electrolytes for you chickens? Also, do you take your sick chickens to the vet to get anti-biotics or can you get them on line? Also, do you put ACV in your chicken's water? Thank you so much for all your great help. Sincerely, Kathy

    • Hi Kathy, I purchase the vitamins and electrolytes at my local feed store. You can also find them online. Be sure to look for poultry varieties. Yes, I do add ACV to the water. 1 tablespoon per gallon.

  5. Hello Melissa and everyone else out there that has chickens. I need help! I have a 2 year old chicken that is sick. She seems to have lost a lot of weight and just looks sick. Her comb is laying down and is pale in color. When I noticed this yesterday I gave her some food by hand and she did eat it which I was thankful for so I am not sure why she has lost weight. She does have a small amount of discharge coming from her vent but it is not red or swollen. I was thinking it is maybe Vent Gleet but if it is it is not real bad at this point. I gave them some yogurt yesterday and i put some apple cider vinegar in their water but is there anything else I can do? Oh and I cleaned her vent with some warm water and massaged the area as I read that on the net. I do not have the money to take her to the vet right now but I don't want to see her suffer or die. What can I do? Will it hurt if I find Nystatin liquid suspension online and give it to her? Please any help is appreciated. Thank you.

  6. one of my chickens is looking ill. she is turning yellow and rarely walks around. we've been putting vitamins in her water but it doesn't seem to be helping. do you have any suggestions?


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Sharing an inspired life from the New England seaside. Chickens, Bees, Gardens, Art and Yummy Goodness.