How JustAnswer Works:
  • Ask an Expert
    Experts are full of valuable knowledge and are ready to help with any question. Credentials confirmed by a Fortune 500 verification firm.
  • Get a Professional Answer
    Via email, text message, or notification as you wait on our site. Ask follow up questions if you need to.
  • 100% Satisfaction Guarantee
    Rate the answer you receive.
Ask Dr. Pat Your Own Question
Dr. Pat
Dr. Pat, Bird Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 4244
Experience:  25+ years working primarily or exclusively with birds
Type Your Bird Veterinary Question Here...
Dr. Pat is online now
A new question is answered every 9 seconds

lethargic chicken

Customer Question

We found a chicken laying on the ground this morning. Sh was acting a little lethargic yesterday, with a poopy butt and she seems lighter than the other birds. Today she was jsut laying in the grass, whit her head and legs stretched out. I think she might be egg bound and I am off to give her a warm bath right now.
Submitted: 5 years ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 5 years ago.
Greetings, I am Dr. Pat. I have worked with birds for many years. I will do my best to help you.

Warm baths do nothing but stress them out. What she needs is calcium injections, glucose, warmth and possibly fluids/oxygen/ICU. If she is not egg-bound, there may be almost anything going on and she needs nursing care.

You can examine the bird thoroughly again, including opening the mouth and having a good look in there for mucus, redness, masses or anything else unusual. You can take the temperature gently with a rectal thermometer. Anything above 105F/40C is significant. Palpate the tummy for an egg, fluid, lumps or anything else. Check all the joints for swelling, pain, and mobility.

Move the bird indoors to an aquarium, box or carrier with soft towels or hay in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Keep her partially covered, warm and quiet.

Do not try to force food or water. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food.

I know it is expensive, but you may not have many home options, because the first thing you need a vet for is to find out what is going on. Treatment is only as good as the diagnosis. If you call around, you may find a vet to work within your means. We certainly try to do our best in my clinic.

She needs to see an avian/poultry-experienced veterinarian ASAP for complete examination, diagnosis and appropriate treatment. Check
for members of AAV in your area.
The expense for this is going to be a lot less than inefficient, ineffective, dangerous treatments.

If this were my patient, I would start with complete fecal analysis and direct smear, for multiple parasites; bacterial culture and sensitivity of the feces and choana. Depending on the case I might do a fungal culture. Routine blood work is necessary to rule out other issues. I would very likely order a number of DNA tests for poultry viruses as well. Generally I start them out on oxygen, calcium injections, fluids, antibiotics, tube feeding if needed, ICU.

Pet/feed store medications and home remedies are harmful, ineffective, immuno-suppressive, and make them much worse and may interfere with the veterinarian's diagnosis and treatment. Do not use them.

The flock should be on a high quality pelleted diet with extra greens/pasturage. Of late, I have been recommending TOP pet bird pellets (TOP ) as they are more appropriate for the pet chicken. Overcrowding, cleanliness, proper water, environmental temperature, humidity, ventilation, photoperiod, and toxic exposures should be addressed. Check this for husbandry advice.

Check for basic care, set up and maintenance. You need to check for fly and mosquito access, as they can carry certain diseases, and check for external parasites. Mites, lice and fleas (in some areas, ticks) can contribute to over-all health issues, anemia, and disease transmission.

She may need injectable antibiotics, calcium and many other medications. Act quickly and good luck.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
OK, thanks for the long and detaialied answer! We have a vet but he will not be in until tonight. He is a farm vet and has limited office hours.
So what I am looking for right now is just some basic advice on how to keep this bird comfortable and stable until I can get her to the vet.
So (I should have said this but I was a little freaked out with my screaming 11 year-old standing behind me holding a chicken) What I have is a backyard flock. I got my first birds a year ago. So I am learning, but the curve is pretty steep. Oxygen, expensive tests, and esoteric treatments are not practical for us.
The other birds are not sick. They are all wandering around the yard acting like birds. This leads me to think that this is a issue with this hen in particular, rather than something infectious/contagious/paracitic.
I did paplate her briefly. I am not entirely sure but I think I feel some hardness between the legs and the vent. She is incredibly poopy around her vent, and the poop looks black instead of the regular brown color. At first i thought this was because she has been rolling in the dirt, but on second look, it seems a little worse than that.
Now that you know my situation, could you please give me some practical advice on how to keep this poor girl comfortable? Thanks.
Expert:  replied 5 years ago.
You need to clean the vent with warm water, dish detergent (such as Dawn) and rinse well. If it is black material on there it could be blood, from renal, GI or reproductive tracks.

She needs calcium injections if it is an egg. Hopefully your vet will provide that.

Just FYI, most farm vets are knowledgeable about the state labs that do inexpensive tests, so you should touch base on that even if the other hens look ok right now. It is good to have that info BEFORE a flock problem starts.

Move the bird indoors to an aquarium, box or carrier with soft towels or hay in the bottom, no perch, and food and water in low bowls that can be reached easily. Keep her partially covered, warm and quiet.

Do not try to force food or water. You can offer warm cooked rice, pancakes, cornbread, grapes, melon, greens in addition to normal food. If she is not able to eat, try dripping warm water in the beak. If she takes it with no fuss, you can give her an ounce or two first. Then offer sugar water. In my experience they would rather go for a handful of cut grapes or melon, and that works just as well with the added glucose bonus.
Dr. Pat and 2 other Bird Veterinary Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Ok, that is more my speed. I am calling a medical supply company right now to try and get some O2 for her. From my own experience (military and ER technician) I know O2 does nothing but good. I have seen a useful mock-up at a vets office that involves a fish tank.
Thanks for the help.
Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 5 years ago.
Aquarium with plastic wrap for a cover will work. Put the whole thing on a heating pad (medium). Instant ICU.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.
Unfortunately she didnt make it to the vet. She seemed about the same all day, ate a few strawberry pieces but didnt want any rice or sugar water. The vet had an evening office hour that day, and when we went to get her she had already passed. Now another one of our birds is acting strange, and I am at my wit's end. I submitted that question separately.
Customer: replied 5 years ago.

Wednesday I noticed one of the red hens (golden comet, I think) acting a little odd. Didnt want to go out, jsut hung out in the coop by the rooster pen (we alternate days out with our two rooos. They take turns being in a pen on their "in" day.) It seemed like she was staring longingly at the roo in the pen, and so I thought maybe she juut wanted to be with him. I thought I would keep an eye on her for a day and see what was up. I called home form work (second shift) Wednesday night and was told that she was acting fine. Thursday we found her nearly dead. She passed while waiting for the vet to open that evening. She seemed to have lost weight and had a lot of black pasty crud around her bottom. Today (Saturday) another hen (this one has alwasy been sickly and has already porlaped twice and has allergies) was acting starngely. She was sort of flexing her vent and occasionally pushing. She strained like she was trying to pass something. When I picked her up I found a white runny discharge that she could not control. There was so much of it that she "leaked" all over my sweatshirt while I was holding her. It looked for all the world like egg whites. My husband suggested she might have had an egg break inside her, or maybe had one that didn't form right in the first place. Is this possible? The advice I alwasy get is to put them in a cat carrier, give them soft food and water, and keep them quiet and in a dim room until I can get them to the vet. So that is what I am doing. I sent my son up to feed her and he reports that she is fine, but I jsut have not had the energy to go up and look myself. What does any one make of this?


Optional Information:
Type of Animal: Chickens
Pet's Gender: hen
Pet's Age: 1 yr
Name of Bird: Molly

Already Tried:
Rest and soft foods

Expert:  Dr. Pat replied 5 years ago.
I am sorry but this qualifies as a new question, it's a different bird.

It probably WAS egg white, from a ruptured or soft egg.

You need to take any sick and a "healthy" one or two to the vet immediately and start a diagnostic regime for a treatment program that makes sense.