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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 30316
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I've lost 2 chickens and now I have another sick with the

Customer Question

I've lost 2 chickens and now I have another sick with the same symptoms. She is acting drunk...can't stand up with out tipping over. The others were having trouble holding their heads up. What can I do for her?
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

My condolences for your loss. How many are in your flock, please? Have you taken advantage of your county animal disease diagnostic laboratory in the past? When you have a sizable flock it's important to have a newly dead bird necropsied by such a laboratory which then tells you how you might treat your surviving birds. The dead bird needs to be refrigerated (not frozen) until it can be necropsied. You can also sacrifice a very ill bird and bring it to the laboratory. You've described ataxia ("drunken sailor") which is a symptom of illness such as anemia or the weakness of a systemic disease but doesn't tell us the cause of the ataxia.

Are there any other symptoms you can tell me about? In avian medicine, there's rarely one cause of a condition, so we usually begin with a list of differential diagnoses and use lab tests, X-rays, and physical exams to differentiate one from another. With this in mind, your best course of action is to reach out to your county-extension poultry personnel or avian-oriented veterinarian (please see here: for help in differentiating the various causes of what you're seeing. Veterinarians can perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests, including X-rays, to distinguish between the various etiologies.

It's best to approach the diagnostic process with a clear sense of the bird's financial value to your operation. Although some services such as your county animal disease diagnostic laboratory might be available free of charge through a county agency or land-grant extension office, the expense of some diagnostic tests and treatments can add up quickly. While it’s always worth your time and money to identify a bacterial or viral infection that could potentially impact more than one member of the flock, this might not be the case with a condition that only affects one hen.