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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 7938
Experience:  35 years in general practice, including avian.
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I have a sick hen :(
, Well, I noticed my hen a little

Customer Question

I have a sick hen :(
JA: Thanks. Can you give me any more details about your issue?
Customer: Well, I noticed my hen a little sleepier than normal yesterday. She seemed "off" but didn't really examine her. Today I noticed her poop is super watery, she is VERY lethargic and her comb is droopy and pale-ish
JA: OK got it. Last thing — Bird Veterinarians generally expect a deposit of about $18 to help with your type of question (you only pay if satisfied). Now I'm going to take you to a page to place a secure deposit with JustAnswer. Don't worry, this chat is saved. After that, we will finish helping you.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Hello, I'm Dr. Bob.

I'm sorry to read of your hen's condition. How old is she, and has she been laying eggs regularly?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
She is probably about 2 ish. I know she HAS laid in the last two weeks, but it's hard to say how regularly because her and my other have recently decided to eat the eggs as soon as they are laid :(
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Sorry for the delay in getting back to you, I'm in and out while doing small jobs around the house. There may be some breaks in our conversation, please be patient. Do you just have two birds?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
just two laying hens about the same age. The other one seems fine though.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Have you ever treated them for coccidia or worms?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I haven't, but I have only had them for a couple months. They were full grown laying hens when I got them.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Okay, thank you. Watery droppings are most often caused by intestinal parasites, so worming and treating for coccidia would be the first step in approaching this problem. Have the eggs had soft or thin shells, making it easier for them to eat them?

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
They have had some soft ones here and there. They have oyster shell so I'm not sure what the problem is with that. I think that's why they started eating them in the first place, cause one broke or something. How do you worm and treat for coccidia?
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Your local farm or feed supply store can help you with the correct products for worming and treating for coccidia. It's fairly straightforward.

Soft, thin-shelled or shell-less eggs can be symptomatic of a problem in their reproductive tract. Earlier in their lives they may have been exposed to a respiratory virus that gravitates to the reproductive system causing damage that can manifest as thin, soft or even completely missing shells which, in turn, encourage the chickens to eat the easily accessible eggs. The symptoms of this kind of respiratory infection can be very slight, yet the damage to their egg laying organs severe.

I would suggest, worming them, treating them for coccidia, then following up with thirty days of a vitamin supplement. Hopefully getting rid of the parasite load will help them recover their egg production capacity, but unfortunately, the damage may actually be permanent. Egg eating is a bad habit and can be tough to correct, so if you can get the egg shells to harden, and they still break and eat them, then starting over with some new birds would probably be the most practical solution for you. If you have more questions, please ask, I'll be happy to answer them for you.

Best regards, ***** *****

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Yeah they are actually pecking at and breaking open even hard eggs :( We were thinking about getting a roll away nest box so they couldn't get them at least? I have two other things I wondered about and wanted to see if I am missing something. First, there is a mouse that has gotten into their coop and keeps pooping in their food and water. I keep rinsing out and giving them clean water, but I wondered if that would have made the one sick. The other chicken seems fine, but I didn't know if mouse poop in the water could have made the one sick or not? Also, the one that is sick is missing like half of her tail feathers. They literally look like the top half of them got snapped or broken off? Do you know what that's from? Or is it tied in with the illness?
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Sorry for the delay, I had gone offline for the evening when your latest questions came in. Okay, this missing feathers are an important clue when added to the egg eating. Chickens who aren't receiving enough protein will both eat eggs and feathers for the higher quality of protein they contain. Try supplementing their diet with 5 or 6 bits of dry commercial cat food daily. This provides a source of high quality animal sourced protein and may stop both the feather and the egg eating. Both of these behaviors can become ingrained as habits, however, so they might not stop even when the protein craving has been resolved. Mice and chickens have historically lived together since the chicken was just an egg. While they are quite capable of carrying diseases, the mouse (mice?) are not very likely suspects in this problem, as only one hen is affected. Chickens are fairly resistant to most of the health problems caused by mice, but not all. It would be a good idea to poison or trap the mice. Chickens are highly resistant to the poisons used to get rid of rodents so that option will not present a risk to them. Of course, other mammals should not be exposed to the bait or the dead or dying mice. Hopefully, you'll soon be past this episode, but if I may be of any further help, please let me know.

Best regards, *****

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for your help. I'm afraid she is too far gone, she is no longer able stand up, laying on her side breathing slowly with her eyes closed. Pretty sure she won't make it through the night :( I tried everything I could. I guess it just wasn't something I could fix.
Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.

Hello again. I'm sorry to read of your hen's deteriorating condition. If you should have any further questions, I'll be happy to answer them for you. Large poultry producers rely on poet-mortem examinations, quickly culling obviously ill birds and examining their internal organs for the characteristic changes caused by the many poultry diseases. Of course, as small flock keepers, this option isn't very attractive, so we do our best to try to care for each of our birds, guided only by the often vague symptoms they show us. To make matters worse, they tend to camouflage their symptoms until quite late in the course of a disease process. If you are not squeamish, and she doesn't survive, you could open up her body cavity and take a look at the changes her organs might exhibit. The information gained through post-mortem examination is often what is needed for a definitive diagnosis in birds.

I hope the information I've given you will be helpful in your future endeavors in keeping your small flock, and if you have any more questions, please let me know.

Kind regards, *****

Expert:  Dr. Bob replied 1 year ago.
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. Bob