I have an 18 month old Barred Rock Hen who is going through her first major (adult) molt and has been lethargic for the

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Customer:

I have an 18 month old Barred Rock Hen who is going through her first major (adult) molt and has been lethargic for the past few days. Her poop was green/dark green for a few days-now it's just urates. I haven't seen her eat today-just drink lots of water. Could she be fighting something else? I'm debating about separating her from the flock because I don't want to cause her anymore stress. Her nose/eyes aren't runny-but I haven't handled her today b/c she seems to be in pain every time I touch her (the molt causes ten feathers to fall out in my hand). Is this lethargy because of the molt? Do I need to be supplementing her? I do have antibiotics/probiotics and electrolytes if you think that could help....

As a sidenote: She has been in the molt for about a month now and hasn't laid an egg in that time. She just started to massively lose her feathers a week an a half ago. That's when I stopped handling her.

Answered by Dr. Michael Salkin in 6 hours 8 years ago
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Dr. Michael Salkin
48+ years of experience
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124,710 satisfied customers

Specialities include: Bird Veterinary, Exotic Animal Medicine, Avian Medicine, Poultry Veterinary Medicine

I'm sorry that your questions wasn't answered in a timely manner. To answer you directly, yes, molting is a stressful time for birds and their nutritional requirements increase at that time, egg laying usually ceases, and bird can become lethargic if they're not eating well and replacing the nutrients that are going into replacing their feathers. Please note that these birds don't need to be supplemented - or at least not for very long - if they continue to eat a high quality, fresh, layer diet. Please see this excellent synopsis of diet vis à vis laying hens: http://www.extension.org/pages/69065/feeding-chickens-for-egg-production#.VHz9X8mLNyU

My concern, then, is that her molt may be contributory to her malaise but an underlying disorder is present which is preventing her eating in a manner to support her molt. Unfortunately, the symptoms you've mentioned can indicate any number of illnesses or health issues. 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 and physical exams to differentiate. With this in mind, your best course of action is to reach out to your county-extension poultry personnel or veterinarian (please see here: www.aav.com) 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 your hen's financial value to your operation. Although some services 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.

Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer

Hi Dr. Salkin,

Thanks for your response...I ended up taking her to the vet yesterday and they started her on a round of clavamox (to rule out bacterial infection) but there was a question about her crop. Because of her traumatic molt-they decided to wait vs take a culture. This morning I checked her crop and it's not flat like it should be-it's squishy and slightly full. It's not hard (impacted) but I don't smell anything foul from her mouth either. My guess if her crop is still squishy this could be sour crop? Could worms possibly cause this? She hasn't pooped in two days (other than water) so I can't get a sample to the vet yet. I'm assuming it's safe to keep her on the clavamox and check her crop again tomorrow? If it's still squishy-I'm assuming the vet will prescribe an antifungal?

Any advice on how to get her to eat? She won't touch her feed (crumble layer mix) but I did get her to eat a little 'soft' food just before bed last night (some tuna). So she seems like she wants to eat-but can't....is it ok to keep her on soft foods if that's what she can eat? (better something than nothing)?

Thanks for your advice regarding supplementing. I just lost a silkie last week to fatty liver rupture (trauma-accident) but the necropsy stated that she had low vitamin e levels (due to what they thought was exposed feed). My other 14 hens seem to be fine-so the vet concurred with your opinion-it was probably a freak accident and there is no need to supplement.

Thanks in advance for your response!

"Squishy and slightly full" in a bird who hasn't been eating suggests crop stasis. You might not be smelling anything foul yet if secondary yeast hasn't appeared. If it doesn't empty in another 24 hours, your vet or you can manually empty it and instill chlorhexidine. A systemic antiyeast drug isn't usually necessary.

The underlying problem - perhaps her crop - needs to be corrected before she'll begin to eat again. Yes, anything she eats at this time is better than nothing. Worms are always a consideration; hopefully, you've been prophylactically worming your birds every few months. I'm pleased to hear that you have avian-oriented vets available to you.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Customer

Thanks for the answer!

Last question: if it's not crop stasis or worms-could it be clostridium perfringens? If that is the case then the antibiotics should continue helping correct?

Thanks again!

I'm not sure why C. perfringens is your concern. It's a normal inhabitant in chickens but can cause everything from subclinical infection to necrotic enteritis...but so can coliforms (colibacillosis/E.coli) and a host of other bacteria and viruses.

Yes, Clavamox (potentiated amoxicillin) is quite broad spectrum and should address C. perfringens.
Customer

It's because I've been looking at her droppings and try to determine any other potential causes. Her droppings look similar to other chickens diagnosed with C. Perfringens. Just checking...

Well I'll be watching her the next 24 hours to see if her crop empties or not and go from there. I'm hoping if it's not that issue-that the broad spectrum should knock out anything else.

Thanks!

I'm going to check back with you in couple of days for an update. Feel free to return to our conversation - even after rating - prior to my contacting you if you wish.

Thank you for your kind accept. I appreciate it.

Customer

Sounds good-thank you!

Speak to you soon!

Please disregard the info request.
May I have an update, please?
Customer

Hi Dr. Salkin,

Thanks for checking back. She's a little better than Monday. Eating most things I put in front of her except her feed (hard boiled egg, plain yogurt mixed with her feed, superworms, tuna). She finally started eating more of her feed this morning and her poop was still wet with a little mush in it. Then by this afternoon she was back to wet poop (diarrhea) and drinking tons of water. She's still on clovamax twice a day (325mg) and her crop has been empty (and not squishy like before) for the past 48 hours-despite her eating more. The vet called today and said he'd check back but to keep doing what we're doing (and keep her separated and inside).

The one strange thing (that he also couldn't figure out) is that everytime she eats or drinks her stomach (or gizzard?) makes a 'digestive' noise (similar to a human's stomach "growling" in hunger). The vet here said he'd never heard of it...makes me think it's a digestive issue. We still haven't had a solid enough poop yet for a fecal sample. I asked him if it could be worms/parasitic-he also echoed what you said-the clovamax should be handling it-if so.

Any thoughts?

Thanks again for checking back!

I'm pleased to hear that she appears to be remissing. That sound is called borborygymus and it's the sound of gas and liquid moving through her digestive tract...which is hypermotile if you can hear those noises. That's certainly consistent with a digestive issue. Clavamox would address bacterial gastroenteritis but not parasites such as roundworms or coccidia. See what you can do about gathering up enough poop to be tested.

You're quite welcome.
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