Help! My Chicken is Sick!

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Disclaimer: I am NOT a veterinarian, just an animal owner & lover sharing my opinions and experiences.  Any advice on caring for animals or diagnosing & treating medical conditions for animals should be evaluated by a trained veterinarian.  Whenever possible, you should always have your sick or injured bird evaluated & treated by a trained professional.

Eventually, it will happen to every chicken owner.  You will go out to the chicken coop in the morning and notice someone isn’t coming out of the coop, or maybe they come out, but just stand quietly in the corner while everyone else is pecking around.

Some diagnoses are easy – if your chicken is limping you would look for a leg or foot problem.  Most times the clues that your chicken is sick will be very subtle.  Chickens are the ultimate prey animal.  Everyone loves a good chicken dinner!  Because of this, over the millennium chickens have become excellent at hiding weakness (did you know chickens have been domesticated for at least 5,000 years, and possibly up to 8,000 years?).  As a chicken owner you should spend a little time every day observing their behaviors so you can catch any changes early.

Obviously this list isn’t an all inclusive of everything that can go wrong with a chicken, but will cover many of the most common ailments.  So what should you do when you find something amiss?  Grab your chicken first aid kit and we’ll try to get to the bottom of this (want to check out what is in my first aid kit? click here to read about it)

One of these chickens is not like the others, time to investigate

One of these chickens is not like the others, time to investigate

Isolate any chicken you suspect is ill

Step one is always to remove the sick chicken from the flock until you figure out what is going on.  You don’t want the rest of the flock being exposed and you want to keep the sick chicken separate to make her easier to treat.  Isolating a chicken means they are kept at least 30-40 feet from the rest of the flock.  Make sure the isolated chicken has a secure coop, safe from predators with access to fresh food, water & grit.  Click here to see the hospital coop I made from recycled materials

Ms. Abigail comfortable in the hospital coop

Time to relax in the hospital coop

Check out her comb & wattles

Dehydration can cause a normally erect comb to flop over.  Make sure she has access to plenty of fresh cool water.  If it is warm out, a pale comb could indicate heat exhaustion.  Try filling a shallow pan with cold water and stand the chicken in it (don’t submerge her, it could be too great a shock).  Give her plenty of fresh, cool water and offer some chilled watermelon as a snack.

 A normal, healthy chicken should have a bright red comb.  If the comb is a pale pink it could be a sign of anemia. Anemia can be caused by a parasite infestation like mites, lice, worms.  To check for external parasites like mites and lice, part the feathers in several places and look carefully at the chicken’s skin for tiny creepy crawlies.  Mites look like tiny, almost translucent red fleas and can often be found in their “wing-pits” (under their wings).  Lice look like very tiny grains of rice and they lay their eggs at the feather shafts, both can often be seen near the chicken’s vent.  Other common side effects of external parasites include feather picking or bald spots, dirty looking or dull feathers, lethargy and loss of appetite.  Click here to read more about mites & lice

 If one chicken has external parasites, it’s a good bet the whole flock has them.  Totally empty and clean the coop, sprinkle food grade Diatomaceous Earth in all the corners before refilling with shavings.  Dust the chickens with DE or treat them with topical medications like  Ivomec Eprinex.

A pale comb could also indicate internal parasites (worms).  Common side effects of worms include very loose, watery droppings (sometimes the worms or worm casings can be seen in the droppings) and an increase in appetite but with weight loss.  Just like with internal parasites, if one chicken has worms, you should worm the entire flock & disinfect their coop.  There are several different kind of worms chickens can get and unfortunately there is not an all inclusive wormer available.  A fecal test by your vet (or an at home pet fecal test kit) can help identify the type of worms your flock has and recommend the appropriate treatment.  click here to read more about worms & chickens

Molting can also cause a pale comb.  If there are feathers everywhere that is likely the cause.  Click here to read more about molting

Ashy looking black or brown spots on the comb/wattle/any unfeathered skin can indicate fowl pox.  One or two spots is not a cause for concern and is probably a scab from another chicken pecking them.  Fowl pox would be accompanied by lethargy, loss of appetite, weight loss and “wet” sounding breathing.  Similar to chicken pox in humans it is very contagious (to other chickens) and there isn’t much you can do to “cure” it, just treat the symptoms.  Boost their immune systems with vitamins and electrolytes to help their body fight the virus, and keep any infected birds separate.

A purple comb usually indicates a respiratory problem which leads to the next section….

Her combs look not quite as red as normal, but not pale enough to be very concerned

Her comb looks not quite as red as normal, but not pale enough to be very concerned

Listen to her breathing

Hold the chicken and put your hands on either side of her to feel her breathing, listen closely.  Is she gasping for air?  Does her breathing sound gurgly?

Gasping or making a choking motion could indicate gape worm, a worm that takes up residence in your chicken’s trachea.  Other symptoms would include coughing and shaking their head.  If you check the throat, you can sometimes see the red worms attached to the trachea.  If gape worm is suspected, it’s best to worm the flock with an appropriate wormer.

Another possibility is there is something stuck in her throat.  Carefully open her beak and look into her throat (if you have a helper this will be much easier).  If your chicken has raspy breathing, sneezing, runny nostrils, and/or foamy eyes she could have a respiratory illness.  This can also sometimes be accompanied by lethargy or loss of appetite.  Basically a cold for chickens, you should keep her separate until symptoms go away.  Boost her immune system with vitamins & electrolytes.  I also like to use VetRx, you can put it near their nostrils or under their wing, it is kind of like a menthol rub when you are feeling congested.  If symptoms are not easing within a week, antibiotics might be needed.

Abby's breathing does not sound wet or raspy, but does seem a little strained like she is in pain or has an egg stuck

Abby’s breathing does not sound wet or raspy, but does seem a little strained like she is in pain or has an egg stuck

Check her droppings

Sometimes it can be hard in a large flock to tell which chicken is leaving the funky droppings you just found.  If it’s very watery, it can be easy to tell because the offender will usually have dirty bum feathers.  Otherwise, you are left just standing around watching chickens poop until you see who is leaving behind the offensive ones.  You can diagnosis a lot of illnesses through their poop.  Anytime you take your chicken to the vet for an illness, it’s handy to bring along a fecal sample for testing.  There is a huge range of normal looking poops and plenty of non normal ones.  If you have the stomach for it, The Chicken Chick has the most informative post on chicken droppings I have seen, complete with pictures.  You can check that out here.

I will spare you the photo, but Abigail’s poop is pretty runny.  Coupled with her strained breathing and the hunched over stance, I want to check in her vent for egg binding

I'm sorry, but you want to do what with my vent???

I’m sorry, but you want to do what with my vent???

Check her vent

Egg binding can happen when an egg gets stuck in the oviduct.  It happens most often in young layers, but it can happen at any time in a chicken’s egg laying career.  Abigail is an older girl, she’s 4 and only lays a couple times a week, sometimes not even that often, but better safe than sorry.  An egg bound hen will be lethargic with her tail down, perhaps looking like she is straining and waddling.  She will also have loss of appetite, a pale comb and she will either have loose stools or none at all.

This is a very serious condition and if she does not pass the egg within 2 days she will likely die.  If you suspect this, handle the hen carefully to avoid having the egg break inside of her which could lead to a fatal infection.  Carefully bring her inside where you have bright light to see what you’re doing & a clean space.  Apply a generous amount of Vaseline to a gloved finger and carefully insert it into her vent.  If the egg is in there it will be close to the vent.  If you can’t feel an egg within the first inch or two it’s not there and she is not egg bound.

 If you do feel an egg, fill a tub with a few inches of warm water.  Seat the chicken in the water for about 15-20 minutes while massaging her abdomen.  You can apply more Vaseline around her vent and near the egg.  Often this will ease the egg out.  If it doesn’t, take her out and wrap her in a warm towel.  Crush a calcium rich Tums tablet and feed it to her then put the hen in a warm, dark place (a dog crate with a blanket over it would be perfect).  The combination of the extra calcium and the warmth & dark hopefully will encourage her to lay.  If not, an emergency visit to the vet is in order so they can extract the egg.

How embarrassing, poor Abigail. But there was no egg stuck, so that is good news. While on her side, I did figure out the problem though! On her both of her feet, she had telltale black scabs.....

How embarrassing; poor Abigail. But there was no egg stuck, so that is good news. While on her side, I did figure out the problem though! On both of her feet, she had telltale black scabs…..

Check her feet

Inspect her feet and legs.  Are there any obvious cuts or injuries?  If so, thoroughly clean the wound with Vetericyn and wrap it to keep clean.

Do her lower legs look thickened, scabby & crusty?  This can be a sign of scaly leg mites.  These parasites burrow under the leg scales to snack on tissue. It can be painful and chickens with severe infestations might be limping.  If the infestation is not too severe you can try this natural remedy – soak the chicken’s legs in warm water for about 20 minutes, rubbing the scales to loosen the scabs.  Next, dip her feet & legs in oil (most oils will be fine, vegetable oil is a good choice as it’s fairly cheap).  Let her sit in the oil for maybe 5 minutes to suffocate the mites.  Dry her off and slather Vaseline on her legs.  You should repeat this process a couple times a week until her legs look healthy again.  For severe infestations, your vet can prescribe an anti parasitic medication like Ivermectin.

The other issue you should check for on your chicken’s feet is bumblefoot.  Bumblefoot is an infection on the underside of their foot.  It is fairly common, a chicken gets a cut on her foot and then is walking around in dirt and poop, you can see how that could easily lead to infection.  In it’s early stages, it will look like a black or brown scab on the bottom of the foot, sometimes accompanied by redness or swelling.  The chicken might be limping or sitting a lot to stay off her feet.  She may have lost interest in eating because it’s painful to stand.  You want to catch this in it’s early stages, as the infection advances it can get in their bloodstream and lead to death.  The infection forms a pus filled abscess on the foot (the black scab).

 The first step in treating this is to remove the abscess.  Assemble Vetericyn spray, Vetrap bandages & gauze pads, antibiotic ointment, and a surgical scalpel.  Soak the chicken’s feet in warm water for about 10 minutes to loosen the tissue.  Use gloves to prevent spreading further infection between the two of you.  Spray the area liberally with Vetericyn, wiggle the black scabbed abscess.  In early stages the abscess will only be lightly attached and you may be able to wiggle/pull it out.  Deeper abscesses will be more firmly attached and will require surgical removal.  If you feel confident with the scalpel, you can cut it out.  If not, it’s best to consult with a vet.  In either event, once the abscess is out, it will bleed.  Slather the area with  an antibiotic ointment and cover with a clean gauze pad and wrap with Vetrap.  Change the bandages daily for about a week or until the area is healed, applying more Vetericyn or antibiotic ointment at each changing.

Luckily I was able to wiggle out the abscess from Abigail’s foot.  She actually had one on each foot, both about 1/2 inch deep.  I’m sure this was painful, and having an infection can cause lethargy and lack of appetite.  Surprisingly she was not limping at all, this just goes to show you how well chickens can mask pain.  Not eating and drinking enough was leading to runny stools.  She is comfortably recovering in the hospital coop, and getting electrolytes and plenty of mealworm treats 🙂  Now if she would just leave her bandages alone…..


    • Linda says:

      I have a Hen that goes backward like and flops around like she has no balance, it looks like she is drunk, what can it be?. please help.

      • Liz says:

        I have a little bantam Cochin that does this sometimes. From what I have read it is likely a neurological effect stemming from a vitamin deficiency. With my cochin, she is very often broody and not taking great care of herself. When she is in her super broody moods I notice the imbalance and backwards walking happening.

  1. Shelly says:

    Thank you for this info. I have a girl who,is limping. She’s eating, but is slow to come down out of the coop in the morning. I think it may be a small cut, but I. Going back out there today to give a more thorough exam. I hope it’s not anything such as an abcess , but I want to be sure.

  2. Kaye says:

    One of my. hens is sick and I am at wits end.
    Limped on Thursday
    Gave her very warm water and epson salt
    She is drinking and lightly eating her greens
    What do I do?
    New at this

    • Liz says:

      Have you checked her feet? Limping could be from bumblefoot (you’ll see a small black scab on the bottom of the foot) or possibly leg mites (the scales on the legs get thicker and you might see the small mites). Bumblefoot is an infection and could definitely lead to a decreased appetite

    • Liz says:

      If she is eating and drinking normally and you see no obvious signs of injury or frostbite on her foot/leg, she probably just sprained it. If you haven’t seen any improvement after week you might want to give the vet a call. In the meantime, keep her quiet so she can rest and make sure she has plenty of fresh water & feed. If you can add some vitamins and electrolytes to her water that would be even better

  3. Liz says:

    Oh no! Poor little thing! I wish I had more advice. How old is she? Do you know if the hatchery you got her from vaccinated for Marek’s disease? The first stages are often wobbly or paralyzed legs

  4. Kaye says:

    This is Kaye my hen Hennie has been ill and I just wanted to “Thank You” for all the help!
    Hennie walked out of the Roost today, on her own.
    I do believe the mealworms, Crickets and crushed egg shells did it.
    I am ecstatic that she is ok, BUT now she does seem to eat. Did I spoil her!
    Thank you, again
    Kaye in South Carolina

  5. Vicky says:

    Hi ,
    First of all I want to say that you not only have a nice website but that I’m also very very pleased by the way you treat your animals . Now , I’m a newbie in keeping ( and also loving ) chickens and had already made some huge mistakes which at the end even costed the life of my hens ! In fact it wasn’t really my own fault , the main issue was the use of forums , sadly enough those people are a bunch of lies bind with the idiotic and just ignorant idea that a chicken is not like a cat .. Well , actually i almost quoted someone on that forum by saying that cat thing . The issue I just had was that my very first chicken frightened me and really took controle over me , my small child and even all my 24 hours a day . Just because this hen was a Rhode Island , now I know why she behaved like that but back then I had no idea how to handle her so I asked online for advice , how happy and proud I was to be one of them ! Now happy that I’m NOT LIKE THEM !!! They started to ask me questions , well some of them , most reactions were only to tear me down , quotes like ” OMG that chicken is costing you that much , it has total control and it knows it and u just let it all happen haha arent u a good chickenfarmer rofl gut gut etc etc ” but what went wrong ? nobody asked for any specifics about the animal , her eating , drinking , outlook , nothing at all , later I said on that forum that my child got pecked untill it bleeded and that I was stunned and clueless , obviously i just needed some advice ! If I noticed these words written down by no matter who it is , I would know : this person is just new , chillout everyone and just start asking GOOD questions plus give her good tips come on don’t be so jurky ! ” but no , one person asked me wether my child had hurt the chicken so I said no she was hughing it why ? ” the reactions i got were a total blackout for me ! words like ” wtf a hug to a chicken ? you are just proviquing the problem ! who hugs a chicken , it is JUST a chicken ! stop letting her do that and let those chickens be chickens , end of story and your problems are solved and if they peck give it a push or yell at it ! ” yeah ofcourse a lot of help , but no i didnt take the ‘advice ‘ , it is good for a child to get to know a chicken and open its heart to it right ? same here ! I petted her a bit when i cleaned the coop and she came to c what was going on etc , and yes we spoiled her but if that is what she loves and you love it i don’t c the issue ! now what went wrong ? she turned about 8 months yet never layed ONE egg and started doing the things that indicated indeed an egg got stuck , on that forum someone told me to check under , so I turned that poor animal upside down and I didn’t even know it would kill her , so the moment I turned her back over I felt like ” omg she doesn’t work with me , don’t u like to stand up ?? ” she died !!!! I started even mouth to mouth , I was in shock for information ( because I got shocked indeed and cared about her way too much ) but now I have one hen of my own , unknown age from a seller online who was having too much of them she is white 🙂 and fine 😉 , but now the question… I found a week ago a hen that must have been hit by a car OR , and I fear for this ( my gut tells me ) she could be sevearly mistreated !!!! She has one broken wing , one broken leg , one broken 2 broken feet and obviously she has also an egg stuck , now I already took her in the house from day one , found her totally bound into a white dirty piece of towel or something and clearly dumped as she can’t walk , I did the first things : desinfected her entire body after a nice bath , she was in pain yet she liked it that I rubbed her and took care of her , she showed it , really ! she was sooo thankfull to me , later I made with a straw and some soft materials her leg bit steady by taping this in , not too tight for the bloodcirculation and indeed it helped her ! she did not want to eat first and that day she ate and even used her foot which is also sevearly damaged , not long but yes she did stand on it , now today is a terrible and critical day , I am worried sick ! she does NOT eat nor drink , and has her egg stuck plus she lays flat , tale down , wings flat on the ground , I’m so out of options , the vet already told me to euthanase her but I can’t 🙁 , she is very kind and way too young ( dont know how old she is but if she lays eggs ? that means TOO YOUNG TO DIE !!! ) plse Liz , I almost beg you , i’m sorry to ask you as I know you have other things to do and get questions all day long but PLEASE help me / HER ! please ? Warm regards out of Belgium on a sunny , yet so damn sad springday she cant even enjoy

    • Liz says:

      You obviously love your chickens so much! I agree, they definitely can be just like any other pet and can really work their way into your heart. First, I don’t think tipping your first hen upside down killed her (unless you had her upside for like 20 minutes – just tipping her upside down and then righting her is not going to kill her), my guess is there was something else wrong with her. So please do not blame yourself for that. Your poor little one sounds like she has really been through a lot. Has your vet looked at her? It sounds like her injuries are pretty substantial, more than a standard chicken keeper (like me) without a medical degree could fix. If your vet is recommending euthanasia,unfortunately it might be something you have to consider. This is the hardest part of owning animals and it tears my heart out. Just a couple weeks ago, we had to put our beloved cat to sleep even though she was only 5 years old, but she had an inoperable stomach tumor. She wasn’t eating or drinking and was in pain. The only humane option was to help her pass. If you take her to the vet, they can help you and you can be with her right until the end. If you are determined to save her, the vet can at least properly set her broken limbs, but this kind of trauma is often something a chicken can’t survive. It sounds like you are doing everything you can to make her happy and comfortable and I truly wish I had better advice to make her well again 🙁 I am so sorry

  6. Teri says:

    I have a chicken she is barely eating her breathing is like she congessted and now she got black poop on her butt she not doing good help help ??

    • Liz says:

      I am sorry your little one is not doing well – it’s hard to say from those symptoms it could be a lot of things. The dark poop and lack of appetite could indicate a digestive issue. How does her crop feel? Is there a strange, rotten smell coming from her mouth? Sour crop & impacted crops can be common in spring when chickens are eating long, uncut blades of grass which then get tangled in the crop

      • Lisa Epperson says:

        I have read this before and ours love to get grass cuttings from mowing. So I’m always sure something bad can always occur, so try and minimize those circumstances as much as possible. So now I cut grass with scissors into short manageable pieces. If they resemble eating green spaghetti I figure it’s too long.
        My favorite chicken died from impacted egg, I’m sure. My husband cares for them, but I need to do a visual exam daily. I found one sick chicken already that way.
        I’m just wondering, do you breed the meal worms or crickets? We hand tamed our Serama babies with meal worms, but they are expensive.

        • Liz says:

          Chickens can be a big learning curve! I don’t breed the meal worms, it’s something that we have been wanting to look into though because they are so expensive!

  7. Dorothy says:

    My pet rooster has never had a sick day in his life (he is about 8 years old now). Today he is straining to go to the bathroom, but nothing is coming out. Is there something I can give him to help>

    • Liz says:

      Poor guy! I would try soaking him in warm tub with epsom salt and see if that can loosen things up. Mixing some ProBios in his water can help with digestion and plain yogurt is also great for digestive health

      • Dorothy says:

        Hi Liz, My rooster was in need of meal worms to eat! I was informed of this by a man who was working on our patio removal project. He had kept chickens, and, ironically, had a rooster tattoo! He said to feed Buddy, our pet rooster, meal worms (at least several a day) and he would be right as rain. And he was! We have kept it up, and there has been no recurrence of the digestive malfunction. Nothing else at the time worked, and we tried everything. We were losing Buddy. I hope by sharing this that some other chicken and chicken owner are helped. Thanks for your website.

        • Liz says:

          Thanks for the update Dorothy! Meal worms are an excellent source of protein for chickens. It always make me mad when companies tout that their chickens are fed “an all vegetarian diet”, chickens are meant to eat bugs & small rodents and need it to stay healthy! So glad your guy is on the mend!!

  8. ann adams says:

    My hen (Betty BOO) is acting sick ,PLEASE HELP !!! SHE was acting like she wanted to lay …but nothing ..I put her in tub with warm water , them I cleaned her and she was trying to pass a strange looking thing ,so I pulled it out ,it looked like a jagged worm with a string on it …PLEASE TELL ME I DIDN’T ANY HARM TO HER !!! She got with the other two hens I have and seemed to be ok ,she went to her nest at dusk and I PRAY SHE WILL BE ALIVE IN AM ..SHE WAS DRINKING WATER ,BUT NO FOOD ……………………..

    • Liz says:

      oh no! Maybe she ate something she shouldn’t have (like string or straw) while free ranging? In the morning, try to get her to eat whatever you can (treats like warm oatmeal, yogurt or meal worms might entice her to eat) I hope she is ok too!

  9. Katie Brunke says:

    So I have a hen that is almost 1 year old. We often uses her wing to help keep balance and her feathers are very raged. She doesn’t really eat much and drinks water. Help please??

    • Katie Brunke says:

      And she uses her wings to sorta keep balance, havbent checked her vent yet, she stands in a sorta egg laying position, tail on ground but no egg

      • Liz says:

        hmmm that is strange. The wings out and tail down does sound like she is straining to pass something. I would check her vent, if there is an egg, it will be pretty close to the opening, you don’t need to go in too far

        • Katie Brunke says:

          So I checked and I did check through the vent and I felt an egg externally far from the vent.. I gave her some calcium (tums cause we don’t really have anything with direct calcium except tums) and she did get a bit more active, I will probably take her inside the house (because we don’t really have the Mini Coop out of the chicken run) for a couple of days to see how she does, she is also drinking abut more water by herself now but hasn’t eaten much. I will update on her when I see changes..

          • Liz says:

            When an egg gets stuck it’s usually not too far down, but giving her a soak in a warm tub can’t hurt to see if you can coax out the egg. I would keep her separated from the rest of the flock until you can be sure whatever she has isn’t contagious (although I think it might just be the egg). Give her plenty of feed & clean water (you can add a some electrolytes to the water to give her a health boost).

          • Dorothy says:

            Has anyone tried meal worms for this sick chicken yet?? As I mentioned above, nothing, absolutely nothing (and we tried everything) worked, and we were losing Buddy until we gave him worms. He had stopped eating completely, but took the worms without hesitation. Shortly after, he passed a wad of stuff that had been clogging his system. Please try the worms.

  10. Linda says:

    My chicken has been limping on one leg. I checked for cuts there are none. Her foot is slightly swollen. She may have hurt herself jumping off the roost. She is my biggest one from my flock. Any advice? Do I need to take her to the vet?

    • Liz says:

      I would keep an eye on her for the next few days, hopefully it’s just a little sprain and she will heal on her own. If you notice she isn’t walking at all, or just getting worse you should seek a vet, but just for temporary limping, I would wait and see

  11. Kaye greene says:

    Hi my hen ha a similar problem.
    I fed her water from an eye dropper
    But what i did next was the trick
    I filled a plastic box of not hot but very hot
    Water with Dawn and epson salt!
    She loved it when i took her out i rub ed her legs
    With Petroleum jelly
    I did it oh maybe 2x in a week
    Good lluck
    South carolina

  12. Susan says:

    So after reading all these post I think my chickens both have bumblefoot! I checked the feet of the baby chicken who is a year old and she was red and swollen a bit so I gently pressed and the black scab came off and I didn’t see puss but it started to held a bit I cleaned it wit anticeptic for people and put neosporin on it and put a bandaid she didn’t like that so that came off but I watched her all day cleaning poop from her cage to be sure she didn’t infect the open wound I wiped it a few times too she seems ok so far! But for a week straight she had diarrhea so then today I checked her feet and I also put coconut oil very little on her comb as I was told would be good for both chickens I have the other is the mom but the mom spit up after I applied it so I wiped it with a wet rap scared I caused a problem yikes I am still basically new to this chicken thing we’ve had the mom for about two years not sure in her age but she just stopped laying eggs but her baby is a year old and she’s been not well. And today I noticed some wet runny nose snot but her breathing sounds good I’m just worried!!!???

    • Liz says:

      Hmmm that is a lot of symptoms. It sounds like you have the bumble foot under control? If the place were you pulled the scab off has not regrown a black scabby kernel then the infection is likely gone. But anytime your chicken has diarrhea is concerning. Have your wormed your chickens ever? That is a pretty common cause of diarrhea. See my post on working chickens for more information The coconut oil would not have made them sick so that is unrelated. Hope this helps and your little one is feeling better soon!

  13. Margueritte Kent says:

    Hi I was hoping you can Help me please…I have chickens, but some of them have been sick and dont seem to get better even though i have taken them to the vet. The main sign is that they seem to get runny poo on there behind, they keep eating for a while but then they stop and eventually die, Others have been given antibiotics but dosnt work…Any ideas…what is it called Thank you. I have a photo but i cant seem to upload it

  14. Maria Logan says:

    Hi. Thanks for writing a great blog! My chickens are let out of their coop/run daily and eat bugs and slugs and all things yummy in the yard. Hooray! Buuuuut, then they got tapeworm, as evidenced by tiny wiggly rice-like sections in their poop. Ugh. I’m confused on when to de-worm. They are probably a bit underweight but otherwise normal (laying eggs, eating and drinking, running around etc.) I’ve read that they can carry a parasite load, and generally be ok, but I’m just not sure when it isn’t going to be ok. And now, despite my efforts to pick up all the poop (that could be a full time job), there is undoubtedly a yard full of tape eggs, for the cycle to reoccur. Thoughts? Experience? Thanks again.

    • Liz says:

      oh no! I have been lucky to not have any direct experience with tapeworm with my chickens. I know they can be tricky to get rid of though. Do you have access to a chicken friendly vet? I know Praziquantel can be used to treat tapeworm, but your vet might have access to something prescription strength. Sounds like you are doing a good job picking up all the poop which is a great first step for the yard. Keep your grass cut short, the eggs don’t survive well in sunlight, so if the sun can get down to the dirt that will help. Also get some fly and mosquito traps as these insects can help transfer the disease. If you can possibly section your yard off it will allow you to rotate the land the chickens are grazing on. Part of the yard can remain poop free, many of the eggs will die off in six months (some can survive longer, but 6 months is a good start). Then switch the chickens to the clean land and work on eliminating them in the other area. Good luck!

  15. Angel Wells says:

    My brahma is walking around with her eyes closed. She is always hard to catch but not now she acts like she’s asleep even when being held. Her comb is pale and waddles. Idk what to do.

    • Liz says:

      Your chicken sounds like she is in a very serious state. Have you checked for mites or lice? They can quite literally suck the life out of a chicken (you can read more here It’s hard for me to say exactly what is wrong from here, but she is certainly is distress. Bring her inside, keep her warm. Give her some water with electrolytes added (or apple cider vinegar if you don’t have any chicken vitamins). You might need to use a dropper to get her to drink. Try to get her to eat. Mealworms are a great source of protein and are nearly irresistible to chickens. Click here to check out my recipe for what I feed my chickens when they are sick I hope she pulls through!

  16. robin dodd says:

    i have just got 4 chickens ,, 3 of them happy as larry ,, lively , eating drinking ,, but now 1 of them ,, just sits or stands still for ages and ages , occasionally peckin a bit of grass and a bit of water ,, i can go to her and she does not flinch unlike the other chickens ,, so now i am going to isolate her and see wot happens ,, any advice would be most welcome ,, thank you -regards Rob

    • Liz says:

      Are these adult chickens? I think it is definitely wise to separate her until you figure out what is going on. She could just be feeling out of place with the new environment and all the changes, but she could also be sick. Keep an eye on her and keep her separate for now

  17. robin dodd says:

    just been out to check on me poorly chicken before i go to work ,, but alas its died ,, so got it all bagged up and box removed before our lass can see it , it,ll be a few tears day from her ,,

      • robin dodd says:

        nee mind lass ,, still got 3 chickens ,, and up from 1 egg a day to 2 eggs a day ,, goin to see mate tomorrow an d see if i can buy a chicken off him ,,heard its better avin even than odd so they can pal up ,, how true it is i don,t know

      • robin dodd says:

        hello liz again ,, i,m back up to 4 chickens, again for the time being , but alas 1 of them the youngest ( small crown ) i think ,, its showing signs of be doing nothing ,, just stands there most of time ,, still eating and drinking but no where near as much as the other 3 ,, i keep it away from the rest on lock up time ,, its back end seems a tad messy ,, any ideas ,, regards Rob

  18. Maureen says:

    My Trixie isn’t feeling so well. She’s a backyard Delaware about 3 years old now. Found her in the coop laying under the roost last night not looking so good. She won’t eat, her feathers are bushy, purple comb with purplish bright red wattles. She’s not moving much. I have her separated under a warm lamp with electrolytes in her water and have given her treats. How do I proceed?

    • Liz says:

      How is her breathing? A purple comb usually indicates a respiratory problem, she isn’t getting enough oxygen in her system. It could be something simple like a little chicken cold. It could also be early frostbite, severe frostbite would be white or black, but early stages can be purple. You are doing everything right! Try to keep her warm. If she isn’t eating or drinking on her own, you might need to help her with a dropper or spoon feeding. Mealworms are a great, high protein treat that most chickens can’t resist even when they are sick. Yogurt & bananas are also great for sick chickens. The electrolytes in her water are also an excellent idea. I hope Trixie is feeling better soon!

  19. Maureen says:

    Thanks for the reply. I’ve given her a good look over and she’s taken several drinks of water. Her breathing seems ok. Her comb appears more like a darker red now rather than a purple color. She makes little noises when I’m near her and has stood up a few times. She has very watery stool which is clear with a lot of white and some dark green? Could she have an egg stuck in her vent? I felt around the area and most of her body and I’m not really feeling much. Could one be stuck and I’m just got able to feel it from the outside?

    • Liz says:

      You can’t usually feel a stuck egg from outside, the only way to really feel it is to put on a glove and examine inside her vent. usually a stuck egg is just a few inches from the vent opening. If she had a stuck egg she would be hunched over with her tail down and sort of waddling when she walks. It’s good that her comb color is brightening up, hopefully that is a good sign! Too much protein in their diet (maybe lay off the meal worms!) can cause runny stools. Unfortunately, not eating & runny green poop can be symptoms of a reproductive system cancer. Hopefully it isn’t that and she will bounce back after a couple days inside

  20. Lauren says:

    Hi Liz,
    Due to a severe drought and an influx of wild birds, I am having horrendous problems with lice and mites on my poultry. I am ordering Ivomec Eprinex as suggested in your article. I have never used this before and was wondering how much you use per hen and how often. Do you also have to withhold the use of eggs after applying Ivomec Eprinex?
    I would be very grateful fo any advice you could give me.
    Many thanks,
    Kind regards,

    • Liz says:

      Oh no! That is definitely no fun! For my birds I use 0.5 cc for standard size chickens and 0.25 cc for bantams. It is topical, so you put it on their skin around the base of the neck (similar to a topical flea treatment for dogs or cats). I’ve had good luck with this with just one dose, but you can retreat in 2 weeks if there is still a problem. Make sure you get the coop cleaned out really well because some mites live in the coop and come out to feed at night while they roost. Because Ivomec Eprinex use in chickens is “off label” they don’t have official guidelines for dosing but this is what I have used (official reminder that I AM NOT A VET and medical advise should be run by a trained veterinarian). And again because it is off label for chickens there are no guidelines about withholding eggs. For use in cattle it says there is no withdrawal time for milk or meat, but just to be extra safe, every time I have used this, I throw out the eggs for a week. Good luck! You also might be interested in my article on Mites 🙂

      • Lauren Goss says:

        Thank you so very much Liz, I am very grateful for the advice and I am glad I found your website. So much great info.

        All the very best.

  21. Josie Mitton says:

    From the symptoms which you explained, I think my girl was egg bound. Unfortunately she died yesterday 🙁 I can’t help but think I could have saved her if I took a better look at her and did more research. She was so sweet and my heart aches for her.
    I will keep this knowledge from you in case any of my other girls get very ill. Thank you.

    • Liz says:

      Hi Josie, I am sorry for your loss. It’s never easy when one of your girls pass on. They are so good at hiding their illnesses. The first few chickens I lost I felt so helpless and had no idea what went wrong and I felt like I failed them so I understand. Arm yourself with knowledge for the future and feel glad that you gave her a good life while you had her 🙂 Hopefully her death can at least help you in the future to save others.

  22. Dorothy says:

    Please don’t beat yourself up, Josie. I’ve had pet chickens and rabbits for many, many years. I get it right most of the time, but have occasionally missed what in hind sight seemed so obvious. We do the best we can. Try to forgive yourself. The animals always forgive us. And I don’t doubt for a moment that chickens and all animals have souls like ours and live on and even go to heaven.

  23. Sara says:

    One of our eight chickens seems to have gotten extremely big over the past week, she’s lethargic and doesn’t seem to be eating much food. I tried giving her a warm bath yesterday and putting her in a cosy quiet box because I thought perhaps there was an egg stuck in her, but she hasn’t laid anything and she’s still very big and sleepy looking today. Her comb is also pale and looks a little shriveled. We inherited our chickens when we moved in a few months ago, I have no idea how old they are or even what exact breed they are.

    Please help!!

  24. Josh says:

    I have a Vorwerk hen that lies on her side with her feet hanging out the side. When I lift her up he legs cross over. She so about 16 weeks old. She has been like this for about 3 weeks at the beginning I isolated her and then we went away so I put her back with her mates. A couple days ago I realised I probably should put her in isolation again so I did. What should I do. Please help her as vorwerk is an endangered chicken and I don’t want to put her down

    • Liz says:

      Hi Josh, poor little girl! So can she not support her weight at all? Did she walk normally as a young chick? It sounds like she may have had a case of splayed legs as a chick and never recovered, but without looking at her, it’s really hard to say. Many chicks with splayed legs don’t make it without braces to strengthen their legs at a very young age. I assume she must be able to move enough to get to food & water or she wouldn’t have made it to 16 weeks. I would suggest you have a veterinarian take a look at her. If she can’t support her weight enough to move around she is going to have a really challenging life. I have seen some people rig up “walkers” with slings and PVC pipes for chickens to strengthen her legs, but they are going to need a lot of assistance. Definitely start with a trip to the vet and see if they have any other insights. Sorry, I wish I could help more!

  25. Josh says:

    She has walked normally we have hatched many eggs and have had experience with splayed chicks but this chick was extremely well and was living a good life till about 3 weeks ago my uncle (who has experience with chickens) says she may have mareks do u know much about mareks. He says it’s contagious but none of the other chickens have it so I don’t think it is mareks

    • Liz says:

      Mareks can cause paralysis and might have been my first thought, but your uncle is right, it is very contagious so during that period where you put the chick back in the flock she would have given it to other chicks. I would think by now you would start to see the signs in the other chicks. Definitely keep her separated until you get to the bottom of it just to be safe. Did you hatch these guys in an incubator or buy them as chicks? If you got them as chicks, many large hatcheries will vaccinate against Mareks. I haven’t had any personal experience with it, but from everything I’ve read there is no cure, you just help treat the symptoms. There is a transient form of Mareks where the chick would suddenly just get better but I believe the regular form is more common. The only other thing I can think of is a bacterial infection called Erysipelas. It can cause lameness. Do you have other farm animals? Pigs are often asymptomatic carriers and can transmit it to poultry. This is definitely a mystery, I would love for you to keep me updated.

  26. Josh says:

    Hi Liz. How would I be able to send a picture of her as that may help more. You keep referring to her as a chick however she about 18 weeks old so I don’t know if that makes her a chicken. We hatched them out of an incubator and didn’t vaccinate them because of our years of experience have never seen anything like this as she was fine until one day when she was lying on the ground. The pen where the flock is is near our neighbours cows but their shelter and a fence separates them.

  27. Trevor says:

    This happened to me, I lost 2 chickens from it and saved 8,
    If you mix sugar water up, use a dropper and give them 5 drops down the mouth 3-4 times a day, after 2-4 days they will get better and be more active. But not as many eggs will be layed for the fist 7 days!

  28. Lou says:

    Hi Liz, our school chook is treated for mites and lice once a week with the dust you powder them with and put on their bedding. she has lost lots of feathers around her bottom [totally bald and pink no feather shafts at all. We thought maybe her mate was pecking her [although we never caught her in the act]. I have taken the supposed “pecker” out for a week to see if she feels a little better. she has become very flighty and nervous… Any ideas please? Lou

  29. Itcel says:

    My four year old chicken has been waddling around with her tail down and bloated looking stomach, her comb turning into a dark purple and she’s just been very fatigue overall, sometimes she can’t stand up on her own.She still eats and drinks water pretty normally and I don’t know how to help.

    • Liz says:

      Have you checked her vent for an egg that is stuck? Often waddling and tail down can indicate that. My next guess would be to part her feathers so you can see down to her skin and check for mites. Under the wing is a good place to do that. The purple comb indicates she is having an issue with oxygen in her blood, if she has mites it will make her anemic causing weakness and fatigue. Both conditions could end up being fatal if left untreated so it’s a good idea to check her over immediately!

  30. Pam-the-chicken says:

    I have noticed today that my chickens have been gaping their mouths, coughing and sneezing a lot, and I think that it may be Gapeworm. I am a new chicken owner and today I am going out to get some Flubenvet for them.

    Is there anything else that I need to know/get????
    They are about 21.5 weeks old.

    • Liz says:

      awww poor things! The Flubenvet should knock them out and hopefully they will be back to normal soon. There is no withdrawal time with Flubenvet with chickens, but I always feel squeamish about eating the eggs when I’ve been medicating the flock so I usually toss the eggs for a week after medicating but that is just me. Good luck!

  31. Tony says:

    Hey I have a baby chick and I’d say she’s about 2 months old. She was healthy running around but suddenly she just stayed still in a spot and didn’t move. I don’t know what’s causing this. Please email me back for solutions to help at

  32. Jacob says:

    I have a hen that’s 8months old she stopped laying quite sometime ago. She can’t walk very good she eats and drinks fine. Has watery diarrhea. She isn’t egg bound. Comb laid over. I had another chicken do the same thing a few months back I put it out. I thought it was mareks I wasn’t taking the risk. I was wondering if you had any suggestions. Thanks In advance

    • Liz says:

      Has it been extra warm where you are? Watery diarrhea, not laying, and floppy combs can all be signs of heat stress. Changing the water out twice a day, providing shade, and spraying off the run with a hose a few times a day can all help when it gets really hot. When it’s really hot I’ll set up a mister or sprinkler in the run. I notice signs of heat stress in my flock once the temps get in the upper 80s and definitely when it’s in the 90s. You can also offer lots of juicy, cool snacks like chilled watermelon, peaches, or other fruits. The heat can effect chickens differently – the heavier breeds tend to have more issues dealing with it. How are your other chickens? Is it just this one chicken that is not doing well? Another thing to check for would be internal or external parasites. That could also cause these symptoms. You can read more about external parasites here: and internal parasites here: