Help! My Chicken is Sick. What Should I Do?

Being very low on the food chain, and adhering to a very strict pecking order within a flock, chickens have been programmed to hide their symptoms extremely well, and by the time you even notice something is wrong, it's often too late.

But by spending time with your flock, and being able to recognize what 'normal' behavior is, you can spot even subtle changes that might indicate someone isn't feeling their best.

Often symptoms are obvious, such as a poopy butt which can often mean vent gleet or an intestinal bacteria, an enlarged crop which can signal an impacted crop or gapeworm, or straining which usually means you have an egg bound hen, while a pale comb can signal internal parasites, mites or lice.

But sometimes its just a sense you get that a hen is a bit quieter, more withdrawn, just not herself. She may be off in a corner, may be fluffed up a bit, looking disheveled. What to do in that situation?

Of course getting her to a vet is my prescribed course of action, but if that's not feasible for whatever reason, or even if it is, but you can't get an immediate appointment, I recommend the following.

Here is my best advice on what to do about a sick chicken when you have absolutely no idea what's wrong:

1.) Separate her immediately, preferably in the house or garage where she will be warm and safe - and not likely to pass whatever she's fighting on to other flock members if she hasn't already.

2.) Keep her hydrated. Give her some sugar water, plain Pedialyte, electrolytes, or a bit of Nutri-Drench or molasses for energy. Alternate that with water with a splash of apple cider vinegar in it. 

3.) Keep her eating. See if she will eat some feed, maybe moistened with warm water. If not, try scrambled eggs or warm oatmeal. I highly advise against syringe or force feeding or offering liquids using a syringe or eyedropper.

You can easily cause a hen to aspirate if anything goes down the wrong tube and ends up in the windpipe. Instead offer a small dish or bowl at beak level and gently dip the beak in.

 4.) Boost her immune system. Offer fresh minced garlic  and some fresh oregano if she'll eat it. She has her own best chance at fighting her illness already inside her, so boosting her immune system to help fight from the inside is your best bet.

5.) Build up her good bacteria. A bit of plain yogurt helps boost good bacteria levels. Too much dairy can cause diarrhea, so use caution, but the probiotics are good for building up her good bacteria.

Probiotic powder is a better choice, but in a pinch plain yogurt will do.

(I don't recommend antibiotics except as a last resort, but if you do administer antibiotics, then probiotics are a must both during and after treatment to rebuild the beneficial bacteria.)

6.) Monitor her eating/drinking/pooping/laying. Check her poop for worms or other parasites.  (This is all important information to pass along to your vet as well.)

7.) Treat accordingly, if, after watching her for awhile you are able to figure out what's wrong. Our Chicken Care Guide has loads of information on treating some of the most common chicken ailments naturally.  

8.) Use caution taking the advice or accepting a diagnosis from an online forum, Facebook page or blog. Including ours!

Even licensed vets rarely will diagnose an animal sight unseen and anyone except a licensed professional really shouldn't be attempting to diagnose your chickens.

9.) If you are lucky enough to have a vet to diagnose the problem, follow his advice but DO ask about natural or holistic remedies that might help her along as well.

And if you end up having to medicate your hen, HERE are some suggestions to make it a bit easier, especially if your chickens aren't used to being held.

The advice given here is meant to be used mainly to build a strong immune system to allow your hen to fight whatever it is that's troubling her from the inside on her own, hopefully in conjunction with a professional diagnosis.

My advice is not meant to diagnose, but rather help you treat once you have a diagnosis. A visit to a vet is always the best course of action.

Use care when administering anything new or different to an ailing chicken.

That's why I recommend a lifelong regiment of natural immune systems and health boosters given on a regular basis to hopefully head off illness before it can even take hold. Read more about Basic Natural Chicken Keeping HERE.

Oh and p.s. I follow the practices I preach. And I've never lost a single chicken to any kind of illness or disease. Ever. This stuff works trust me.

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