ASK the Editor – Poorly Chicken


My hen (about 3 years old) seems very poorly. She is not eating and her legs seem to have gone bandy,and sometimes her wings droop. Her comb still looks very red but is drooping a bit as well. The last 2 nights we have had to lift her into the chicken house. She also seems to sleep a lot.

First, I’m very sorry about your chicken and I don’t mean that lightly. I know it’s hard when one of your flock is suffering and she does seem to be in a bad way. Unfortunately, without personal examination or more in-depth information, it’s very difficult to determine the problem.

Some quick thoughts that come to mind are:

1.) egg binding.
2.) intestinal parasites
3.) internal infection (i.e. egg yolk peritonitis)

If you could comment and let me know any further details on her condition, we can narrow down the problem.
1.) Is her poop runny? Does it look (color) different?
2.) When you say her legs are “bandy” — is she squatting? Or are they bowed out (like a cowboy)?
3.) Any discharge from the eyes/nostrils?
4.) Does she move about at all during the day?
5.) When did she lay an egg last?
6.) What breed is she?
7.) How many other chickens do you have?
8.) Is her stomach swollen / warm to touch / tight?

In the meantime, you may have to force feed her to keep her alive and you may want to provide her a safe box in the house. One of the best solutions to force feed a chicken is the Nutri-Drench — I’ve kept many a sick chicken alive on this stuff. But if you don’t have it, you can actually feed her raw egg yolk (yeah… weird, I know) through a syringe dropper.

Do any of our readers have any information on what this chicken could be afflicted with? Comment below – thanks!


  1. First, when I can’t figure out what it is, I take them to the vet–QUICK! Birds often mask their illness as a natural “flock behavior” In other words, they don’t want to draw attention to themselves by acting different and affecting their place in the ‘pecking order. Careful attention will reveal, early on, that the bird is JUST A BIT MORE SUBDUED, JUST FAKING EATING AND NOT ACTUALLY EATING WITH THE OTHERS, ETC. With this behavior, they will sometimes elude your attention, till the disorder is far advanced. So, it is important to know what is the normal, active, alert look and coloration. They can sicken and die in only a couple days (even hours). Keeping them fed, by sryinge feeding if necessary, is essential if the bird is to have a fighting chance. I mix raw egg and Pedialyte with Baby Bird food you can buy at the feed store or pet store. (It’s made for hand feeding baby parrots, etc.) I lost a hen to retained yolk peritonitis and she appeared the way you describe your hen. This is a untreatable condition, and the vet helped me by putting her down–poor thing was suffering terribly. But it is really not a good way to get a diagnosis by using this method–on-line, I mean. A vet exam, by a qualified exotic vet, is what you need to do. My philosophy is, this is the pact you make when you take on an animal’s care, no matter their size……..


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