Feeling Under the Weather

Like any other pet, chickens can sometimes have health problems. Illness is quite uncommon in mst hens, but when problems occur, your birds deserve some extra special care. This section of our Guide covers symptoms, possible causes, and what to do about it.

A trio of healthy chickens roaming the garden
A trio of healthy chickens roaming the garden

Sick Chickens

The following signs will tell you if your hens are unwell. Isolate any ill birds, and call the vet.

  • Dirty or messy feathers outside the molting season
  • Hunched-up posture
  • Lethargy, sitting alone, or perching on a roosting bar in the daytime
  • Evidence of parasites on skin or feathers
  • Runny poo, completely white poo, or signs of blood or worms in the poo
  • Sneezing, wheezing or other unusual sounds
  • Being bullied by the other hens suddenly
  • No appetite
  • Slow growth compared to birds of similar breed and age

Don't Panic! Five Signs that a Hen is Healthy, In Spite of Appearances!

  1. Small, soft-shelled or shell-less eggs in young birds. The first few are usually a bit abnormal, so this is fine.
  2. Loss of feathers. This happens every year during the molt, so don’t worry.
  3. No egg-laying. This is a regular cycle – eggs will all but disappear during the colder months, and also during the molt.
  4. Red or dark spots in or next to the egg yolk. This is normal, and unless there’s a lot of red – i.e. blood – or blood in every single egg, everything’s fine.
  5. New birds hiding in the coop - they're just finding their feet in the new flock and will be out and pecking in no time!

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Jill, 1 March 2021

I have 13 hens and a French Marans rooster. Recently, two of my Isa Brown hens became unwell. Both seemed to be off balance and unable to walk, and the sicker of the two died after a few days. I suspected, being free range, that they had eaten a weed that was toxic to the hens, so I gave the other hen who wasn't as sick, a few days on epsom salts, then antibiotics, then wormed her and gave her vitamins. She did seem to pep up, but refuses to eat and still has the wobbles. That was almost 3 weeks ago and I have been force feeding her via syringe and tube. She is pooping ok, although runny poops, but I put this down to feeding her with baby bird rearing mixture, which is runny. I am running out of options and hope someone on this forum may have some insight into why my girl isn't getting any better.

Mas, 28 March 2019

My bantam hen seems at times like she makes an effort to breath and her rear feathers are covered with white feces, is it curable?

Katherine, 19 July 2016

I wondered if anyone had any ideas as to what was wrong with my chicken. She's a rescue hen, I've had her about a year and she has been well. Last night I heard banging & crashing coming from my eglu. On looking inside, my hen was on her back, and having what appeared to be a convulsion. I picked her up she looked like she was dying so held her & stroked her, but she continued to sporadically "convulse" for 1 and a half hours. I then placed her in a "hospital cage" for the night, fully expecting to find that she had died during the night, but, to my surprise, she was as right as rain this morning. Any ideas anyone??

Mary, 6 April 2016

We keep our three bantams successfully in an early Eglu. About two weeks ago, while we were on holiday (we take the coop and hens with us) one of our White Leghorns developed a swollen nostril on one side.She has no other symptoms, she's lively and eating and drinking well.She hasn't laid for over a year. The other Leghorn and a Croad Langshan are fine. Any suggestions, please? Mary

Genevieve, 27 September 2015

Re chickens with loose droppings, this could come from eating interior lettuce leaves rather than outside leaves that contain all the nutrients. Can also occur from eating too much soft/stone fruit or possibly some poultry diseases if not vaccinated properly. Hope thus helps. No Lady likes to have a soiled behind!

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