A must have for all chicken owners is the Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow. Order your copy today at Meyer Hatchery - Chicken Health Handbook.
It’s shocking and frustrating to discover the unexpected death of one of your chickens. Because chickens are primarily prey animals, they are good at hiding their illness until they are severely sick or badly injured. Here’s a list of what to do when you discover a sick chicken. See our other articles for predator issues and resulting injuries.
First, Isolate the Sick Chicken
A small dog or rabbit cage is good to have as a makeshift hospital pen. Make sure it’s big enough to have a bowl of water and food. It probably doesn’t need to have a nest box in most cases, but if you may be treating a long-term mild condition such as bumblefoot wrapping, you may want to include a nesting box.
It seems that there’s a long list of possible ailments and illnesses that can plague chickens, so here’s a brief list of the most common causes when a chicken seems under the weather.
- Check for mites or lice, especially around the vent and under the wings
- Check for egg binding issues by gently feeling on either side of the vent for a firm mass that could be a large egg stuck in the oviduct
- Check for nasal discharge, sneezing, and/or watery, swollen eyes which are signs of an upper respiratory infection
- Observe the chicken’s feces. Are there signs of worms in it, watery diarrhea, or other indications that there could be an internal parasite infection?
What To Do?
There are many viruses that can cause illness in chickens and antibiotics will not be effective on viruses. So the indiscriminate use of antibiotics to treat symptoms may be a waste of money, is likely not going to help, and could harm your sick chicken.
For basic first aid care, we highly recommend having a copy of the Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow in your library. It has a wide range of poultry health-related topics and is a valuable resource.
If your chicken’s condition is critical or you have a high number of losses in a short amount of time, we recommend that you contact your local County Agricultural Extension office for assistance. They can put you in touch with local poultry experts and will also know what poultry-related health issues may be in your area. You can find your Agricultural Extension office by doing a web search using your county’s name, the state name and “Ag Extension” in the search bar.