two sick chickens

Asked June 7, 2016, 4:20 PM EDT

Two of my nine laying hens are apparently not feeling well, though their symptoms are a little different, so I'm not sure if they have the same problem. Chicken #1, is a 3 year old Barred Rock. For two days now she has been walking upright like a duck and is eating less than usual. I thought she might be egg bound or constipated. Yesterday I put her in a shallow tub of warm water and massaged her abdomen (which seems distended). I also applied some olive oil to her vent. No change. She continues to waddle around pidgeon toed but she is also less active than usual.

Chicken # 2, Australorp laying hen of the same age. I noticed two days ago that she had bright blue/green loose droppings . She too is eating less, is less active. She often wants to sit down as if incubating and tends to isolate herself from the others somewhat. I think she is losing weight as her keel feels boney and her abdomen also feels distended. Any suggestions would be much appreciated.

Rice County Minnesota

1 Response

Though I am not a veterinarian, I suspect these hens both may have a condition called peritonitis. This is an infection of the abdominal lining. The penguin-like appearance is often due to egg material accumulating in the abdomen of the hen. It could be that the hen had an infection of the oviduct, or some blockage of the oviduct, a tumor in that area, or some other problem. It's not uncommon to see this in hens, especially as they get a couple of years old.

Since you mentioned that this seemed to come on quickly, I would suggest that you make sure the first hen is passing waste. If there is some blockage and she is not, you might try to see if there is an egg blocking the oviduct. You could likely feel this by gently feeling around her vent area. I doubt this is the problem, but it is something to check.

Assuming it's peritonitis, there's likely not much you can do for them. Some people will treat with antibiotics, and it may help with the bacterial infection that is likely present. It likely won't fix the initial problem, however.

You could consult with a veterinarian about this, but I suspect it will be an on-going problem for the hens. You can try to keep them comfortable, and as long as they don't seem to be suffering, you can try to nurse them along. At some point, you'll likely have to consider euthanasia so they don't suffer.

Again, I'm not a veterinarian, and I'm guessing from a brief description, so for a more accurate diagnosis, it would be best to consult with an avian veterinarian or your state veterinary diagnostic lab.