One sick chick

1/6 update: The update is that there is no update.  Our chicken is in her straw-lined cage, with food and water, and she is exactly the same.  She can move around a little, but we don’t know that she’s eaten or drunk anything.  A call to local vets revealed that broad-spectrum antibiotics are prescribed only for chickens whose owners put them in the car and transport them to the vet for a visit, which puts the treatment in the three-figure category.  All that’s left is to make her comfortable and wait for her to get either better or worse.

Afternoon update: Six hours after I posted this, our chick is no better.  She can’t stand up, and just collapses where you put her down.  Kevin held her up to the waterer, and she did drink. A rectal exam yielded a discharge of yellow liquid and grass-green solids.  I couldn’t feel an egg, but I don’t know that I know what to feel for.  We’ve sequestered her in a cage with fresh straw, food, and water with a little apple cider vinegar in it.  I suspect that, by tomorrow morning, she’ll either be dead or better, but I suspect the smart money’s on dead.  Sigh.


A chicken is sick, and I am no help at all.

She’s tail-down, and she nestles down wherever you put her. Kevin found her in the coop yesterday afternoon, and we tucked her away in a nest box. She was still there this morning, and I took her down to see if I could get her to drink water. She took one sip, and then hunkered down next to the waterer. I put her back in the nest box.

She’s a light brahma, and it’s just possible she’s at the point of laying her first egg, although 18 weeks is very early. Her vent seems to be closed and clear, but it’s hard to get a good view because she’s very fluffy and clearly prefers that you not pull her tail up.

She doesn’t protest when we lift her, which I’m taking as a bad sign. The rest of the chicks squawk bloody murder when you pick them up.

I don’t have the foggiest idea what to look for, or what to do. I’ve made her comfortable on a bed of fresh straw, and I’ll try to get her to drink periodically. Beyond that, I’m at a complete loss.

Any ideas?

14 people are having a conversation about “One sick chick

  1. hey tamar! what does the chicken’s discharge look like? figuring that out will help diagnose the problem a lot easier. also, add a little apple cider vinegar (about one tablespoon per gallon) to your chicken’s water (it has a lot of different health benefits for chickens), as that helps to prevent and cure lots of little things that might be going on. also, if the chicken is looking worse for wear instead of better by the end of today, i would separate it from the rest of the flock, just to be safe.

  2. Tamar, sorry to hear about the sick pullet. I don’t have much experience to go on. The only time I ever had a poorly hen, I gave her a couple of hot baths, about four hours apart, and made sure she kept warm while she dried off. Then I put a little oil around and just inside her vent. (Latex gloves, trimmed fingernails.) She bounced back by the next day. Not that I’m convinced my treatment had anything to do with it. But that’s about the extent of what I would know to do. I like the suggestion of apple cider vinegar. You might also consider adding a little molasses if she seems able to drink but shows no interest in food. A few sugars/calories are probably better than none.

  3. I tried looking up the symptoms in The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, but again, everything is so vague in there it could be one of a bunch of different things. I hope she gets better, and at the very least, doesn’t infect the rest of your flock.

    Good luck!

  4. Hi,
    Quarantining the hen is a good idea. A possibility is Marek’s Disease which is pretty common among chickens and is contagious. Usually starts with a hen that moves less and less until she is unable to move. It is pretty sad. Many chicks from commercial hatcheries are vaccinated against it, though I don’t know how effective the vaccine is. Good luck!

  5. She’s the right age for Marek’s but not one of the very susceptible breeds, and the vaccine is pretty effective. I doubt it’s egg-bound either. It could be a bog standard enteritis, particularly if she’s got no meat on her breast. If it’s bacterial, a dose of broad-spec antibiotics might save her. If it’s viral in origin, the outlook’s not good.

    If it were me, I’d get a dose or course of injectable anti-biotic from the vets, as a last ditch attempt, and syringe fluids into her. It’s not expensive and she’s a young bird.

    It’s heartbreaking whne your animals get sick, as we both know too well.

  6. Thanks, all. Although the inability to move and the age point to Marek’s, the birds were vaccinated at the hatchery, and she doesn’t have the characteristic gray iris.

    Some kind of virus or bacterium is a likely possibility. Jen, we may take your advice because she is so young, and owes us 25 dozen eggs. We’ll decide this afternoon.

    She moved in her cage overnight, to settle in the back, facing out. She hasn’t stirred since, and I can’t even get her to drink.

  7. …I think one of our 9 from last year had Mareks..started to slow down and have problems walking then stopped walking. I built a chicken infirmary but it was to no avail. I gave up in the end and put her out of her mysery. If memory serves me correctly sometimes crossbred birds are the most prone to get it as they can end up with the worst of both breeds..not sure if that is your birds or not..hopefully she gets better.

  8. You must feel so vulnerable and helpless with the chick situation. Is it odd to add a chicken to your prayers? Regardless, I’ve gone and done just that. Hope she (and you) feel better soon.

  9. EGB — She’s not a cross, she’s a Brahma, and vaccinated to boot. I’m thinking probably not Marek’s, but at this stage it doesn’t really matter. It’s looking grim.

    Brooke — Thank you, my friend. (By the way, that’s a lovely new picture of you.)

  10. Tamar, I don’t know if this means I have no life or if I’m just full of empathy…but I would really like to know how your chick is doing.

    I’m guessing I’m not the only one.


    • Karen, there are at least two of us who want to know about the chicken. Tamar, I’m thinking “no news is bad news”, but hoping I’m wrong.

  11. Karen & Helen — I left an update on the post, but in case you’re checking the comments, it really is “no news.” She’s the same — but it can’t go on for long since she’s not eating.

    I very much appreciate your concern, and I’d pass it on to her if I knew how.

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