Chicken Doctorin’ – Part 5

By Bev Sandlin

Today we are going to talk about the adult bird, one plus years old.

Broken legs you can set with popsicle sticks and vet wrap and isolate the bird and/or put it in a sling. They actually heal very fast.

Any attack that the bird lives through (Dog, cat, hawk, ‘possum, ‘coon, whatever – she got away alive.) can usually be dealt with by cleaning the wound, some antibiotic salve and isolation. If it is really bad, don’t let her suffer – just butcher her and eat her, preferably without announcing to the family that they are eating “Goldie” tonight. :-) DO NOT eat a bird that is obviously sick from an unknown source!

 hen sick

Above is a picture of a sick hen with all of the things that you should look for:

Tail droopy

Messy bottom

Droopy wings


“Sleepy” sick, in pain, eyes

chicken eyeSometimes their combs and/or wattle will pale.

First, are you practicing good chicken husbandry?

Clean, fresh water

Clean, dry feed (not moldy)

Free choice oyster shells and grit

Clean housing facilities

Wormed (garlic and diatemacious earth will do that organically)

De-loused (ashes will do that organically)

Roosts are sufficiently above the ground. FYI a rat can eat a chicken’s feet right off while it is on a roost in the dark and the chicken will not move. There is no way to totally prevent rats and mice around chickens, but a high roost sure helps.

Is she the only one in the flock that is sick? Isolate her immediately. The isolation is for her benefit, so that she doesn’t have to fend off the rest of the flock and can rest and recover in peace.

egg boundrs

I have an old fox cage for isolation. Fresh water, fresh food and a nest box or pail.

Most of the time with a hen that is sick out of the blue, it is caused by being egg bound. This is especially common in prolific egg layers like Red Stars and/or the fancy breeds.

Try to get some liquid calcium down her. No liquid calcium? Ladies, do you have a calcium tablet in the medicine cabinet? Pulverize it, make it into a liquid, take a syringe without the needle and gently get it into her mouth and stroke her neck so that she swallows.

hen in sink

Next, give her a relaxing bath in your sink. Water should be akin to bathing a baby. Add soap and if you have them, Epsom Salts. Gently hold her, massage her belly and rear. Perhaps you can feel the egg and by relaxing her in this bath it will work its way out. We are talking a relaxing spa for the hen, 20 to 30 minutes of warmth, water and massage. FYI, to show a chicken in 4-H you must bathe it. Show chickens get baths.

hen in towel

Now dry her in a towel. Yes, you can blow dry her, but an nice warm air dry is better. Soothing music and dim lights are all good. Lavender scented candles may help – you want her to relax. And you might as well too. :-) If you care about your hen, this is stressful for both of you.

Do not attempt to break the egg. Some people will tell you that if you can see the egg (it is crowning) you can take a needle and syringe and try to extract the yolk to make it more manageable to pass. I’ve never had an egg bound hen crown an egg without passing it, so I don’t know. Massaging the vent with baby oil may help.

She will die within 24 to 72 hours if she does not pass the egg and it is usually a 50% death rate. Some things just happen, but you will have no guilt if you do everything you can to help her.

Sometimes a hen just gets sick and slowly dies – my Red Star hen just did that, which is what got this whole Chicken Doctorin’ series going. She stopped laying two weeks before but looked okay. One day she didn’t come when called and looked very poorly. I did everything I could. After 3 days of isolation she seemed to be getting better and was fine in the flock. Then, one morning, she was just dead. Who knows…

To heal most cuts on animals, and people, and stop pecking – Gun (as in lube grease often comes for a gun – not a shooting type gun) Grease. Keeps the insects off and has antibiotic properties and tastes bad to other chickens. This one tip can save you hundreds even thousands of dollars on vet and medical bills – it works.

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