Diagnosing and treating sick chickens

Q. My chicken is sick, can you help?

A. Sorry to learn of your sick chicken. I hate it when one of my animals falls sick and I am helpless.

Unfortunately, due to the “wholesale” practices of the American Poultry Industry, chickens are considered throw-away and not much time is spent finding ways to heal them of a disease.

That is a particular rant of mine…

Chickens are just not considered worth saving, certainly not like a horse or dog. Consider, the shelves and catalogs and books of ways to heal a horse holistically but the measly not existent information of how to raise poultry holistically.

I have several contacts (mostly in Australia) of writers who have written holistic poultry books that I am dealing with to offer their books to distribute in America.

Anyhow, back to your chicken:

Is your chicken sneezing, shaking her head, coughing?

Does her face look swollen?

Do you notice if she is “roached-back?” (Her tail almost tucked under and her back lifted.)

If your chicken don’t have a respiratory odor like rotting flesh or carrion then it might be something less alarming.

I don’t think it is Coccidiosis (coccidia). You would have seen something gradually progress and there would have been loss of weight, lethargy.

‘Coryza’ was one of the first things that came to mind but I don’t know for certain if she has it. You’d smell something. Look it up on the internet, however. (link: http://www.umaine.edu/livestock/Publications/AIC.htm )

Here’s a link that I use a lot: http://www.merckvetmanual.com/mvm/index.jsp
On the left side, navigate to ‘poultry.’

For the general health of a bird, I found that Apple Cider Vinegar added to drinking water at the rate of 1tsp to a gallon will work miracles.

I would also bathe their eyes in colloidal silver and drop a few drops down her throat. Colloidal silver can be found in any health food store. It’s expensive but a little goes a long way and it does work – sort of a natural antibiotic.

You should get some electrolytes down her – unflavored children’s pedialyte from a drug store. And I would get some water soluble vitamins available at any pet store for parrots and other birds.

There’s an old fashioned remedy for breathing problems in poultry that has been around since 1800s. It’s called VetRX and is sold in feed stores. It might be in pet stores… not sure. This works great on my goats and it is also used in poultry.

Also I don’t like antibiotics but I will use Terramycin when I am clueless as to what is wrong with one of my birds. If it is a virus, it will clear up with Terramycin. Unfortunately, that is the way the world works today – because we don’t have the knowledge or the ‘old timer’ to advise us,
sometimes I have to reach for the antibiotics until I know more.

You can find it any pet store or feed store. In a pet store, it’s usually sold for parrots or other caged birds.

Here’s a vet that I know treats chickens, but I haven’t had any personal dealings with them yet:

Studio City Vet

Sometimes if you find out what is the problem, we can find a holistic, natural solution.


  1. Virginia says:

    I have a new flock of city chickens. This is my first experience and I have only had my hens since Sunday, so 7 days. They have not even layed yet, as they are still settling in. Last night I went out to the coop to hang with them. I want to get them really used to me, so that when we’re ready I can put them in the yard for a few hours and then they will come to me to put them away. But when I went into the coop, my Rhode Island Red hen was sick. She was weezing in and out on each breath. And another of my chickens was sneezing. I panicked. As I said, this is my first experience with owning chickens. The Red is a rather mean girl. She doesn’t want me to touch her, and she is the top of the 5 girls. I was really worried, and everything was closed. I started searching online for answers. I realized that there was nothing I could do until morning, so I decided to do some energetic work on her. Okay, laugh if you want, but what else was there to do? So I went back to my coop and sat on a hay bale. Then I got ‘into’ my chicken. I did corrections and directed healing energy into her, and then into all of the girls. When I left I thought ‘how silly of me’. These are chickens.

    This morning I went out to feed and check on my hens. They are all fine! The Red is not weezing at all. No one is sneezing either. But here’s the funniest thing. She wants to be friends! She is approaching me and taking feed out of my hand. How bizarre!

    I am going to go put some Apple Cider Vinegar into their water – thanks for that advice! Hoping for happy healthy chickens and delicious eggs soon!

    • Miranda says:

      please help me my baby chicken wont stand, wont eat, having trouble making noise and looks like she wants to sleep. please help me as soon as u can.

      • Esther says:

        my chicken wants to sleep to. she will fall asleep standing up, and wants eat she drinks a little bet

      • G Wood says:

        1 of my hens has an upset stomach
        But I have a hen who is sleeping all the time, lost so much weight and she won’t eat or drink I am ever so worried I do need help

    • sheik says:

      Use bird peppers,two down their throat every day for three days,,,,

  2. Frank says:

    I have 6 black Jersey gaints and i just got 4 white brauma Hens about 2 weeks ago and since then 2 of my Black Gaints have gotten sick (coughing). My vet told me to give them Sulmet in there water they seem to be getting better. I was just wondering if the new chickens i bought could have made them sick? they seem healthy.

  3. stacey says:

    I have a chicken who has been sick for a long time. She definitely has the ‘roached’ back that was mentioned earlier. She has a lot of trouble walking, her feet turn in and over each other. Her wings are strangly affected. She can flap them and fly up but not without a lot of trouble. The others attack her all the time. I usually feed her by hand and spend a good deal of time running out to protect her when I hear her crying. I can not kill her although I think this is probably the best thing for her. I also have a hen who has a cough, sometimes sneeze and shakes her head. Should I give her (and all of them) the cider vinegar treatment? Hoping you can help me.

    • ruby says:

      my road island red hen, ruthie, is acting the same way, head hunckered, listless, eating minimally and her feathers are ruffled up and some of them are broken. did you find an answer to your questions? thank you, ruby

      • Christina. C says:

        this behavior mentioned above, ruffled feathers, head hunched in, sleepy eyes, lethargy, it is coccidiosis. get corid or (sulmet, less effective, but good if no corid) from your farm store or Amazon. give 5ml. in a gallon. of water, change fresh water mix daily to insure chick is getting it. give to all chicks also. 5 days of treatment, then 2 weeks off, then one last round of treatment.
        coccidiosis is a parasite and the Corid is a thiamine blocker (b1), which starves the cocci out.
        please look up additional info on this and hope all chicks are healthy! I realize this is an old post, but thought the info could help others that view this.

    • Krysten says:

      One of my daughters Rhode Island Red chick’s is doing the exact same thing. We noticed the behavior this morning. Not sure what to do, the other chicks are being mean to her and I can’t bare to see her die. My girls are 10 and 7 and they absolutely love their chickens. Did you find out anything to do?

  4. MONICA says:


  5. Sally Jo says:

    I have a chicken who seems weak and has the arched back….kinda walks like she is constipated! Can’t really fly up or reach back to clean herself. She loses her balance when she tries to eat or put her head down. There is no weezing or coughing. Can they get sick from being to cold? How can I help her? I feel bad that she is not herself 🙁

    • Katie B says:

      Did your chicken get better? My chicken was just laying in our yard today and wouldn’t move. She looks fine, no breathing problems. But let me pet her and easily move her to isolate her today. Usually she runs from me. I’m not sure what to do. She seems constipated. (She is about 24 weeks old and hasn’t layed an egg yet.)

      • Shelia says:

        Did you ever find out what was wrong with your chicken? I have a Rhode Island Red that is acting the same way you describe. She doesn’t go up to roost, she sits on the ground instead.

        • Greg says:

          Having the same problem with one of my hens…..cannot fly onto the roost…will not each much…will not drink much…..sits on the ground when it’s time to roost…losing weight fast….what can I do to save my hen…what med’s are recommended I need them asap…..please help….I have lost several other hens with the same symptoms…

          • Janine says:

            Did you ever find out how to help your chicken? Mine is acting the same tonight and I’m very worried. She did poop a small bright yellow poop.

  6. Jessica says:

    I have just bought 12 chickens from an auction in South Carolina and brought them home in Va. They are just standing around with there eyes closed, laying down, not eating and coughing and sneezing. Now the chickens were already had are doing the same thing. What can I do?

  7. kasheem says:

    I just got a baby chick it is 2 days old. It looks half dead. I put a heater close to it because it was cold in my room. Now it just lays on its back and sticks its feet up, and it doesn’t really make a lot of noise like it used to. What should I do?

  8. christina says:

    I have 12 baby chicks and only one of them is sick what do I do?
    the signs are; very off balance and she flops around when see movies and walks,
    shes eaten and drinken fine i have her in a different place what could this be?

  9. Laurie says:

    I have a chicken that I can’t get to eat. She just sits and sort of pecks at good food I bring special for her. Poop is greenish and very watery. Any suggestions Thank you. she has been this way for a few days and each day seems worse.

  10. juanita says:

    i have a three or four week old silikie bantam i bought her on may 19 and the baby chick started walking and then would stop and put its head up like it was waiting for mama to feed it and would sneeze sometimes and now the baby chick seems to not be eating much but does try and i went and bought pedelite and mix half with water and keep putting beak in it does drink but doesnt try alone to eat or drink i have to put the chick to the food and water i am a first time chicken owner and all the others seem fine so i pulled the baby chick and put under heat lamp and keep on trying anyone that can help please

  11. leona says:

    Hi you all, I as well bought two baby bantams in March, they are laying now, sometimes they sneeze and scratch, I put some “diatomatious earth” on the ground for them to dust bath themselves, they like that, and stops the itch. I will try the apple cider vinegar thing cause Hennie’s poop is runny and getting worse by the day… she is looking a little thinner today too…Timothia is a hen to be proud of, she is like a mother to Hennie and worries about her. Hope you are all doing well with your pets! How are things with them now? did you find the vinegar solution to work? Did your local pet store have something to help your bird?

  12. Mitchell says:

    I have a chicken that is gasping for air. She was fine a few days ago, but now she his gasping and wheezing. No runny nose, or eyes. No sneezing or anything else. What can I do to help her?

  13. Emily says:

    Hello. My problem is that I have a Rhode Island Red that seems to be sick.she doesn’t walk as much as her fellow mates and she won’t get up. She is also sort of shivering a little and is laying down.she still chirps and only gets up when she feels uncomfortable(but she wobbles on her feet). What should I do?

  14. jun says:

    Hi there. My baby chick is about 3weeks old and i nltoced she has a head twit h. Whenever she twjtches fluids come from her nose . Please help!

  15. Irene DiMucci says:

    I have a chicken exactly like question #3. What can I do. She is more then just a chicken, she is special to me. My other 9 chickens are fine.

    Thank you so much!


  16. Fizah Ali (@fizah_ali) says:


  17. Shane says:

    I have a ider brown hen and I noticed her getting sick over a period of a week, I took her to the vet and they found a louse or a few of them crawling around her face and in the ears, they treated her with one drop of stuff to the nape of her neck and has to be repeated 2 weeks after that and the other stock as well, but they are all ok plus the rooster, I have notice her cone on her head being a dark red bluey colour and developing scales on it and one of the pupils of her eyes are dilated and the other is not, she is eating but not much, she is very quite, has anyone got any idea what could be wrong with her please, I live in Melbourne Australia here, Thanks.

    • chicken lover says:

      Make sure that you keep your chicken’s home clean. Change bedding often lice and mites can live in the cracks and bedding. When cleaning spray all walls, roosts,nest boxes,and cealing with vinigar. Just enough to coat it you don’t want it real wet. I also recomend using wood shavings not straw for bedding, as your chicken can eat the straw and get sour crop. You can get wood shaving pet bedding at most pet stores.

    • amy says:

      Oddly, when my beloved Peggy Hill died, a facebook friend sent me a link to an old woman who loved chickens in the 1800’s and wrote interesting information about them. One of the things she suggested was building an underground coop. I have done this because I was having trouble with mites. Apparently, mites don’t live under the ground. I dug a four foot hole in the ground and stacked tree trunk rounds around the hole, then covered it with wood, then dirt. It is one of my flocks most favored spots in the yard….favoring it on both freezing and baking days. Nancy Luce is the woman’s name…an amazing story…and a familiar one for those of us who love our chickens like family.

  18. donna says:

    I just got this Bantam baby chick 2 of them. We have a coop set up with our 2 hens also. we had some hay and food with a bowl of water on a high ledge. This morning we went out to the coop and the baby chick was laying with it’s wings out and his neck was straight. His heart is barely beating but hes still alive. His eyes are shut won’t open at all. He wont eat or drink he moves a little when we touch him. Does anyone have the same symptoms with their chickens or rooster let me know please!

  19. Kate says:

    Hi there! I have 2 chickens that are normally very healthy, but lately have been on bed rest! He and she sit still all day and they won’t eat or drink. I can hold food up to their mouths and they will eat, but to drink I have to dip their beaks as though they’re only 2 days old. They are about 6 months. The rooster has troubles walking, when I set him down he tries to run away but only makes it a few steps before flopping on his side. The hen doesn’t bother moving. Any ideas what it may be? Is there a vaccination or at-home remedy? Thanks,

  20. bee says:

    Hello I have a little baRd rock hen name two toes who I rescued last year with a very bad case of mites on her feet and had lost toes. I have been treating her for the mites and her feet have been improving but I came home to find her almost pEcked to death and skinned from the neck up I actually thought she was dead but when I picked her up she was alive. this was two weeks ago. I was feeding her water and food from a syringe and she had started pEcking at her food and eating great and improving everyday but lying on her side and not trying to get up. When I tried to get her to stand she would fall over one of her legs shake very bad I think it might be broken because she has not moved from her side I have been Bathing her and blow drying her daily because she poops on herself. I have been keeping antibiotic ointment on her head to keep it from infection and scabbing up she is in a dog bed that is clean in my bathroom I have a space heater on her I thought she lost an eye but she opened the eye so she has both of her eyes. but yesterday she started acting very lethargic and sleeping most of the day and not eating or drinking much at all. Today her poop was mostly liquid. I dont know what to do next to help her. She has improved 300 percent from 2 weeks ago but I cant afford to take her to a vet . I have a friend with tetracycline who says it is for animals and chickens can take it. any advice u have would be greatly appreciated

  21. sheri haupt says:

    My hen has a watery lump where her crop is. Do you have any idea what this is and cn I treat it? I noticed it about 3 days ago. Any help would be appreciated. Also I’m in Pa so its really cold,not sure if that plays in or not. Thank You

  22. Barbara says:

    My beautiful white chicken one year in age is not eating she won’t go out with the others and no they are not picking on her. She is just in the corner and won’t do anything. I am worried please help first time chicken mom.

  23. Shannon says:

    Hi, one of my hens have came out in a big red patch on her chest and my cockerel has came out with a red patch on his neck? Why is this? What should I do?

  24. saba says:

    my baby chicks is not eatiing properly.baby chicks are sleeping and won’t play.plz help me.

  25. martha phillips says:

    My chicken will not stand up. Its as if her legs are broken but they are not. When I pick her up to tend to her she just drips heavy fluid from her mouth. Gave her antibiotics for a week but she is still the same. I’ve massaged her legs and keep her butt clean but I am at a loss on what to do. I don’t want to put her down because I have invested so much love for her. Can you help me?

  26. angie says:

    hello , I just wanted to know if anyone knows what’s wrong with my chick . when I came back home , he couldn’t walk . he would usually balance off if you took your hand of his side . and he is colder , compared to the other chick I have .

  27. Kimba says:

    My young hens (haven’t hit puberty yet) seem rather drowsy. One of them used to be very active but now she’s quiet. I don’t have a farm store near me, so can I get something for them at Petsmart?

  28. Ahsan Ali says:

    Hi….. i have three smaal chicks…. for a few hour a red chick is got to death bcz she is breath deeply… now the whits male chick is not open his eyes,no eat,no drink,hoever he is feeling not well and fall on one side…. he cannot stand on his own.legs he is very weak……Plzzz help me… plzzz help me quickly

  29. Amy Randal says:

    One of my baby chicks is very weak plzz answer fast i neeed heeeeelp???

  30. Bree says:

    My brand new baby chick just got it and it won’t move eat or drink. What should I do ?? ?????

  31. Ms. Orange says:

    My son has had chickens for three years. We live in the country and have them in a chicken shed. I came home and went to feed them for the second time of the day. One was in a hatching box with its head gone and dead. There was no blood. Then I looked for the remaining 6 babies. I found one clinging to life. She passed 30 minutes ago. The hen and rooster are just fine. But we have 5 chicks missing and there was no blood anywhere. Does anyone know what happened? How is it that 5 year old chicks just disappear? I have them in my chickens building. Nothing can get in there. Please if anyone can shed some light on the subject I would greatly appreciate it. Thank you.

    • Dervaes says:

      Hello, I am just the web administrator but I had chickens when I was little. It sounds like a predator such as a fox got into the hen house. If I were you I would look very well around to see where the predator got in. You might be surprised how small a crack a fox can fit through, and worse, they are really smart so they might even cover up their entrance, for example if they dug underneath the side, they might fill the hole back up with dirt so you wouldn’t notice!

    • amy says:

      sometimes the rooster will kill the baby chicks right after they hatch. If the rooster has access to the babies, tis can happen. The mother may have tried to intercede. Raccoons also have little “hands” and are capable of getting in to impossible places.

    • Jenny says:

      My mother has lots of chickens and has had similar experiences… The culprit, surprisingly, was a rat. Chewed off the heads. She had the same problem with quails too. Rats seem to clean up too, if you’ve seen them get to chicken eggs they lick the shells clean. That might explain the lack of blood around and why only the little ones were taken but not the older hen and rooster.

  32. Mike m says:

    We have a bantam cochin who is our 2daughters best friend. We came out to the chicken pen to find him lying down and unresponsive almost like he got poisoned.
    Any ideas?
    We put inside in a box but he’s getting worse. Eyes shut very faint breathing.
    Any advice would be appreciated.

  33. Lindy says:

    I have 9 chickens, all of them 3 years old and one of which is a rooster. One of the skinnier hens, who has been fine till just a few days ago, can hardly stand, wont eat, has droopy eyes, and will drink just a little bit only if i set her by the water. Her cone has turned a real dark red, she doesnt look like she’ll last much longer at all. Any suggestions? Please and thank you.

  34. Sheryl Harrison says:

    I have a sick hen. Not sure what the problem is. She walks hump backed with her tail down. She ha a very dirty poopy bottom which I have cleaned 3 times since I noticed her about a week and a half.I have dusted all chicken with DE and put it in their food. I have also put Wazine in their water for a 24 hour period then threw it out and replaced with fresh water. I see no improvement with my hen and I am totally perplexed as wait to do or wait is wrong with her. Can you help or give some advise. I am looking for a Vet that deals with Chickens.
    Thank you for listening. Any ideas, please advise.

  35. Sheryl Harrison says:

    my hen is also very lethargic and has a hard time walking so she sits a lot. We have to put her on the roost because she can’t get herself up there. She is very sad. PLEASE SOME ONE HELP!!!!!!

  36. Mandy Kime says:

    Please Help!!!!!!!!!!
    I have a very small flock. Infact i am down to 2 left my favorite chickens i adore. For the last few days how ever i have noticed a problem with one of my hens. They are both rode island reds. She is not eating she has lost weight not drinking not layen eggs she seems very lethargic she just stands there dont walk around much and i dont know much about chicken$ but she closes her eyes a lot and theres a spot near her eyes that flare out i think its her breathing but i dont know. Also her poop is very yellow and gritty……please help what could this be and how can i help her i love my chickens dearly to the point where i hold pet and they love on us please help we dont wanna loosr one of our feather babies

  37. Cynthia Ramirez says:

    I have a white rooster that stands in one spot with his head tucked down to the ground, has a Bad smell to him and won’t move around. Please tell me what is wrong with him.

  38. Claire says:

    My Black Australorp chicken got out of the chicken coop and couldn’t get back in. Unfortunately, it was raining really hard and she got drenched. I came out to check up on my girls, and saw that she had gotten out. I brought her inside and she started wheezing, and when I tried to set her down on the carpet she curled her toes very tightly under her feet. I tried to straighten them out but she wouldn’t let me. If I tried to pick her up she would flap up onto my shoulder, like she didn’t want her feet to be off the ground. She also didn’t want to walk, and she just sat all huddled up in one spot, (she normally is very active.) Any ideas on why this is?

  39. Heather says:

    My chickens tail feathers splay out like a turkey every time she takes a step. When she runs to me she can’t keep her balance but falls forward. She can’t get up to roost. Eating and pooping fine. No weird smells. Any ideas?

  40. Chris says:

    I have a 13-year old Rhode Island and for the last 3 days she has refused to eat. She only poops in small amounts and white in color. I felt a large round lump near her rump. Now she can hardly fly to her perch and is unstable. What can it be?

  41. Linda P says:

    My hen was attacked by a dog and I am helping her get well. She has diarea. Vet gave me antibiotics. Is apple cider vinegar good for that?

  42. jermy says:

    I hav got some chiks …..most of them r healthy but some chicks have tuked their head and they neck fun looks fluffed….what should I do

  43. Tubby says:

    I have 4 bantam chicken and 1 bantam roaster so i’ve had theirbparents and grand parents for years now im just with the last set of babies one mom. So never i’v never had an issue were my rooster out of nowhere could not walk and his tinny feet cross easch other and shake he pushed himself to be able to eat and drink water. I pick him up put him on his feet and they hurt him. I hold him so he can eat and drink water. He sleeps alot. I dont have money to take him to the vet so im trying my best to make him cofortable im even trying to figuere out a thing loke and underwear with sticks im them to hel him stand. I need some hel he dont want to give up on life my bf says to get rid of him like take him to the vet to put down. Please i would really appriciate it any idead. I have him antibiotics and excedrin to make feel comfortable. Thank you and sorry for the long rambbling

  44. Tony Parrish says:

    Why would a baby chicken that was just hatched have blood around his ears

  45. Mango20 says:

    I having baby chicks and one of the them having foam in his mouth and I call doctor and they suggested me oral powder. I gave him from morning but still not eating and drinking. And only sleeping
    What should I do?

  46. Serena says:

    Hi need help! Got 6 year old mix breed Americana name dale she skinny kind of and her stool watery and smells bad. And she has a vent gleet witch is shrinking been keeping it clean I can feel her chest bone. I lost four chickens with same sytems like she has her tail is down and feathers please help fast I feed her mash leayna hen feed she loves it mash. Been giving her hens vitimens and it has elerorate in it u mix it in gallon water please help. Sorry for spelling

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