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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 32834
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience.
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Hi. I am fairly new to poultry keeping and have an off colour

Customer Question

Hi. I am fairly new to poultry keeping and have an off colour hen. She is sitting around very lethargically and is off her food completely. I have felt her crop - it appeared fairly normally full this morning but emptier tonight. I have felt her rear end and can feel no hard lumps but I am an amateur. She appears to be missing tail feathers and looks a bit scruffy but is this the normal symptoms when moulting. I have another hen who is definitely moulting and she seems fine. Poorly hen has gone to roost as normal tonight - what can I do to help tomorrow. I've also tried to find a local vet near Taunton who has chicken knowledge but have had no joy as yet - any ideas?
Submitted: 4 years ago.
Category: Vet
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 4 years ago.
Aloha! You're speaking with Dr. Michael Salkin
I'm sorry for the delay in responding to you. We don't have many avian vets on the UK site just yet.

Welcome to the world of backyard chickens. To answer your easiest question first - yes, the areas on her body affected represent moulting - particularly because the other hen is definitely moulting and it's the time of year we expect moulting. The next question is more of a challenge. You've described the "sick chicken" which can be quite a challenge to address when no other symptoms other than lethargy and anorexia are present. Please let me know if you've noticed any respiratory symptoms - nasal discharge, conjunctivitis, gaping, sneezing, coughing - or diarrhea in this hen.

Nutritional, parasitic, and infectious disorders are all too common in our chickens. Unfortunately, chickens - like all birds - are often quite ill by the time they demonstrate symptoms. This is to their benefit because they'll be attacked by other chickens or predators if thought to be ill. It's not to our benefit because without a physical exam by an avian vet and perhaps biochemical testing and cultures, we can't know what the etiology of their illness is.

We know that moulting is a time of stress and need for additional protein, calcium and vitamin D3. If you're seeing the depression associated with a deficiency of these requirements, tube force-feeding of your hen would be appropriate. You'll need to be shown how this is done, however, by an avian vet in order to avoid the food going down the wrong pipe which would end up causing an aspiration pneumonia. For the time being, a slurry made from ground up pelleted feed/crumbles + a vitamin/mineral supplement available at your local feed store can be administered by dropper. The crop should be gently distended by the time you've finished force-feeding.

This vet in Taunton claims to have a special interest in birds:

Priory Close Veterinary Practice
Canon St
Somerset, TA1 1SW

Tel: 01823 271042


I'm sorry I can't be more specific for you at this time. Such is the dilemma with many chicken disorders. Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.