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Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob, Veterinarian
Category: Vet
Satisfied Customers: 7938
Experience:  35 years in practice
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Two of my four hens have been unwell for a few days. They are

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Two of my four hens have been unwell for a few days. They are lethargic, hunched up & seem to have lost their balance . They have to be lifted into their house. I have isolated them in a small house & run. Could they have eaten something nasty ? My handyman was cleaning out the algae from the garden pond last week . He says they were scratching in it for snails.
Hello, I'm Dr. Bob.
I'm sorry to read of your hens' condition. Do you know if they're still laying eggs regularly?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

No they haven't laid any eggs for a few weeks.

Okay, thank you Kathryn. Have they ever had a bout with a respiratory condition, coughing, sneezing, nasal discharges, etc.?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Not at all. They have been very lively until this recent episode. I have noticed that their bottoms were dirty and I cleaned them up. They have only had this problem of walking very slowly, not being able to get up & down their ramp& general lethargy & balance problems. They are eating & drinking a little one better than the other.

Thank you. When they stand still, do they stand with their tails down, in a more upright, penguin-like posture?
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

They stand with their tails down.

Thank you.
Your description of the hen's behavior, the lack of egg laying, and the posture all point to a condition called "salpingitis" a bacterial infection of the reproductive tract that causes damage to the tract, causing, in turn, the retention of eggs in the hen's abdomen.
Feel their abdomens to see if you can feel a doughy mass inside in the area of their intestines, or you may even be able to feel eggs with shells. Let me know what you find.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you. I will not be able to reply until tomorrow when my son will come to help me . I hope the hens will be all right until then. Thank you so much so far I will get back to you asap. Kathryn

That will be fine, Kathryn. Let me knwo when you've been able to examine them. In the meantime, keep them warm and separated from the others.
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

My son is coming to help me at 9 . They are warm in their house & have had a bit to eat & drink.

Customer: replied 3 years ago.

We have examined the hens ,The abdomen feels very swollen but I couldnt feel any eggs .

Okay, thank you Kathryn. It's not easy to say exactly what is going on with your hens, but when laying hens stop laying, there are only two explanations. One, they are extremely ill and have stopped producing eggs, or they are retaining the eggs inside their bodies. Unfortunately, you birds don't seem ill enough for the first scenario to be the case, so it would appear that the second possibility is the more likely. Illnesses can be treated, retained eggs are a death sentence. The options at this point are to nurse them along, putting them on an antibiotic (I would suggest you use Tylan (tylocin) or Gallimycin (erythromycin) which are widely available at feed and farm supply stores), or putting them down. Sadly, the outcome, while somewhat better for the severe illnesses, are not good in either case.
I wish I had a happier answer for you, Kathryn, but if you should have further questions, I'll be happy to answer them for you.
Kind regards,
Dr. Bob
Dr. Bob and other Vet Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 3 years ago.

Thank you so much. It is sad news but confirms the advice given to me today by an old boy in the neighbouring farm. I have decided not to attempt to nurse them because I think they have little chance of making a full recovery. They will be dispatched this afternoon because I feel they are suffering a lot of pain & I dont want that to drag on. I will be looking out to replace the two birds as soon as I am certain there is no sign of this illness in the remaining 2 birds. What puzzles me is how did they get this infection. How can I prevent this happening ?

Sorry for the delay, I was at an early morning meeting. Those are good questions, there are many sources of possible infection, wild birds, rodents, even exposure to bacteria and viruses on the shells of the eggs from which they hatched. Birds are often carriers of diseases after they've recovered and show no symptoms at all.
Having a firm diagnosis would answer your questions. Are you too squeamish to open the hens after culling and taking a look at their insides?