NFU Mutual Smallholding Insurance

Author Topic: More Poorly Chickens  (Read 914 times)


  • Joined Dec 2016
  • Brecknockshire
More Poorly Chickens
« on: September 13, 2017, 01:17:40 pm »
Hi All,

A newbie to chicken owning here (although I did post a while back for advice on refurbishing our hen house) so please be gentle. I've read the recent "Sick Chickens" thread which was very helpful but our symptoms are a little different (birds laying like crazy but every few days a different bird will look under the weather for a few days before recovering) so here goes.

We've got ten pullets, 2 each of Light Sussex, Bluebells, Black Rock, Speckledies and Cream Legbar all bought at the same time at PoL a couple of months ago. Probably at least a couple more than we need but Mrs K wanted two of each kind and wanted to avoid the stress of adding to the flock later.

The girls are housed in a 5'x4'x5' house up on stilts with an external nest box which was treated with old school creosote a couple of months before they arrived and the smell had disappeared. The roof is now black corrugated coralline rather than felt. Their feeder and water is in a 6'x5'x4' pen made of heavy 2" mesh all round including the floor which is covered by 3-4" mixture of soil, well rotted compost, sawdust and hay.

Bedding in house (cardboard, shavings, sawdust and hay) changed every 7-10 days and it's given a spray with disinfectant and the outside pen substrate has been changed once. They make their own dust baths but I'll give them a tray with sand in.

During the day, they also have the run of a section of a paddock fenced off with about 25m of chicken wire which is varied and when I sort some other fencing out, they will have the run of the whole paddock subject to the recent half hearted assault by a juvenile buzzard not being repeated - run area now festooned with old cds on bright yellow baler twine.

Fed on layers pellets and the water has a dash of cider vinegar but otherwise no other supplements, medications or treatments. Rodents have visited to pick up stray pellets but they are fed from a treadle feeder so feed unlikely to be contaminated.

After some initial squabbling while they sorted out a pecking order, they are all behaving themselves, producing 5-8 eggs a day and seem pretty contented. The only issue is that every now and again one or other of the birds (currently a legbar) looks thoroughly miserable for a few days (eyes closed, head down, feathers puffed up and not showing much interest in food or drink), but then they perk up and all seems well again. There have been a few khaki squirty droppings but I put that down to the recent addition of grass and occasional broccoli head to their diet.

We bought the pullets from a reputable dealer who would have been happy to sell us red-mite and worming treatments but advised that these were not needed yet for such young birds. No added grit so far.

We gave the legbar a (non-expert) check-over this morning no obvious signs of issues with the crop, vent or external parasites and I think it was laid today but still looks miserable. We've got a copy of Terry Bebe's Healthy Hens book which seems to suggest that worms is the most likely cause and that layers pellets with added flubendazole should be the starting point.

Sorry for the long post but I thought it best to cover all the variables. We will probably add a few of the organic supplements (blackberries and garlic?) and try the worming remedy.

Any other thoughts please, so far all the girls that have looked unwell seem to have shaken it off after a few days but I'm keen to get a better understanding of whether there is something else we should be doing or not doing?

Many thanks!
Voss Electric Fence

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #1 on: September 13, 2017, 01:38:23 pm »
I'd suspect something like mycoplasma, as the birds may be carriers and the stress of moving quarters has compromised their immune systems so the birds have symptoms but not enough to kill them off.  Don't mix any new birds with this stock, as they'll likely be naïve and badly affected by contact with the disease.  I would take issue with the idea that they don't need worming because they're young - much depends on the ground they were kept on, the condition of the housing and whether they had contact with older birds.  Red mites and lice, also, are no respecters of anything at all.


  • Joined Dec 2016
  • Brecknockshire
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #2 on: September 13, 2017, 08:58:35 pm »
Thanks MF, no obvious signs of wheezing or sneezing so hopefully not mycoplasma but will bear that in mind.

Substrate of the pen will get replaced tomorrow and DE, layers pellets with flubovet and a few other tonics and treats on order.


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #3 on: September 13, 2017, 11:51:21 pm »
Some infection or other is slowly working its way through the flock but they're all self-correcting, so should all be fine in the end. Write down which birds get it and check it's not the same ones each time.

This sort of thing happens, it's like a flu slowly working its way through a class of school kids. Often we don't know what's wrong with them. With a bit of tlc they'll probably be fine.

Good luck  :thumbsup:


  • Joined Feb 2014
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #4 on: September 14, 2017, 10:39:58 pm »
I think you should speak to your vet. On the symptoms you describe You can't rule out low pathogenic avian flu which is a notifiable disease.

farmers wife

  • Joined Jul 2009
  • SE Wales
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #5 on: September 15, 2017, 03:55:07 pm »
I assume these are not vaccinated and are bought from different suppliers?  If so then you could of brought something into the flock.  Myco is very common and even if one or two have been vaccinated then they may not get it 100% therefore the symptoms can be less. Once a bird if a carrier they will always be and in stressful situations it will come out.  It can be spread.

There are various other issues to watch for incl Cocci if the bird is eating less.

If birds are on good pasture and moved there is no worm burden.


  • Joined Dec 2016
  • Brecknockshire
Re: More Poorly Chickens
« Reply #6 on: September 15, 2017, 05:51:49 pm »
Hi, all ten birds bought on the same day from the same reputable supplier described as "fully vaccinated".

I think 4 or 5 of the birds have had the symptoms (not two of the same breed so far) which works out about one per fortnight and as soon as they have shaken it off after a few days, they are back to normal. Egg laying has been consistent at 5-8 eggs per day (7 today) though blue eggs from the legbar are down a bit over the last few days.

Not being complacent but we had first pick of a hundred plus birds that were going to be sold off at shows around the area, so if they were carrying a notifiable disease, when we bought them, it is unlikely that we would be the only ones affected.

No poultry with a mile or more and no ducks, geese or other wildfowl nearby, just the usual crows, pigeons, kites and buzzards which (apart from a juvenile buzzard that was sent packing from the run), don't go anywhere near the birds or feeder although wrens can and do fit through the mesh. Plenty of fieldmice, voles etc who did get into the treadle feeder when it was left open in "training" mode but slim pickings for them now.

Just isolated the girl and made sure that she had her recommended dose of Verm-x and will await delivery of some flubenvet and DE next week. Hoping that starting the worming, and other parasite regimes will sort things out.

Thanks for all comments and any further advice is very welcome.  :)


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