Smallholders Insurance from Greenlands

Author Topic: Lethargic unsteady bird  (Read 2118 times)


  • Joined Dec 2015
Lethargic unsteady bird
« on: December 31, 2016, 09:45:00 am »

We adopted a friends chicken into our flock about 4 months ago as she was being severely bullied in her own flock. It took a few days but although she is bottom of the pack, she has settled in. She never roosts on a perch and seems to always get a dirty bum when she sleeps. Yesterday we found her stuck in the run, she had probably been there overnight and was freezing. We brought her in and warmed her throughout the day. She drank loads and ate some bits, roosted quite a lot but perked up and had a walk around. We cleaned her up and put her in the coop overnight with the others. This morning she was still in the coop and seemed unsteady on her feet, curling them up as if she had no feeling in them. The rest of the flock started picking on her too. I separated her again and offered her some sood and water which she took eagerly. She's now in a box in our lounge. She perks up if you stimulate her and will have a few pellets and water spontaneously then sleeps again. I can't see any evidence of mites or worms but not sure what's up with her.  Any ideas?? Is there anything we should give her??



  • Joined Oct 2010
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #1 on: December 31, 2016, 10:24:34 am »
 Firstly, I most definitely would not put this bird back with your others unless she definitely 100% recovers. This is for 2 reasons:
 1. There's definitely something wrong and it could be transmitted to yours. The mucky bum worries me as in my experience that usually leads to something terminal.
 2. Your birds have now got used to bullying her and she has got used to being bullied so the cycle is likely to continue unless she is absolutely fighting fit, which is possibly never.

The most sensible thing to do is to put the bird to sleep.
But where there's life there's hope. So all you can really do is to keep on nursing her. (Don't give her milk). Try her on different foods to keep her interested - like meal worms and wild bird seed (with grit), get some vitamin drops, and hope for the best.

Rules are made:
  for the guidance of wise men
  and the obedience of fools.


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #2 on: December 31, 2016, 10:52:17 am »
Agree with not putting her back yet but don't agree about the culling already.

When you lift the bird and put a finger under a foot, toughing her foot at the underside, does she curl her toes around your finger as if to perch on it? That's usually a reflex that's always present, though some of my diva birds insist on sitting on my flat hand instead of perching ;) If she can't grip your finger or if her grip is weak that's an indicator of a problem, could be an infection in the spine that can be sorted with antibiotics for example, could be something else. Have you checked the underside of her foot for injuries or swelling?

Some birds always have bum feathers that are a bit dirty just because they don't open up their feathers enough when poohing. It's an issue if they're covered with mess even if you clean them regularly, especially if it's all white and they seem to be dripping constantly. I've clipped the feathers of one of mine short as she's a bit hygienically challenged, the lazy thing, she's perfectly fit and healthy, though.

Not roosting on a perch is not necessarily a problem either, some never do. But it may indicate a foot / leg problem in the sense that she can't perch or doesn't fancy the landing in the morning. Or she just hasn't been allowed up by the others.
Can you put a branch on a few bricks and see if she perches on that? You could put some newspaper under it which would make for easy cleaning in the morning. I'm assuming she's somewhere on a tiled floor at the moment?  ;)

What colour is her face, red or pale?
Is she meant to be laying or on a winter laying break?
How does her abdomen feel?
Does she eat when she's in with the others or do they keep her from the feeder?

She eats and drinks, is happy when in the house... If she gets over this blip, is there a hen of yours she could bond with before going back out? Having a buddy to share the bottom rung of the ladder with helps a great deal.

Good luck :fc:


  • Joined Jun 2016
  • Fife
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #3 on: December 31, 2016, 11:16:51 am »
I had one bird who would go a bit wobbly like you describe, she always recovered after a few days though, I just recently had her pts at the age of eight, but it wasn't conected to her wobbly turns.

I've had loads of birds have a mucky bum, very few of them died, most just needed a pro-biotic, I use Protexin powder which can go in food, it's intended for cats and dogs but works very well with hens.

As to the bullying, I recently got three more hens to solve severe bullying of one hen, worked a treat, she was boosted up the pecking order and is much happier having hens below her.


  • Joined Dec 2015
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #4 on: December 31, 2016, 11:18:04 am »
Thanks everyone.

We have transferred her to the polytunnel which is a little warmer than outside but not too hot so she has space on her own to roam around, eat and drink. There are plenty of areas to be a chicken too and scrat/dust bath etc. She seems to be walking around ok although not running away when we pick her up which is unusual for her. I threw down some tasty morsels and she tucked in straight away so will keep fingers crossed. She is definitely slower than normal and more inclined to sleep but hopefully a blip as you say eve.

Good to hear about the dirty bum - she is a few years old and apparently always been like that. She doesn't lay at the moment and we presumed this was stress after being pecked almost to death by her last flock.

We'll try the foot reflex test on her and see.  She has always had a strange walk so she may have some issues we hadn't appreciated.

Colour-wise she looks good. Red comb and wattles, bright eyes.

I'm kind of hoping she's just a bit depressed being bottom of the pack all the time......

Thanks again all ????


  • Joined Dec 2015
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #5 on: December 31, 2016, 11:19:29 am »
Thanks Celli - here's hoping! And again, reassuring to hear about bums!!!!

Will get some probiotic too

Marches Farmer

  • Joined Dec 2012
  • Herefordshire
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #6 on: December 31, 2016, 11:38:32 am »
Birds at the bottom of the pecking order are sometimes not allowed to roost.  What breed is the hen?  If a commercial hybrid she may be coming to the end of her life.  If a large, soft-feathered fowl she may have a mucky rear because there are too many soft feathers in the way.  If bullied by the previous flock they may have sensed there was something wrong with her, which is still the case.   I, too, would keep her separate and provide a well-bedded box or similar inside the polytunnel that she can settle down in at night.  Polytunnels get cold too.


  • Joined Sep 2011
  • West Yorks
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #7 on: December 31, 2016, 12:01:18 pm »
First thing I would do is worm her.
Wouldn't cull yet.
Certainly keep her away from flock for a while, (bit late for that :-) ) preferably where she can still see and be seen by others, even if only during daytime, if possible with a buddy.
For some youngsters I once nailed a perch (small branch?) onto some blocks of wood, a few inches high, but secured so perch wouldn't move or tip over. I just kept putting them on till they got the idea.
If she's been sitting on the floor is there any chance you have any red mite which don't live on the birds but come out when birds are roosting?

Just read your 11.18 post again about polytunnel, but I'll leave my post as it is.
Good luck with her, a life is always worth fighting for  :fc:


  • Joined Dec 2011
  • Gascony, France
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #8 on: December 31, 2016, 12:30:03 pm »
Definitely don't cull- she has nothing transmittable. The mucky bum could be a worm burden but don't treat that yet as there is a more pressing problem.

We have had two similar cases due to hypothermia. What happens is the body temperature falls so low that the gut flora die and she can't extract any energy from her food intake. Important you keep her warm and give her Avipro Avian, or in an emergency like this with out AA in stock, probiotic natural yoghurt containing as many cultures as possible. It will take two weeks before full gut action is restored, so during that time she needs to be kept very warm- I don't think the polytunnel is good enough.

Good luck from me as well.


  • Joined Jul 2010
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #9 on: December 31, 2016, 04:55:44 pm »
Is the polytunnel fox proof?

I use Avipro as well, if you don't have any pop into a shop tomorrow if you can find one open and get the freshest bio active yoghurt they have (I used to often rummage at the back of a shelf in the supermarket checking all the dates  :D). Just one of those green Yeovalley pots will do. I once mixed that with some wet cat food with very good results  :)

One of my bantams spends chilly nights in our living room. She just sits on the back of the sofa on an old bedsheet  :D


  • Joined Dec 2015
Re: Lethargic unsteady bird
« Reply #10 on: December 31, 2016, 05:29:15 pm »
Thanks. She has put herself to ' bed' and is now safely in a box. We got gold of some natural yoghurt and she had a good few slurps. We'll do the same tomorrow. Still eating and drinking.

Thanks for all advice - very much appreciated


Lethargic hen.

Started by Andt (8.98)

Replies: 5
Views: 2117
Last post October 08, 2010, 01:26:39 pm
by Andt
Lethargic Duckling

Started by Pandy (8.88)

Replies: 1
Views: 3403
Last post October 08, 2008, 10:27:25 am
by pigsatlesrues
New bird!

Started by little blue (5.87)

Replies: 6
Views: 3189
Last post November 01, 2009, 11:29:25 pm
by doganjo
bird flu

Started by northfifeduckling (5.87)

Replies: 807
Views: 129086
Last post May 05, 2017, 09:10:39 pm
by doganjo
Bird flu

Started by Jethro Tull (5.87)

Replies: 11
Views: 3783
Last post February 03, 2018, 07:46:04 pm
by New Riverside Farm

Forum sponsors

FibreHut Energy Helpline Thomson & Morgan Time for Paws Scottish Smallholder & Grower Festival Ark Farm Livestock Movement Service

© The Accidental Smallholder Ltd 2003-2021. All rights reserved.

Design by Furness Internet

Site developed by Champion IS