Oftentimes, it can be difficult to tell if your chickens are sick. Especially because they are very good at hiding it. As chicken owners, it is important to try and recognize early signs before it is too late. 

Signs A Chicken is Sick

There are a few signs you can examine, including:

  • How the chicken interacts with the rest of the flock
  • How the flock interacts with the chicken
  • Appearance of feathers
  • Combs and Wattles
  • Eyes/noses/mouths/beaks
  • The breast muscles
  • The abdomen 

How The Flock and Chicken Interacts

One sign that may indicate a chicken is sick, is if the chicken starts distancing itself from the rest of the flock. Sometimes they are the last to leave the coop in the mornings, or will not roost at night. Additionally, they may not peck around with the other chickens.

Not only is it important to see how the chicken interacts with the flock, but it is also important to see how the flock interacts with the chicken. Pay close attention to this dynamic because it can be a pretty telling sign. If it seems like they are picking on that chicken, it could be because they are not acting normally, or the chicken is acting weak. 

Another important thing to check for if a chicken is behaving this way is that she is not broody. You can test this by removing her from the nest, and watch her behavior. If she acts like she normally would, eats, drinks, and pecks then she could be broody. Especially if she is eager to return to her nesting box. If your hen is broody, check out our article on broody hens.

Feathers

Examine your chicken’s feathers. If all the feathers on a chicken’s shoulders look matted it could be a sign of a sinus infection. If their nose is running, they will wipe it on their shoulders. 

Feathers that are dirty around the vent mean the abdomen is swollen, or the chicken has too much urine/diarrhea. 

Combs and Wattles

A chicken’s comb and wattle should look waxy and plump. If combs or wattles look shriveled and dry, it is a good indication that they are sick. 

Eyes

Chicken’s eyes should look round and shiny. They should not be bubbly or watery. 

Noses

A chicken’s nose should be dry with nothing plugging up its nares. One way to test a chicken’s nose is by holding its beak closed and listening to the way it breathes. Listen for dry puffs of air. There should be no wheezing or whistling noises. 

Mouths

Chicken’s mouths should be moist and pink. However, they should not be excessively wet. 

Breast Muscles

This can be a tricky one to test. One tip for checking a chicken’s breast muscles is to compare it with another chicken of the same breed. If the center keel bone is sharper with smaller pads of muscle on either side, it means the chicken is too thin. 

Abdomen

If a chicken is an egg-laying hen, its abdomen should feel rounded and soft. Roosters, cockerels, pullets, or non-egg-laying hens should have a firm abdomen. 

If a chicken’s abdomen feels round and hard, that is usually a sign that something is wrong. 

If a Chicken is Sick

If you do discover that a chicken is sick, make sure that no other chickens in your flock are showing the same symptoms. If they are showing similar symptoms, it means that the illness has spread through the flock. 

There are different measures you can take for helping a chicken that is sick. It truly matters on the type of sickness. 

Generally, though, there are some important things you can do to help a sick chicken, including:

  • Isolate the sick chicken. This ensures that the chicken will not get picked on, as well as it protects the rest of the flock from getting the same illness.
  • Ensure that your chicken is properly hydrated.
  • Ensure that your chicken is getting food. You can provide them with digestive support supplements as well. However, if a chicken is eating and drinking properly, do not give them food/supplements they are not used to. 
  • Make sure that you properly treat the chicken. Do not treat the illness without knowing exactly what it is.

Have additional tips for caring for sick chickens? Let us know in the comments!