Recognizing when your chickens are sick can sometimes be very difficult, primarily because they can hide it very well. As a chicken owner, it is vital to try to recognize early signs before it's too late. 

You may be wondering how can I tell if my chicken is sick? Continue reading for tips and signs to monitor. 

How the Flock and Chicken Interact

One indicator of a sick chicken is distancing from the rest of the flock. Distancing behavior might include:

  • Not pecking around with the rest of the flock
  • Being the last chicken to leave the coop in the mornings
  • Not roosting in the chicken coop at night

Keeping an eye on the flock's interactions with the chicken is also essential because it can be a very telling sign. If the other chickens are picking on a particular chicken, it could be because that chicken is not acting normal or is appearing weak. 

Flock of Chickens Pecking in Backyard


Broody hens can show similar behavior as mentioned above. You can test if a hen is broody by removing her from her nest and monitoring her behavior. If she acts normally, eats, drinks, and pecks around with the rest of the flock, then she could be broody, especially if she is in a hurry to return to the nesting box. 

Broody hen laying on eggs

Signs A Chicken Is Sick

There are a few signs you can monitor, 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/mouth/beaks
  • The breast muscles
  • The abdomen


Look closely at your chicken's feathers. If the feathers on their shoulders look matted, this could mean they have a sinus infection. When their nose runs, they will wipe it on their shoulders. 

If the feathers are dirty around the vent area, that indicates that the abdomen is swollen or the chicken has too much urine or diarrhea. 

Combs and Wattles

Combs and wattles are supposed to look plump and waxy. If they look dry or shriveled, it is a sign that they are sick. 

Close up of a chicken


A chicken's eyes should be round and shiny, not bubbly or watery. 


Test if a chicken's nose is dry by holding its beak closed and listening to its breathing. It should sound like dry puffs of air without wheezing or whistling noises. 


Chicken mouths should be moist and pink without being excessively wet. 

Breast Muscles

A chicken's breast muscles can be tricker to test. Compare your chicken's breast muscles to a chicken of the same breed. If you feel that the center keel bone is sharp and there are small pads of muscle on the side, this means that the chicken is too thin. 

Hen Chicken Standing


Egg-laying hens should have soft abdomens, while roosters, cockerels, pullets or non-egg-laying hens should have firm abdomens. If a chicken's abdomen feels round and hard, this may be a sign of a problem. 

What to Do if Your Chicken is Sick

If you discover that one of your chicken's is sick, check that none of your other chickens show similar symptoms. If you find that they are showing the same symptoms, this means that it has spread in your flock. 

How you handle sick chickens depends on their types of sickness. There are a few ways you can help a sick chicken, including:

  • Isolating the sick chicken ensures it will not get picked on, and it will protect your other chickens from also getting sick. 
  • Hydration and food are vital for a sick chicken. You can also give your chickens digestive support supplements. However, if they are eating and drinking normally, this is not necessary. Especially be careful about giving them food or supplements they have not had before. 
  • Treating your chickens for the correct sickness is extremely important. Only start treating it after knowing exactly what it is. 

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

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