A family of hatcheries...

Take These 5 Crucial Steps to Help Treat Your Sick Chickens

A person in a doctor’s coat with a stethoscope examining a chicken.

If you notice that your chickens are acting differently or have stopped laying eggs, you should begin sick chicken treatment until you determine and treat the underlying issue. We know how scary and worrisome it can be when your chickens are sick. After all, Freedom Ranger Hatchery—a family of hatcheries—started in a back yard over 40 years ago. Since then, we’ve been raising families, chickens, and eggs to become the number one hatchery in Pennsylvania.

And with that experience comes extensive knowledge on how to care for sick birds. So, in today’s blog post, we’re going to go over the signs that your chickens are sick, how to treat them, and some of the common chicken diseases of which to be aware.

Signs of a Sick Chicken

You may not be aware that your chickens aren’t feeling well right away. Chickens are prey animals and rather nosy. So, if they sense that a chick in their flock isn’t feeling well, they’ll peck at it or bully it, and could make their condition worse. That’s why chickens will often hide their symptoms as best they can.

As a chicken keeper, you need to be mindful of normal behavior and spot signs of illness rather quickly. Some common signs that your chicken may be sick include:

  • Hiding from other members of the flock and humans
  • Not laying as many eggs
  • Not moving as much as normal
  • Pale combs or wattles
  • Unusual droppings
  • Standing awkwardly
  • Weakness
  • Not eating or drinking normally

If you notice these signs, or anything else unusual, it’s a good idea to begin your sick chicken treatment process.

Basic Sick Chicken Treatment

Having a process in place for when your chickens are sick helps give the bird its best chance to get well and prevents spreading it to other birds in your flock. And much like taking care of yourself or your children when they’re sick, home remedies for a sick chicken are similar.

1. Isolate the Sick Bird

The first thing you’ll want to do in your sick chicken treatment process is isolate the bird. Moving the bird to its own dog crate or rabbit hutch in a separate building from the rest of the animals ensures that the disease doesn’t spread from bird to bird and that the other chickens don’t bully it. The quarantine area should be quiet, warm, and protected from predators and other animals.

Until the bird gets healthy again, you should always use separate supplies to feed and hydrate the bird, which prevents the disease from spreading. It’s also a good idea to wear boot coverings when in the building with the sick bird so that you can dispose of them and not contaminate other areas of your back yard or farm. Alternatively, set a bucket full of bleach water outside the building to dunk your boots in after leaving the isolated area.

Don’t forget to wash your hands well after handling a sick chicken!

2. Keep Your Sick Chick Hydrated

The next most important thing to do in your sick chicken treatment process is to keep the bird hydrated. Plenty of fresh drinking water is essential. Just like when your young chickens first arrived, ensuring your ill bird has plenty of fresh, clean water is critical.

Chickens need water to exist, and it helps them regulate their metabolism, digest food, and eliminate waste. If a chicken is dehydrated, it can’t adequately fight the illness.

It’s also a good idea to add a vitamin or electrolyte supplement into their drinking water for the first few days to help them rehydrate. You can use a small amount of a sports drink if you don’t have any electrolyte supplements on hand. If your sick chick isn’t drinking on their own, a medicine dropper or spoon to encourage drinking can help.

A woman holding a chicken in her arms while trying to get him to eat feed from her palm.

3. Encourage Healthy Eating

Food isn’t nearly as important as water when your chicken is sick, and they may not even feel like eating. However, you can help encourage your chicken to eat by crushing layer feed and mixing with warm water or milk to make a mash. Use a spoon, syringe, or tube to feed the chickens when they don’t have the energy or motivation to feed themselves.

4. Focus on Rest and Healing

It’s important to note that if your bird is eating and drinking normally, don’t add extra things to their food or water they don’t usually take. Some folks add food like apple cider vinegar, olive oil, garlic, or yogurt to boost their immune system. These extra foods could shock their system if they aren’t used to them and worsen their condition.

Instead, focus on giving the birds plenty of rest and healing during this time. You can concentrate on improving their immune system when they get healthy. It’s also a good idea to contact your state veterinarian or animal control to see if any diseases are spreading in birds that can help you properly treat them.

5. Plan for the Best and the Worst

At best, your sick chicken becomes well again. At this point, you need to reintegrate your chicken into the flock as if it were a brand-new bird. You can do this by placing the now-healthy chicken inside a confined area to allow the chicken and flock to see and hear each other while maintaining a safe place for both. After about a week, provide an opening that allows the bird to go in and out at their leisure.

At worst, you may need to consider euthanasia. No one likes to have to resort to this method. However, if your sick bird isn’t getting better and you’ve tried various natural remedies and medicines for sick chickens to improve your chicken’s health, they’re likely suffering. No one wants that.

Locate a vet who will euthanize your chickens for you, as many will do it even if they don’t routinely treat chickens. You can also contact your state’s veterinary diagnostic laboratory for euthanasia services and a postmortem examination to determine the cause of death. Knowing their cause of death can help protect the rest of your flock and give you peace of mind.

Common Chicken Illnesses

You may be wondering if there are certain medicines or antibiotics you can give your sick chicken for treatment. It depends on the type of disease or illness they have. Below is a chart showing the most common chicken illnesses and some recommended treatments.

Chicken AilmentsSymptomsPotential RemediesLearn More
Mites and LiceOver preening or pecking at their feathers more than usualDust baths, diatomaceous earth, coop mite sprayLearn More About Mites and Lice in Chickens
SalmonellaDepression, poor growth, diarrhea, dehydration, general weaknessAsk a vet about getting antibiotics. Keep the chicken coop clean.Learn More About Salmonella
Marek’s DiseaseTumors, irregularly-shaped pupils, partial paralysis, most common in young chickensRemove it from the flock. It will likely be a carrier for the rest of its life. Consider vaccination.Learn More About Marek’s Disease
Fowl PoxWart-like lesions on unfeathered areas of the bird (dry form) or around the mouth with discharge from the eyes (wet form)It will clear on its own. Follow the sick treatment process described above to keep your chicken comfortable.Learn More About Fowl Pox
Infectious BronchitisEgg production drops, loss of interest in food and water, labored breathing, discharge from their eyes and nostrilsAsk your vet if antibiotics are appropriate. Otherwise, keep the bird quarantined, hydrated, and fed until the diseases passes.Learn More About Infections Bronchitis
New Castle DiseaseRespiratory issues—like breathing difficulty and nasal discharge—dim eyes, and reduction in egg productionBirds typically recover on their own, but young chicks may not survive. Ask a vet if antibiotics are appropriate.Learn More About New Castle Disease
CoccidiosisLoose droppings, bloody or watery diarrhea, weight loss, and ruffled feathers.It can be treated with an antibiotic or other medicines to eliminate the parasite.Learn More About Coccidiosis
AspergillosisRapid, open-mouth breathing, lack of appetite, increased thirst, drowsiness.Follow your sick chicken treatment as outlined previously and wait for the disease to pass.Learn More About Aspergillosis
Mycoplasma Gallisepticum (MG)May show no signs, but could include sticky discharge from nostrils, foamy discharge from eyes, and swollen sinusesIt can be treated with antibiotics, like Tylan or Gallmycin, but infected birds will need to be removed from the flock.Learn More About MG
Mycoplasma Synoviae (MS)Lameness, reluctance to move, swollen joints, stilted gait, weight loss, general lethargy, respiratory distressIt can be treated with antibiotics, like Tylan or Gallmycin, but infected birds will need to be removed from the flock.Learn More About MS

The Best Way to Keep Your Flock Healthy? Start with the Best Chicks from Freedom Ranger!

Seeing sick chickens can be heartbreaking. You want to make them better instantly, but often, the illness must run its course. Sick chicken treatment isn’t much different than treating a cold in your child.

Begin by isolating the animal and ensuring contaminated tools don’t mix with tools for the rest of the flock. Ensure they have access to fresh water and are staying hydrated, as well as encourage eating. Give the bird time to heal or consider euthanasia if they appear to be suffering.

Keeping your flock healthy is essential to managing your back yard pets or egg-laying business. The best way to ensure your chicken community is healthy from the get-go is buying baby chicks from an NPIP-certified hatchery, like Freedom Ranger Hatchery. We can even vaccinate your baby chicks for Marek’s Disease before they get to you! Check out our full range of products today!