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Signs your Chickens Aren’t Feeling Well

Have you ever wondered how to tell if one of your fine feathered beauties is not feeling well?

The best way to find out is observation.

A daily once over of your flock for any behavior changes or outward signs allows you to catch an illness or injury before it turns into something worse.

Let’s start from the top and take a look at the chicken from head to toe.

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If the comb and wattle are pale, limp, or discolored, that is a cause for concern. It may be a possible sign of parasites, worms, or blood loss.

A discolored set if red and scabby is most likely due to henpecking. A black duo can be a sign of frostbite, and a purple coloration is a sign of cyanosis, which is heart or respiratory disease.


A full crop that is mushy is a sign of sour crop compared to a hard solid lump which is an impacted crop caused from their diet.

An empty crop is just as much of a concern because that shows that your hen isn’t eating. This can be due to illness, injury, stress, or bullying.


Dull eyes are a sign of illness which could be in many different forms.

Mucous around the eye may be conjunctivitis, where a bubbling eye is a concern for Mycoplasma gallisepticum. MG reduces your hen’s immune system opening it up to a risk of respiratory infection.


Sneezing, runny nose, coughing, and/or raspy breathing are all signs of respiratory disease.

A swollen head may be from bites or stings of an insect, or they trooped into a stinging plant such as nettles.


If your hens have broken, dull feathers with some of them missing check your calendar, because it may be the molting season.

But if it’s not that time of year they could have parasites like lice or mites. Henpecking may also be an issue, which you could easily see while observing your flock.

Hens also tend to lose feathers along their back when they’re being mated frequently by a rooster. You can solve this issue by getting a chicken saddle.


If your hen is holding their wings away from their body and breathing heavily, they may have heat stroke.

A hen that fluffs up and is hunching could be telling you that she has a trapped egg which you can tell by checking her vent. It also may be a sign of an injury or illness.


If you notice your hens limping or not able to stand for any length of time, check them over for injuries or sickness.

You may also want to check the bottom of the foot for Bumble foot, and check the legs for raised scales which would indicate an issue with leg mites.


Here’s the fun part, checking the chicken poop. It is incredible what you can find out from their droppings.

Loose droppings are somewhat normal in a chicken but if the droppings look like diarrhea, are yellow, foaming or have a pungent odor it could be a sign of worms, intestinal infection, food poisoning, contaminated water, MG or Coccidiosis.

Blood in the droppings can also be Coccidiosis, a pecking injury on their backside, worms or remains of a burst blood vessel.

These are some basics of signs that may mean your chicken is not well.

Have you ever had any of these problems in your flock?

Tell us about it below!

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Monday 2nd of May 2022

My hen lays every day, or I guess she does, I have 6 chickens and some days only five eggs, yesterday I had six. She stayed in her layer box all day. When I picked her up and set her on the ground her feathers were fluffy. She ate a few mealworms and went back to the layer box. This morning she is still in the layer box. Would too many mealworms make a hen sick? If she does have an egg stuck, can I help her to clear the passageway? Her comb, eyes and breathing are good so far.


Friday 6th of May 2022

It doesn't sound like your hen is sick, it sounds like she's broody, meaning she wants to sit on the eggs and hatch them. This is normal behavior for a lot of hens, especially this time of year. You may find her on the nest daily until she decides to stop being broody. If she had an egg stuck she would likely be standing around with her tail drooping, not sitting on the nest.

Richard in Elizabethtown, NC

Thursday 18th of June 2020

I have a sick chicken right now. She had a wonderful run of eggs just two weeks ago - she laid eggs for 7 straight days! On the Sunday of that week she didn't lay an egg but started right back up on the following day, Monday. Now she is weak and staying in her nestbox. I took her out and gave her some food and she ate with what I thought was a good appetite. But, she is still staying in her nestbox still. Her eyes are "clear as a bell" but she has lost some downy feathers on her rear part of the breast area. When I took her out of the nestbox to feed her, she had a really good bowel movement and it was rather smelly. She free-ranges and there is no telling what she might have ingested. We have had a tremendous amount of rain lately and there is no telling where she might have drank water from. I need to go check on her now and I'll see how she is doing today. Oh, by the way, Marigold is supposed to be a Swedish Flower Hen and I have no idea how old she is.