Cuddles is dying.
I need your help.





This is an emergency post. It is not what I planned, scheduled or hoped to be talking about today. It will not be my best piece of writing but it is one of my most important.

In fact I don’t even want to type the words out.

But Cuddles is dying.

Last Tuesday I went out into the run and the normally wildly active and friendly Cuddles was hiding under a tree. Just laying there.

By Wednesday she hadn’t improved at all and wasn’t eating or drinking. She wasn’t moving. Otherwise she looked healthy. No signs of a cold or any respiratory problems. Nice red comb. She had laid an egg only a few days earlier. But I knew when I looked at her. Cuddles was dying.

Her poop was minuscule bits of green (bile filled) dry blobs. From what I could tell she had no swelling in her crop or abdomen.

So I ran up to my local feed store and got her some electrolytes (to replenish the liquid, vitamins and minerals she needed) and some penicillin in case she had any sort of infection that could be cleared up.

The horrible, horrible sad thing about chickens is generally when they get sick, they die.

They’re prone to cancer, egg binding, impacted crops, egg yolk peritonitis, prolapsed vents, respiratory illnesses and a litany of other things that can, and often do lead to death.

By Thursday Cuddles’ poop looked like this.



Sorry for the graphic photo, but really I don’t care. I just care about finding some sort of help for Cuddles.

After a day of antibiotics and electrolytes Cuddles was feeling MUCH better. She was up and moving around and drinking. Still no eating though. For the next couple of days she got even better and would peck angrily at the younger chickens, drink and eat (but only her favourite foods). I could coax her to eat preserved crickets, corn on the cob, oatmeal and a bit of her feed. She’d peck and scratch at the dirt like she normally does, looking for bugs. Her poops were not large, but back to normal with regular cecal matter and poopy stuff.

After 4 days I quit the antibiotics and electrolytes. That was today (I’m writing this Sunday night). She was active again today and scratching around in the dirt for bits of food, but will NOT eat her food and will not eat anything presented to her other than some fresh corn.

And her poops are back to this …


Like I said. For the most part, when chickens get sick, chickens die.

I know Cuddles is just a chicken. And I’m willing to let nature take it’s course if need be. I don’t want to prolong her life for my sake. But there are 2 things I won’t do.

I will not give up trying to help her if I think there’s a chance she can recover.

And I will not allow her to suffer for weeks or even days. If she has no chance, I will have her put down.

I will not chop her head off, I will not break her neck. I just can’t. Cuddles sat in my lap for hours last summer when the fella left. The poor thing would be soaked in tears, but just shake them off and sleep in my lap. So no, off with her head is not an option here. But I will have her euthanized the same way I’ve had other pets I’ve loved. If I have to I’ll have Cuddles put to sleep.



Now is when I ask for your help.

I cannot find a vet that deals in poultry in my area. If you know of someone who deals with poultry in the Hamilton, Ontario region let me know. I would like Cuddles looked at and diagnosed so I can decide what to do. I will also need a vet to euthanize her when the time comes.

Also, if you are a chicken owner and these symptoms seem familiar to you, let me know. I know very little about poultry veterinary but I suppose it could be egg yolk peritonitis.

If you know anyone else who is an experienced chicken farmer please forward this post to them.

Synopsis and timeline of Symptoms

Day 1 – lethargic, not eating or drinking
Day 2 – lethargic, not eating or drinking. Dry, green pellet type poops. Started on electrolytes and penicillin.
Day 3 – energy back, eating a tiny bit and drinking. Fed some olive oil in case of blockage or crop issue. Poops that look like egg yolk with no solids. (however both her medications that I’ve been syringe feeding her are a bright yellow colour)
Day 4 – Great energy, playing a bit, eating anything when hand fed. Picking out only black sunflower seeds from scratch. Eating crickets, green beans, greens, yogourt, oatmeal, and a small amount of crumble when fed by hand and she got jealous when the other chickens were eating it. Discontinued use of electrolytes and penicillin at end of day.
Day 5 – Less energy but still up and moving around all day. Running to gate when she saw me. Uninterested in eating even her favourite foods other than a few specific seeds from scratch, weeds and raw corn on the cob. Crop felt almost empty before bed. Decided to give electrolytes just before she retired for the night.

I apologize for the horribly depressing and you know, gross post where you didn’t learn how to do anything or get a chance to laugh but it seemed stupid to have this kind of a forum and not use it to help Cuddles.

Thank you.


  1. Teddee Grace says:

    I’m sure you’ve researched this thoroughly, but here is what I found: Prevalence-
    Common, more common in broiler breeders

    General signs –
    The same signs associated with pain: lack of appetite, lethargy, huddling with fluffed up feathers. Sudden death. Nesting behavior with no eggs produced.
    Cardinal or diagnostic signs –
    Distended abdomen, frequent multiple yolked eggs. (The occasional double yolker should seldom cause worry, especially in young hens.) Cessation in laying. Yellow-orange (yolk colored) droppings.

    Cause/s –
    This condition occurs when the hen matures too many egg folicles (yolks) at once, and is sometimes the result of a condition known as EODES (erratic oviposition and defective egg syndrome). With this illness, the yolks inside the hens body become infected, often with e coli bacteria. The yolks may be despositied internally instead of within an egg, and when the hen’s body tries to reabsorb them, the peritoneum can become infected, as egg yolk is a good medium for bacteria to grow. This problem can occur when young hens or pullets are exposed to stress and too much light too early in their maturation, typically in a factory farm setting… although it can occur in home flocks that crowd too many hens together in a small space and use light to encourage early laying. We wonder if northern climates, where summer days are very long and flocks spend more time indoors, see a higher incidence, too? Thus far we have seen no studies on the issue.

    Communicability –
    Yolk peritonitis is not contagious, but the underlying issues will be common to your flock and can mean it occurs in more than one hen in your flock at once.

    Communicability to humans –
    No. However, the underlying infection can be communicated as food poisoning if you don’t handle and cook eggs (or meat) produced by your flock correctly.

    Incubation period –

    No. birds do not become carriers… however the bacteria causing the infection may be elevated in your environment and/or cause other infections.

    This can happen in any environment, but is more common in factory farms and in flocks where the birds are highly stressed, exposed to too much artificial light at a young age, and are crowded too closely together in an unsanitary environment..

    Home treatment and/or prevention –
    Prevention: Avoid adding light to the coop at all… but at least until young birds have been laying for a month or two. Give your hens plenty of clean space and practice good biosecurity.

    Treatment: There is no real home treatment for this… however, if you are using light in the coop, cease. A vet will need to diagnose your bird and prescribe antibiotics or other appropriate treatment.

    Veterinary care – Your vet can diagnose and sometimes offer treatment (antibiotics) when the problem is caught early. If the problem is caused by internal laying, surgery may be necessary.

    Recovery – Recovery is possible, but depends on the extent of the infection. Your veterinarian will be able to offer an informed prognosis.

    Other conditions, illnesses and/or diseases with similar signs:
    Pasteurella (fowl cholera) or Salmonella

    From the color of her stools, it certainly looks as if they contain egg yolk.

  2. ally says:

    Of course the other option is to take her to the emerg clinic at U of Guelph. Email me if you need directions.

  3. Mike the Chicken Vet says:

    Hi Karen,

    Any updates? If you have any other questions, please comment on my site, as I get email notifications, but it would be great to find out how things are going.


  4. Stephbo says:

    Your post is just heartbreaking. I hope that Cuddles rallies. She has been such a good friend to you. Sending warm, feathery thoughts to you and Cuddles!

  5. dana says:

    Sorry to hear about this. Is this the hen that sat in the little girls lap that came to see you with her mom from Singapore? I think it is because you said thats why her name is Cuddles. The poo pics dont bother me one iota. I have Crohns disease (and a 5yr old) so poop and matters of poop are right up my alley, so to speak. Stupid question, but can chickens eat bananas, rice, or applesauce?? Those, along with tea, are what makes up the BRAT diet for peeps with bowel disease or stomach flu. It helps to thicken and slow the diarrhea. Thats odd that there are not poultry vets around you. What do the farmers do? Maybe I do not want to know.

  6. Ann says:

    So sorry to hear about Cuddles. Sorry I have n0 knownledge in chickens. I’ll keep you and Cuddles in prayer

  7. Sally A says:

    I don’t know if you saw it, but the poultry pathologist responded to you. Comment #62. He said not to bathe her, among other things.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Sally A. Yes, thanks I did see the comment! In fact we emailed back and forth a few times and he was very nice. :) ~ karen

  8. sarah waterfield says:

    Karen, If you need someone to drive you and Cuddles to the vet (ANYTIME) PLEASE let me know. Transporting sick animals is always stressful, ans another person can be helpful. Anything you need. . . !
    This is just so awful!!!! hugs, sarah

  9. Wendy says:

    from my “other” chicken lady:
    feed only rice for 3 days…with water of course..remove all feed and toss..get fresh feed

    she said more, but you do not need to read it….keep us posted

  10. karen says:

    Not sue if someone posted this earlier, but I also found this:

    You might see if any vets in your area treat birds like cockatoos or parrots and could do a bacterial workup on the poop.

  11. karen says:

    This guy:

    Or send an email to some of these resources:

    When I was a girl, we took one of my hens (Blossom) to the Rutgers Univ. Agriculture Experiment Station and they did a great job diagnosing her. You may have to give her a slurry through a syringe to get her back on her feed. I would contact some of these university people, also to be sure it’s not something the others could catch. Above all, good luck!

  12. Lynn (really spelled w/ an "e", but somebody else already has that spelling on here) says:

    Sending prayers and positive thoughts for Cuddles. Thinking of you both!

  13. Shauna says:

    I’m so sorry Karen. I’ve had a chicken die the very same way. I tried all the same things too – all things I read about online. I wish I could provide more help.

  14. Dian says:

    So sorry Karen, I love my little girls too. I hope Cuddles gets better!

  15. Angela says:

    I don’t know poop about chickens, but you always inspire me to want to find out more and have my own. If its a living breathing thing who gives you happiness, joy and makes you laugh and gives comfort in times of sadness…its a dear loved friend. You just moved up a few notches Karen for showing your compassion and heart for a loved one, hen or not. Good luck on your quest to cure the little girl.
    I’ll keep you in my thoughts and heart <3

  16. Maureen says:

    Karen, I donot have chickens but I asked my friend who does. She doesn’t know but suggests you contact The Chicken Chick who has a blog and is on Facebook. So very sorry.

  17. kate-v says:

    I will hold good thoughts for you and Cuddles. It is a hard time and I hope she will fully recover from whatever causes her illness.

  18. Beth says:

    I know little about chickens, but a friend had some and they fell prone to Gout- she said chickens that can’t roam freely in big space tend to get this. I don’t know its symptoms, etc, but it may be an avenue to investigate. Good luck! I love your Cuddles (and chicken) stories! I hope she gets better quickly!

  19. Leslie says:

    I’m so sorry Karen that your sweet Cuddles is sick. We have chickens and have had to assist two of them to the other side after they had become ill, and were beyond hope of recovery. I, like you, could not chop of a chickens head. After doing some research We discovered that starter fluid (for engines) is mostly ether. By putting some on a cloth and holding it over their beak, they fall asleep. More fluid on the cloth and in a plastic they will die – peacefully, I think. It’s never easy- but it seems better than to watch them suffer.

  20. Melissa in North Carolina says:

    I have no suggestions to make so I’ll keep this brief for those who do…I believe that if anyone can find a cure for Cuddles you will find it or you will find the right person to cure your girl. Get well Cuddles! Hang in there, Karen.

  21. Lauren from Winnipeg says:

    Very sorry to hear about Cuddles. We know you will do everything you can for her. I’m sorry that I don’t know anything about chickens so I can’t help in that way. Of course you would euthanize if it is sadly required. We wouldn’t expect anything less from you. Cuddles is a beloved member of your family. Anyone who would think to do otherwise doesn’t deserve to have an animal. I do feel for you as this is an agonizing decision. Do it now? Wait for awhile? Our family’s philosophy is better a day too early than a day too late. This summer we had to make this decision twice and lost both of our beloved greyhounds within six weeks of each other. Devastating but necessary.

    You will get through this – but it truly sucks!

  22. Suzy R says:

    I’m a brand new reader of your blog and I’m love, positive energy and prayers for Cuddles. I had three very special hens a few years ago so I know how beautiful those friends can be. I know nothing about chicken veterinary so all I can offer is understanding and prayer. You are a strong loving person. If anyone can pull Cuddles through, it will be you. I’ll be sending those vibes.

  23. Juliet says:

    I had a sweet hen with the same symptoms die of sour crop. We just caught it too late. :”’o( But, its easy to diagnose by one telltale symptom. Her crop will feel like a water balloon. We googled treatments which are quite simplistic and not fun for the patient. Hope she’s improving!!


  24. JeannieB says:

    Good luck Karen. If Cuddles doesn’t improve, she knows that you’ve done everything possible for her. Wouldn’t it be wonderful if all chickens were loved, like Cuddles. Says me, who sobbed over a poor dead robin that died on my patio two days ago.

  25. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    The only things I know about chickens I learned from you..What I do know is how much you love that sweet little girl..Good luck have so many people trying to help..Hugs

  26. toekneetoni says:

    so sorry. hoping that you can get an accurate diagnosis and that Cuddles bounces back fully.

  27. Sally says:

    Have you been in touch with the Richardson’s up at Christieview? I know you are one of their favourite people and they are a gold mine of information and moral support. And just a 10 minute drive away from you.

    My heart hurts for you. I go just ballistic when my dog gets sick. The bond with an animal is also indescribable.

  28. Leslie says:

    If you’ve fed her antibiotics, you might want to follow up with probiotics. I’m not sure if the electrolyte supplement you used included probiotics, but they are easy enough to buy or make. I feed Fermented Feed to my chickens to help keep a good balance of healthy bacteria in their system so they can fight parasites, etc., … it also seems to make their eggs taste yummier. Some people recommend Apple Cider Vinegar with the Mother in the birds’ water. Some yogurt with live cultures can be a great treat. Yeast supplements (I really like human-grade Nutritional Yeast) are often added to chicken feed to help keep the birds healthier.

    Can you send some of her poo off for analysis? Do you have anything like the Extension Service there in Canada? It can be a very helpful resource here in the USA.

    Good luck with Cuddles. I know how stressful this can be.

  29. Jennifer says:

    You mentioned how she perked up after the electrolytes. I would try a small amount of that with water in a syringe and slowly put it in her mouth.
    Also make sure she has no access to anything outside that she can eat that she is not supposed to eat. Her immune system is down right now, this to be built back up to fight this off.

    Do you have any Organic Pellets? Kruz makes a great organic lay pellet. If you can mix some with water and make an oatmeal like consistency try giving her some of that with some baby food.
    There is also something called Rooster Booster that can help.

    Please post your findings and updates, good luck!!!

  30. cary says:

    hi karen. i posted a link to this blog post to backyard chickens and i got this response. ….
    …….. “Have you ever wormed them?
    I also wonder if she had an egg break inside..since you say the poop looked like egg yoke…looks green the pic.
    P.S. Here is a poop chart :
    Poop looks ok. Could be green from the electrolytes..meds…oil. ” ………..

    have you read up on egg binding? i hope you can save her. we do so love our girls don’t we?
    cary :)

  31. Pam says:

    In my 40 years of raising farm animals , I find that parasites are usually the underlying problem. Find a lab and get those poops checked, ASAP. Good luck!!

  32. martina says:

    I hope big the time you read this Cuddles has been seen by a vet and is better. So touching that she gave you comfort during a hard time. Anyone who owns chickens knows that they are much smarter than others think.

    Is it safe to give poultry a dollop of yogurt? Just thinking the nutrition in that might help balance out the digestive tract.

  33. Marion says:

    Oh Karen, I am so sorry to hear about Cuddles. I have no advice to offer, only my well wishes that Cuddles gets well soon and you are able to get some rest. (and, as others have said, she’s not “just a chicken,” she’s a member of your family!)

  34. Jodi T. says:

    Not Cuddles!! I hope you can find a vet very soon and get her fixed up!!

  35. Oh Karen,
    So sorry to hear about Cuddles. I’m waiting to board a plane at Singapore airport, but this is important.
    I’ve lost 3 hens to very similar symptoms, and like you, I had them euthanised like any loved pet. However, the important thing is I have managed to save 1 most treasured girl, Selma. I bathed her twice a day and did a very yucky clean out of her egg duct gently with a finger whilst she was in the warm bath. Antibiotics are the way to go. She took them for a week from memory. I mixed up special mash from a recipe I found online. Can’t remember quantities but it was grated apple, crumbled up chicken pellets, natural live yoghurt, 1 crumbled egg yolk for protein, a teaspoon of honey. Should be a stiff mash that you can roll small balls , sixe of a big pea, and feed her these one by one until she loses interest, a few times a day.
    I really hope it’s not egg yolk peritonitis. Poor cuddles.
    Luckily we have a great avian vet (in Melbourne, Australia) who used a needle and syringe to drain her swollen cavity (yuck) I believe you can do it yourself, but quite risky.
    I’ll try to email you the chicken website I got the info from when I get home.
    Good luck to you both.

  36. Jennifer says:

    You’ve received so many helpful comments! I hope this one helps:

    I have a hen who recently showed the same symptoms, although she also presented with fowl pox. We are fortunate that my dog’s vet also sees poultry, but it was a Wednesday and she’s not in on Wednesdays. The other vet in town who sees livestock was on vacation until the following day, so I took her to a specialty pet hospital 35 minutes away. They gave her fluids & vitamins intravenously and after two days she was better (even with fowl, which wouldn’t have made her sick like that). As soon as she was better, she became broody. I hope that doesn’t happen to Cuddles because it’s extra stress on their little bodies and has been difficult to keep ours off the nest.

    As you’ve written, having her euthanized may be the only option. I read Mike the Chicken Vet’s article about euthanasia shortly before I realized my beloved rooster needed to leave this world. His article was incredibly comforting in our case. I wrote about it on my blog in June ( It’s never easy to have sick chickens.

  37. Kim C. says:

    So sorry to learn that Cuddles is not well. Al I can offer is my strongest wish for her that she recovers quickly back to the loving friend that she is for you. I can feel your anxiety through your words. I really hope one of the solutions offered here turns out to be the ticket. Get well soon Cuddles. XO

  38. Joe Giambrone says:

    Dear Karyn;

    As stated in one of you comments, I have been a poultry pathologist at Auburn University for 37+ years.
    I have listed our faculty webiste for the list of other experts in our Poultry Sceince Department. It sounds that you have gotten some good adive and not so good advice from your meaningful friends, However, you should never wash you bird, because you will wash off the protective oil that the bird places over her body from her oil gland and may lead to hyperthermia. Never place a laying hen on antibiotics for more the 7 days, because that may lead to yeast infections as is commonly seen in human females or bacterial resistance if you are using the wrong antibiotic. What type of antibiotic are you using? How old is your hen and what is her current egg production rate and shell quality? Do you have her only on human food? If so you might want to go to a more nutritionally complete layer diet. If she is not eating you may want to go to hand feeding. You can also try molaces for 2 days in the water for an energy boost or adding a samll heating bulb. Have you thought of worms, which are common in backyard birds. Take her temperature using a rectal thermomater. Normal body temp is 103 to 107. Provide me the answers to my questions if the problem it continues. Unifrtualtey I know of at least 20 cause of enteric diseases in backyard poultry. You can reach me at my email, which is on our website. We also have a free CD on rearing backyard flocks, that I can send you.


    Dr JJG

  39. Feral Turtle says:

    Love the sense of community the internet can bring! Sounds like you have a lot of good advice to nurse Cuddles back to health Karen. With your determination and big heart, I know she will pull through!

  40. Trish Gannon says:

    Don’t know if this will help you, but might be useful for your readers with chickens.
    Diagnosing chicken illness via poop –
    Another on problem poop:

  41. chris says:

    yeah, I was going to say .. University of Guelph!

  42. Ryn says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about Cuddles. I hope you figure out what’s going on with her, and she gets well soon.

  43. Rondina says:

    We are all waiting for news on Cuddles. Please keep updated.

  44. Barbara says:

    We have one reply so far from the Austex Poultry Group. This is it:

    The only thing I would add that is not in the blog comments is
    cleanliness. If the problem is a bacterial infection, the bird should
    not have access to her own poop or she could reinfect herself.

    Good luck!

  45. Sandy says:

    Karen, could it be Coccidiosis?

  46. carin says:

    Is there a farm in your area that might be able to recommend a local vet?

    In the meantime, hoping Cuddles rallies. She must certainly know she’s loved…

  47. JF says:

    oh my word, SO sorry to hear about Cuddles’s illness – hoping one of the replies from our on-line family gives you some answers!

  48. Ruth says:

    Scrolling through the comments, I realise that you have already gotten great advice. I really do hope Cuddles pull through. {{{HUGS}}}

  49. Sandi says:

    Dear Karen,
    I am so sorry and will def keep you and Cuddles in my prayers. Your heart is heavy yet your love is most abundantly felt. I don’t know anything about chickens, however, grace and mercy is shown to us as well as our pets. Love cures a multitude of things!

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