What to feed your sick chicken

What to feed your sick chicken

Those who have owned chickens – either as pets for their children or strictly to lay eggs – know that they are some of the friendliest farm animals around.

Like any other animal, chickens can and most likely will get sick at some point in their life. Unfortunately, spotting that your chicken isn’t well can be difficult, as chickens are quite good at hiding their illness.

We’ve written this guide to guide all chook owners in spotting and treating their sick chicken(s). We’ll take you through the following areas:

  • Common reasons your chicken won’t eat
  • Signs that your chicken is sick
  • Getting your sick chicken to eat more food
  • Getting your sick chicken to drink more water

Please remember that this is a guide, and that we’re not veterinary professionals – we manufacture chicken feed. For the best possible advice, talk to your vet.

Common reasons your chicken won’t eat

Illness: One of the most common reasons for why your chicken won’t eat is because it has an illness such as Coccidiosis or Mareks disease. In this scenario, your chooks may become lethargic and will also have a loss of appetite.

Physical injury: Whether caused by another animal or self-inflicted, physical injury can cause your chicken to stop eating. Both internal and external injuries fall into this category. That means, anything from a misjudged drop off the perch in the morning to a predator attack.

Bullying: Believe it or not, chickens bully each other. This includes bullying one another off food, pecking on the head and pulling feathers. This ultimately causes stress, which in turn may cause your chicken to lose its appetite.

Poisoning: Your chook may have eaten something that it’s not really meant to. If it ends up getting food poisoning then it won’t want to eat.

Infestations: This may not come to mind as a reason for why your chicken won’t eat, but it’s real. Chicken that are infested with lice will scratch themselves senseless. So much so, that they won’t even stop to eat.

Tumour or Growths: Indeed, this is a rarer scenario. Though, tumours inside the beak may prevent food from entering your chicken’s digestive system, while a tumour of the intestines may prevent your chook from digesting food. In either case, your chook may stop eating altogether.

What to feed your sick chicken

If you have a sick chicken, then the logical first step is to take it to the vet. From there, you want to get it to start eating and drinking water.

When it comes to digesting food, your goal should be to simply get your chicken to start eating. From there, things will become easier.

To feed a sick chicken, start by experimenting to see what foods it likes. Avoid salty foods, and don’t feed your chicken avocado under any circumstances.

You can feed your chicken hard-boiled eggs, mealworms, fresh or thawed corn, yogurt, human-grade cooked meats, grapes, cantaloupe, cherries, apples and fresh greens, such as grass, clover, lettuce, spinach and kale.

Another option that you can explore to feed your sick chicken is known as the ‘Rickets Diet’. This is easy to make from ingredients from items you can buy at your local supermarket.

This diet provides your chicken with the vitamins and minerals it needs to recover. Also, the recipe isn’t strict. If you can’t find a particular ingredient, then replace it with similar nutrients.

The diet was initially developed for birds that developed rickets, but it can also help many other sick birds as well – even chooks that haven’t been eating quite right.

The recipe is meant to feed one bird and goes as follows:

  • 1/2 to 1 cooked egg yolk (crumbled into mixture)
  • 1 teaspoon cod liver oil
  • 1 very small drizzle of honey
  • 2 tablespoons natural yoghurt (no sugar)
  • 2 to 4 tablespoons rolled oats or Baby rice
  • 1 dessert spoon of beef tin cat food (not dog food)
  • 1 few grains of multi vitamin powder
  • 2 tablespoons of grated apple

Your aim is to make a crumble mixture, and not a runny one. The diet should be consumed within 12 hours, otherwise it needs to be thrown out.

Feed this recipe to your sick chicken once per day until you notice its behaviour return to normal – it usually takes about three weeks.

You should feed this diet in the morning, and if you need to force feed your chicken, then gently do so. It may be too weak to eat on its own. Also, make sure that your chicken always has access to clean drinking water.

Mix to make a crumble mixture, not runny. If you have to roll into pellets and force feed, and then gently massage the neck in a downward motion to get it down into the crop then do it. The bird may be too weak to eat or have lost the desire to eat…

How to Make a Sick Chicken Drink Water

We also mentioned that alongside food, your sick chicken should also drink plenty of water. Here’s how you can help it to gently get started:

  • Mix up a little cup of water with some electrolytes and found a small syringe dropper.
  • Use your thumb to open the top of the chicken’s beak. You can do this by pinching the waddle and then pushing open top beak.
  • Release a few drops of water from the syringe into the chicken’s beak.
  • Release the waddle and allow the chicken to swallow the water. She should do this on her own.

This shouldn’t be a difficult process. Make sure that you’re gentle with your chicken. Give your chicken a few drops at a time.