If one of your chickens is laying down all the time, it may be nothing to worry about. For some chickens, laying around most of the day is perfectly normal. However, it doesn't do any harm to check them over and look for other signs that he may be unwell.
I see this question asked a lot, and really it's hard to answer without taking into account a number of other factors.
For example, if your chicken has gone from being very active to suddenly laying down a lot, that may mean something is bothering them.
On the other hand, some hens are just lazy. They'll happily spend large portions of the day laying around doing nothing - and who can blame them!
In this article, I’m going to cover all the common signs that may indicate your chicken is unwell. This way, you can get peace of mind that you do, in fact, just have a lazy chicken!
Take a Good Look at Their Comb
A chicken's comb is a great indication of their general health. If it's gone from a nice vibrant red to a pale red, pink, purple, black, or any color other than a bright red, this is always a good indication that something is wrong.
It could mean anything from a mineral deficiency or dehydration to frostbite, internal bleeding, or any number of other illnesses.
Check Their Eyes and Nostrils Are Clear
Chickens aren’t very good at clearing up their eyes or nostrils if there's any form of discharge. So this is always a good place to start.
If they have swollen eyes, excess fluid, or anything less than clean and clear eyes and nostrils, you're going to need to take a closer look at what the problem might be.
Related - Do chickens have noses?
Take a Look at Their Vent (Rear End!)
It's not the most pleasant job in the world, but you're going to need to check your chicken’s vent is clean and looking normal.
If this word is new to you, a chicken’s vent is essentially the hole where everything comes out. Chicken’s only have one opening where they pee and poop at the same time, and lay eggs.
A prolapsed vent, being egg bound, and vent gleet are just some of the vent problems that chickens can suffer from.
It's usually pretty obvious by taking a look that something is wrong. But obviously, if you're not sure, you should always seek the advice of an avian vet.
Related - What is vent gleet?
Feel Their Crop Area
A chicken's crop is essentially a large pouch where they store food at the front of their chest. Throughout the day, as a chicken eats it accumulates food in its crop.
Overnight, a chicken’s digestive system gets to work and food moves from the crop through to their gizzard and is ultimately digested.
However, it's not that uncommon for the crop to get blocked. There are a couple of conditions backyard chickens can suffer from, these are called an impacted crop, and sour crop.
In brief, an impacted crop is when the crop is blocked, usually due to large or stringy foods that just can't be passed through to their stomach.
Sour crop is a little more serious. This occurs when food is blocked, and as a result, it starts to ferment as bacteria is cultivating in the crop.
Both of these crop issues are serious though, and both can cause a chicken to be sick and start acting lethargic and laying around.
Look at Their Droppings for Anything Abnormal
OK, this is the worst part for sure, but it’s important that you look at your chicken’s poop if you think they’re unwell.
A chicken’s poop does vary a lot in color and consistency, but when you see something abnormal it’s almost always going to be obvious.
You're looking for diarrhea, signs of blood or mucus, odd colors like bright green or yellow, a foul smell (worse than normal), and worms wriggling around.
If you spot anything like this that is out of the ordinary, you either have to look up what you’re seeing relates to, you might need to get a sample down to your vet.
Worms in particular can take a toll on a chicken's body and cause them to lack energy and lay around. It's usually not too hard to treat with the right deworming product though, so don’t panic.
Related - How often do chickens poop?
Look at Their Plumage and Feathers
Like a lot of animals, when a chicken is unwell they will stop looking after themselves so well and start to look disheveled.
It may be that your chicken is molting. This is a process that chickens go through twice a year where they shed old feathers and grow new ones.
If there are bald patches, however, it may mean that they're being picked on by their flock mates, are infested with lice, or have some form of mineral deficiency.
Are They Laying Eggs Normally?
Laying eggs also takes a toll on a hen’s body. If she's not in optimal health and getting all of the good nutrition she needs, a hen’s egg production will be interrupted.
In most cases, when a hen is unwell, she will lay eggs less often. You may also notice, however, that her eggs have wrinkled shells, are odd shapes, or are deformed in some way.
Worse still, she may be straining and struggling to lay an egg when you’re not around. Any changes to how regular a hen is laying eggs should be taken very seriously.
This isn't a complete list covering every possible sign that there is an underlying health issue causing your hen to lay down all the time, but it covers most of the basics.
Generally speaking, backyard hens are hardy birds and rarely get sick. But it can happen.
Keep in mind that they're not able to tell us what's wrong when they do, so it's up to us to spot signs like lethargic behavior and laying down and investigate further.
I really hope you do just have a lazy hen! But it's worth giving them a head-to-toe - or should I say beak to tail - checking over to put your mind at ease.
Image credits - Photo by Adam Rutkowski on Unsplash