Caring for chickens is something that more and more people are getting into. Of course, many people raise chickens on farms so that they can harvest eggs.
You might keep a small flock of chickens in your backyard just because you think they’re fun. Many people find chickens to be interesting companion animals.
If you’ve been caring for chickens for any length of time, then you probably know that they love to eat. In fact, you could say that eating is one of the things that chickens care about the most.
When one of your chickens suddenly stops eating, it’s going to be very worrisome. Is there something wrong with the chicken that is making it incapable of eating?
Continue reading to get more information about why chickens might stop eating. It should be possible to use this knowledge to figure out what’s going on with your own chicken.
It’s Not Normal for Chickens to Stop Eating
The first thing to know is that it isn’t normal for chickens to stop eating. Typically, chickens will jump at the chance to eat when you go to feed them.
If one or more members of your flock aren’t eating, then something is certainly amiss. It’s good that you’re paying attention to what’s going on.
Figuring out the problem is going to take more observation. If you’re very concerned, then you might wish to call a veterinarian right away.
Hopefully, the information below will help you to get a better idea of what’s happening. Try to match up the details with what’s going on with your chickens so that you can start solving this issue.
1 – Bullying
Bullying is probably the most common reason why a chicken will stop eating. Sometimes the stronger chickens will bully the weaker chickens and keep them from being able to eat.
You likely already know that your flock of chickens has a “pecking order.” There will be some chickens that are larger and more aggressive than others.
These larger chickens will generally boss the other chickens around. Generally, this is just a social tool that helps to keep the flock in order, but things can go awry.
People have observed chickens being cruel to each other. Sometimes the entire flock will bully one or two chickens and treat them poorly.
This behavior is something that you can try to stop. Usually, people will try separating the bullied chickens from the flock and reintroducing them at a later time.
Sometimes this will solve the problem and things will be more normal moving forward. This doesn’t always work, though.
If you can identify the chicken that is doing the bullying, then you could try separating that chicken from the flock. This might bring the bully chicken down a peg or two so that it will start being nicer once it’s reintroduced to the flock.
Sadly, some chickens will stop eating entirely when they get bullied too much. It’s been suggested that this could be similar to depression in humans when they’re being mistreated.
You could just try raising that chicken separately or putting it with a different flock. It’s disappointing when issues like this occur, but it isn’t necessarily easy to prevent chickens from behaving this way.
2 – The Chicken Could Have an Impacted Crop
There could be a medical issue that is keeping your chicken from being able to eat normally. Chickens have what is known as a crop.
A crop is a ledge-like place near the esophagus where chickens store food. When the crop is empty, chickens will start foraging to find more food to eat.
Sometimes a crop can become impacted, and this will prevent a chicken from being able to eat. This can happen in multiple ways, but it could be due to some sort of injury.
It’s also possible that a chicken can encounter crop issues when it’s suffering from diseases. When the crop can’t store food any longer, a chicken will attempt to vomit up the food that it has eaten.
Having an impacted crop is incredibly painful for chickens. This will make it so that a chicken won’t be able to try to eat due to the pain.
If you suspect that your chicken might have an impacted crop, then you should contact a veterinarian right away. They will be able to examine the chicken and can attempt to help.
Chickens that don’t get medical treatment will eventually die. The chicken will either starve to death or it will wind up suffocating due to suffocation.
The crop will start to swell as the issue gets worse. This can obstruct the esophagus so much that the chicken will suffocate.
When you call the veterinarian, they will be able to operate on the chicken. The impacted crop will be taken care of and the chicken will soon return to normal.
3 – Various Illnesses
Various illnesses could cause a chicken to stop eating. There are so many different diseases that impact chickens, and it’s easy to see why this could make a chicken stop eating food.
You might want to observe the chicken and see if it is showing any signs of being ill. If your chicken isn’t eating or drinking, then you know that something is seriously wrong.
Symptoms such as sluggishness could indicate some type of illness. It isn’t always simple to identify the specific illness that a chicken has, though.
If you think that the chicken might be sick, then the wisest thing to do is call a veterinarian. A veterinarian knows everything that they need to know to diagnose a chicken properly.
This will allow you to seek the proper treatment so that the chicken will be able to get better if possible. Hesitating to call in a veterinarian has the potential to kill the bird since there could be something seriously wrong with it.
4 – Tumors
Tumors should also be considered as a potential problem that will prevent chickens from eating normally. Sometimes chickens will develop tumors because they’re in the early stages of Marek’s disease.
You can vaccinate chickens against this disease, but this only eases the symptoms of the disease if chickens happen to contract it. Often, chickens will experience appetite issues when they have this disease.
The tumors could also be a sign that a chicken has cancer. Chickens can grow cancerous tumors just like humans.
Pain is what keeps the chicken from being able to eat or drink. A chicken might feel so bad that it will stop trying to eat entirely.
Marek’s disease will sometimes cause tumors to grow in the throat. This can make it virtually impossible for the chicken to eat normally.
If you notice tumors of any kind on your chickens, then it’s imperative to contact a veterinarian. You’re going to want to go over treatment options as soon as possible if you wish to save the chicken.
5 – The Chicken Is Physically Injured
Have you considered the possibility that the chicken has been physically injured? There have been cases where chickens have been injured enough that they will stop eating.
Chickens are constantly doing things that can cause them to get injured. You’ve probably observed your chickens fighting with each other on more than one occasion by now.
A chicken could have easily been injured in a fight or something like that. There are also times when chickens will fall awkwardly when trying to get down from the roost.
Many different situations could cause a chicken to get injured. A chicken could break something or it could be experiencing some other type of physical injury.
If you have reason to think that the chicken is hurt in some way, then you’ll want to call the veterinarian as soon as you can. The chicken needs to be examined by a professional so that you can determine what’s wrong.
Once the chicken has been diagnosed and treated, it should start to slowly return to normal behavior. When the chicken starts to feel better, it’ll more than likely want to eat again.
6 – The Chicken Could Be Egg Bound
Another thing that you should consider is whether or not the chicken in question is egg bound. This is, of course, only going to impact hens.
Hens can sometimes become egg bound when an egg gets caught between the uterus and the cloaca. A hen will try very hard to pass the egg, but sometimes it will be to no avail.
This is a very serious problem that could lead to the death of the hen. This is why you need to have a veterinarian you can call when such issues occur.
There are some signs that you should look out for that will indicate that a hen might be egg bound. Try to observe the hen and see if it is taking regular trips to the nesting box without actually laying any eggs.
Egg bound hens will also appear to be very droopy. They often walk with their bottoms very close to the ground.
A hen will also stop eating and drinking when it’s egg bound. If you examine the hen physically, then you might notice that it will have a very hard abdomen.
There is a home remedy that you can try that has the potential to help the hen pass the eggs. Try placing the hen in a warm bath to see if it makes a difference.
If this doesn’t work, then the veterinarian will need to be called in. They will be able to remove the egg via surgery so that the hen will be able to make a full recovery.
7 – Insect Issues
This next potential cause of chickens not eating is a bit odd. Sometimes insects will infest chicken coops, and this can lead to serious issues.
For example, a chicken could wind up being infested with mites or even lice. These are the most common chicken pests that you will have to worry about.
Infestations like this can be very painful for chickens. In fact, the pain can be so bad that an infested chicken might stop eating and drinking.
You can try to check to see if there are signs of a mite or lice infestation. The easiest way to spot something is to look at the skin of the bird by lifting the feathers.
Sometimes you might notice pests on the chicken’s legs as well. If you are able to spot mites or lice on the chickens, then you’ll want to try to take care of this issue as soon as you can.
Thankfully, treating this problem is not going to be that difficult. The best thing to do is to use a chemical treatment that will kill off the pests.
You might also get some medicinal treatments for the chickens from a veterinarian. Eventually, the chickens should make a full recovery so long as you don’t ignore what’s going on.
8 – Poison
Poison might seem like an odd reason to bring up, but chickens can get poisoned in quite a few ways. Your chickens could have been exposed to something toxic, and this could cause one or more of the chickens to stop eating.
It isn’t always easy to tell that a chicken has been poisoned by something, though. This might be frustrating, but you’ll just have to call for help if you notice that it isn’t eating or drinking.
A veterinarian can come to get to the bottom of the situation. If poison is suspected as the cause of what’s going on with the chicken, then that will need to be confirmed via a blood test.
The veterinarian will be able to test the chicken’s blood to see what type of poison you’re dealing with. Hopefully, they’ll be able to figure out what’s going on so that the chicken can be treated.
Sometimes a chicken will die due to eating something toxic or otherwise being exposed to something that’s poisonous. Depending on what’s going on, it might not be possible for the bird to survive.
You should just take that as another reason to call for help as soon as you can. When you don’t know what’s wrong with a chicken, it’s best to reach out for expert assistance.
9 – Stress
Stress has the potential to negatively impact chickens in various ways, too. You might not realize this, but stress has caused some chickens to stop eating in extreme situations.
For example, if the chickens don’t feel like they’re safe, then they might be too scared to eat. The chickens could have spotted predators, and this will wind up stressing them so much that they will stop eating.
Some chickens have stopped eating after seeing a member of the flock get taken by a predator. A chicken that survived a predator attack could stop eating due to the stress that it experienced.
Not all stress is related to predatory concerns. Sometimes chickens will just get stressed due to normal things such as egg laying.
Hens will often get stressed while laying eggs, and some might choose to stop eating. This doesn’t happen to all hens, but it isn’t unheard of.
Even raising chicks can cause many hens to experience great stress. Caring for chicks is something that can stress a chicken just as much as caring for a baby is tough for a human mother.
If you’re not feeding the chickens good food items, then they might get stressed about diet issues. Some chicken owners have noticed this when they give chicken food items that aren’t fresh and organic.
Chickens also need to feel like they have enough space to do what they need to do. If you are keeping your flock in an area that is too small for them, then they could be getting stressed about it.
Even something such as inclement weather could cause chickens to experience stress. If the weather has been bad in your area recently, then that could be to blame for a chicken’s lack of appetite.
There are so many different things that can cause chickens to stop eating. Figuring out which one of the above scenarios applies to your chicken might be tough.
You’re going to have to take the time to observe the chicken so that you can see what’s going on. Now that you know more about what to look out for, it’s going to be easier to know what to do.
Often, the best thing that you can do involves calling a veterinarian. If you’re ever concerned about the health and well-being of an animal, it makes sense to contact a professional who can help you out.
You should be able to diagnose what’s wrong with the chicken after a physical examination. In some cases, it might be necessary to do blood tests to get more information about what the chicken is experiencing.
Hopefully, you’ll be able to get your chicken back to normal. It can take time for a chicken to start feeling healthy again after being injured or getting sick.
Just do what you can to make the chickens safe and ensure that you’re feeding them well. Issues can pop up from time to time even when you’re doing everything right, but at least you’ll know that you’re being a proactive chicken owner.
Ben has a bachelor’s degree in construction engineering. When not constructing or remodeling X-Ray Rooms, Cardiovascular Labs, and Pharmacies, you can find him at home with wife and two daughters. Outside of family, He loves grilling and barbequing on his Big Green Egg and Blackstone Griddle, as well as working on projects around the house.
If you want more backyard tips including recipes, how-tos and more, make sure you subscribe to my youtube channel