LEAVING AN ANIMAL UNTREATED, SO AN OWNER CAN ‘SEE WHAT HAPPENS’ IS NOT APPROPRIATE IN MOST CASES
Leaving a sick or injured animal untreated so an owner can ‘see what happens’ is not appropriate in most cases, especially if it is based on lack of knowledge, the economics of getting it treatment, or an emotional inability to make a decision to euthanise.
When any abnormal behaviour or signs are detected in a bird, action needs to be taken immediately. First, you need to work out symptoms and try to diagnose the cause (get our sick chook checklist, see page 65), then it needs to be treated as soon as possible. If you aren’t sure, consult a more experienced poultry person or take it to a vet.
I often hear people say their vet doesn’t know anything about poultry. Vets do spend only a short part of their training specifically on birds, but in all cases they are the correct person to help you eliminate the basics, take samples to
submit to a laboratory, and to prescribe pain relief, antibiotics or other treatment.
If you are concerned about cost and the seriousness of the condition, then euthanasia needs to be a serious possibility. You need to know how to do it yourself in a humane way or to take it to someone who can. Leaving an animal to suffer is not an option. See next month’s issue for instructions on how to humanely euthanise a chicken.
15+ signs of pain in poultry
Poultry, like most birds, are able to hide their pain or discomfort well, as to look sick would be an invitation to a predator. This means, when it becomes obvious to you that a bird is unwell, then the disease or situation is likely to be well advanced.
A bird sitting with its beak open can be a sign it is in severe pain. With this symptom, you need to rule out heat stress from a high environmental temperature, eg chicks that are unable to move far enough away from a heat lamp or adults that have no shade on a hot day. Young poultry and turkeys commonly exhibit pain this way but in adult hens it’s more rare.
Sitting or standing with eyes closed and feathers fluffed out is another sign of a bird suffering pain.