Stress and Organic Chickens Part Two - Emergency Treatment, Follow-ups & Keeping Calm.

Stress is a potential killer, so it's important to treat it quickly, in particular if concurrent with any kind of injury. Your bird's system needs to be functioning at optimum to deal with both the physical trauma of the wound and the potential for any kind of infection. The great thing about this emergency treatment is that it is concocted from simple foodstuffs you probably already have to hand in your kitchen cupboards. It is also an excellent treatment for extreme fatigue, such as in the case of finding an exhausted racing pigeon, which I have done on a couple of occasions.

Easy home-made electrolyte solutions

The simplest of all remedies and much akin to the old treatment for shock you'd find in 1930's detective novels is the ubiquitous warm sugary drink. Just take a fraction of a teaspoon of raw organic cane sugar, a tiny amount of salt and dissolve it in a egg cup of warm water. The technical term for this is an electrolyte solution and your objective is to rebalance the bird's system and thus get the bird's body back up and functioning as quickly as possible. As suggested by the name, an electrolyte carries the electrical impulses which the body uses to 'communicate' within itself, in essence to tell itself what to do. Thus a sudden shock, stress attack, overheating, hypothermia, sudden or prolonged physical exertion can cause electrolytes to be rapidly depleted. The effect of this imbalance on the functioning of the muscles, heart and nervous system, no doubt explains the nature of those symptoms I have observed in birds under stress. These latter I outlined in my previous blog.

This remedy I have used not only on my own birds but on other rare occasions such as when rescuing an exhausted homing pigeon. In fact if you look on racing pigeon web sites you will see a similar emergency treatment (using a greater proportion of sugar) advised for those who find displaced birds. 'Hubert' as we called him, was on his first race and had been thrown off course by a storm. I also used the treatment on a stressed out sparrowhawk, who became entangled in our hedge after having been surprised by me whilst she was attacking a fantail.

WARNING You can only use this method however, if the bird is breathing normally. If your bird is gasping for breath, trying to get it to drink can be highly dangerous, as it can choke or 'drown' by breathing water into its lungs. My solution for this is to get a small piece of fruit such as orange or banana and dip it lightly in the sugar and salt mix. The fruit is then introduced just into the point of the beak with the bird's head in its normal position. The electrolyte is thus absorbed even if the bird is not able to swallow the fruit. If the bird is hardly responding at all and/or you have a problem opening its beak, then with your fingers coated with sugar take the tip of the beak and gently try to introduce some sugar into it.

Another great kitchen cupboard electrolyte is organic unpasteurised apple cider vinegar, which also contains enzymes beneficial in giving the bird's system the 'kick start' needed post shock. You will only need a few drops added to an egg cup of warm water.

I have found, although I can not explain why, that stroking the back of a bird's head whilst lightly dipping its beak into the liquid will get it to drink. I obviously have very tame birds, who trust me and are easy to treat but we recently rescued a moorhen, who had been run over and was exhibiting signs of stress. I gave the same emergency treatment and got it to drink in the way described above. The moorhen's case is a good illustration of why treating for shock should be the first treatment given. As you can see from the photograph, it is holding its wing down and leaning against the orange box. These two factors were in effect due to stress and righted themselves over 24 hours. It actually had concussion and a wound in its side but no breaks. After a week of recuperating, we were able to return it to the wild.

What to do if the symptoms still persist or get worse?

Sneezy my Silver Sebright, as explained in my previous blog, had what I presumed to be a stroke after having witness close-at-hand a sparrowhawk attack on one of our fantails. I had immediately given her the electrolyte  but her condition continued to deteriorate. All I could think was, that I needed to get some nutrients into her to support her nervous system. The ones I chose were turmeric, Brazil nut and coconut oil. Turmeric for curcumin, traditionally used to prevent and treat neuron damage and the amount I took was just enough to cover the end of a teaspoon. Brazil nut for selenium, again to support the nervous system and coconut oil, which contains a multitude of nutrients and essential trace elements, to support and strengthen the immune system. The turmeric and Brazil nut were mixed into a teaspoon of melted coconut oil.

It was quite difficult to treat Sneezy. By now she was paralysed all down one side and she was losing control of her neck but on the positive side, I had the knowledge of her being very tame and trusting of me. When I finally succeeded in getting the teaspoon into a good position for her, she made a supreme effort and managed to suck the mixture up. I was worried about the amount of selenium, as it is toxic in large amounts and it is quite difficult to gauge in such a small bird (Sneezy is about the size of a thrush). However, I just finely grated the end of the nut, took just a couple of these gratings and hoped it would be enough.

Well it worked and I have used this mixture again for extreme cold stress and have been just as successful. I was amazed how quickly (less than 24 hours) Sneezy regained the use of her wing, leg and neck and made a full recovery.

Keeping calm - you and your bird

To complete and complement the treatment you will need to keep the bird warm and calm.  I have always found that birds are very receptive to the reaction of others. So even if you feel like panicking, don't. I talk to my birds all the time I am treating them, explaining what I am doing and they certainly respond to the tone of my voice.; Poulie and Chicklette, the first hens I ever had, taught me so much about how my own stress levels impacted upon theirs. They say the Ardenner breed takes on the personality and comportment of the breeder, so I cannot thank them enough for holding up that mirror!

Even the moorhen was calm and receptive, whilst it was recovering. The day it pecked me whilst I was feeding it, was the day I knew it was ready to be released! It is interesting that I find the same pattern occurs with wild birds in stress or injury. They will trust me until they get better, which is as it should be.

I have made two films, one on the subject of Squeaky's cold stress and the other in which Sneezy demonstrates how I administer the emergency treatment. They were made on my old camera so are not in the HD of my more recent films. However the main thing is, I hope, that they will help by sharing what I did.

The next article on stress can be found by following this: LINK

If you have enjoyed this post and found it useful, then think about sharing it using the icons below. Please feel free to comment, ask questions or relate your own experiences of dealing with stress in your flock.
Thanks for dropping by and hope to see you next time, 
© 2013 Sue Cross


  1. Sneezy is adorable. Thank you for these articles. So helpful and timely. We are weathering quite a storm here and one of my birds is showing extreme stress. She was still recovering from a close all with a hawk.

    1. Hi Aria,

      Thanks for your comments and I'm so happy to be of help. One thing I've found out recently about stress and I'm dealing with it in the next but one article, (stress and nutrient depletion), is that the first vitamin to be lost is vitamin C. This is particularly important in both young and old birds. It's something you could try, because my two cold stress cockerels actually put me on to researching it when I noticed how madly they went for the oranges I'd put out for them! Certainly getting the nutritional imbalances sorted and keeping a bird's body temperature stable are key factors, not so easy at this time of year. Hawk attack on top as well, poor bird, give her a big hug from me.

      All the best from Normandie, Sue

  2. Thanks for posting the link on the facebook group! Enjoyed reading and watching!


    1. Thanks Sue,

      You're very welcome. I appreciate the feedback. All the very best from France, Sue

  3. I find your blog fascinating! Have you ever thought about offering people holidays on your farm? I would be interested in visiting you. 🥰

  4. Stress is a major cause of concern and also a danger to the poultry’s health. It may sound ridiculous to think about a flock of stressed ducks and chicken but it is a reality and the consequences of this can be severe. The extreme cause of poultry stress may end up in serious health issues sometimes even leading to death. But good news is List of Poultry Medicine Companies in India will helps to Save Your Poultry from Stress. Reach out to the best vet companies in India if you wish to purchase high-quality supplements and feed additives for your poultry.

  5. Thank you for this! I'm a veterinary nurse, but quail are new to me and the silky she was in with decided to hurt her. I got 2 quail when I had one silky hatch and no other, so needed to find something its size and was told by the quail breeder they'd be fine, as she had done this before. The rooster has been raised with the two quail hens, he's just a teen, but he's an ass! Excuse my language. Praying what I've been doing works. I am happy to see about electrolytes, because i made some last night and have been giving it. Still very worried, but will continue to do what you did. Thank you for your blog. It is wonderful.