Antibiotic After Effects

My flock has survived their bout with the respiratory infection. However, a side-effect of antibiotics is that the treated hens lays thin-shelled eggs. I knew that some of the girls were laying such eggs when broody Betsy broke the eggs she was sitting on, ate what she could, and got coated with the rest. I’ve also noticed sticky wet spots in the shavings – likely thin eggs that the other hens noticed and ate.

Thin-shelled eggs are a messy, wasteful problem, but they’re also a health risk. They’re more likely to break inside of the hen. A couple of days ago Maizie, uncharacteristically, sat all day on the dirt floor of the pen. I picked her up and felt her abdomen. It was filled with fluid, which could indicate many things, none good. My heart sank. I put her in the isolation coop to check on her manure production. After a day it was clear that her appetite was gone and that she had greenish/white diarrhea. My best guess is that an egg has broken inside of her and that she has peritonitis. I don’t think that she can handle another dose of strong antibiotics. I think it’s just a matter of time until she is gone.

Today I found a thin, empty, bloodied shell on the floor of the outdoor run. Agnes had just finished eating the yolk from inside of it. It was a medium-sized white egg, so I knew it was laid by one of the Polish hens. I picked them up and looked at their vents. Siouxsie’s was bloody. At least her eggs are coming out whole.

The two hens laying the soft eggs are the ones treated with doxycycline. The hens that were treated with just Tylan are fine; I collected three sturdy eggs from them today. I don’t know if I’d use doxycycline again. It saved Maizie and Siouxsie, but also might, in the end, kill them. It’s never easy, is it?

To end on a more optimistic note, the new chicks are looking like chickens, not Easter toys. They’re learning to roost. Here are three on the the outside roost, quite pleased with themselves.


  1. So sorry to hear the news. You have had such a rough time lately :( I appreciate you so much sharing the highs and lows with us. Just know that you are not alone. I am thinking of you and your girls often throughout the day.

  2. Oh poor you, more problems! They seem to have a rota system don’t they, taking turns to worry you. Now that Gladys has her babies and that drama is over, Bibby is presenting a frothy eye, so it’s Tylan to the rescue tomorrow.
    I’ve never been given doxycycline for mine, it must be pretty ferocious stuff. You don’t think some Baytril will help Maizie? it is generally for innards rather than upper respiratory tract problems so may not be too much of a blow for her after her last medication. There is an injectable Baytril here too which I hear great things about.

    • Wendy, Baytril has been made illegal for chickens in this country because the factory farmers overused it (feeding it constantly) and created superbugs. Vets still have access to it for parrots and other animals. But, I’m now wary of using it.

      • Baytril isn’t licensed for poultry here either, but it seems to be OK if the vet advises you of it at the time. In fact hardly anything is licensed for poultry! I think they give me stuff just to shut me up and get me out of the office sometimes…

  3. With all the reading that I did a few months ago when trying to diagnose my sick hen who had some symptoms of peritonitis, I found that Fishmox was suggested and commonly used in the chicken world. I read that Fishmox, which is simply 250mg or 500mg Amoxicillin in capsule form, is sold at true aquatic pet/fish stores (Not places like Pet Depot, Pet Dept., etc.) They are sold behind the counter by the capsule from a large bottle at $1.00 a pc. I was told at the time that these cap’s were becoming harder and harder to get, even by the fish stores due to people purchasing them for human use. I went home and went on-line and bought a large bottle from the manufacturer. Much cheaper then $1. a pill, also. I did put my hen on Amox 250mg twice daily and she did improve for a while. Sprinkled it on cut green grapes or green peas- In the end I don’t believe she had peritonitis- I think it was her liver, but I’m glad I was able to get a giant bottle of “Fishmox” just in case :)

    • There are many drugs out there and even vets give doses of pills not officially for chickens. Maizie’s symptoms could indicate a number of different diseases, not necessarily an infection (though that’s my best guess.) Anytime you introduce an antibiotic into the area, all animals are affected. I just read a study that in a home, when a child takes antibiotics, that everyone else in the household is affected.

  4. Wow this is tough…. It is such a slam when you try so hard to be there for your pets, and then to feel so helpless. I hope Maizie can beat this. I will say a little chicken prayer for her.
    Hang in there Terry. I’m trying to get my birds through this cold, wet, then scorching, now cold wet again weather too.

    • The weather has been a contributing factor! Sunlight and dryness kills germs and sterilizes manure. It allows the animals to dust bathe. It’s sunny today, but it’s not going to last. More rain predicted.

  5. I am so sorry to hear about your dilemma. I do not raise chickens but cockatiels. After my birds go through a bout with antibiotics I give tem avian specific pro-biotics and do not give them spinach, brocolli, etc… because these deplete calcium absorption. I don’t know if chickens and cockatiels have similar digestive systems but just thought I’d mention it. I do hope to have chickens next spring so I would really like to hear your thoughts on this.

    Love your site!


  6. We are learning so much from you…. Keep journaling these important situations. Brie and I are with you in spirit, and sending good karma your way. Much love to you and your girls. :)

  7. I am assuming you already know the answer to this- but is there anything you can do to help the egg shells thicken again? Do the antibiotics just have to run their course? I am hoping Maizie & Siouxsie pull through this and go on to live long, healthy & productive (egg-wise) lives!! Yay for the chicks too! We call ours teenagers right now, they look like chickens, but still act like kids. haha! ;0)

    • I think that with time and good feed the egg shells will once again thicken. However, these are older birds and they’re already calcium-depleted and will never lay eggs like they did in their first years. I think that Siouxsie has a good chance to return to normal, but I’m pessimistic about Maizie.

  8. Sorry to read this… it’s a tough one isn’t it?! When you think you’ve done the right thing then the knock-on effect is as bad. We tend to forget that a medicine doesn’t just target one symptom or bug, it affects the whole body (and that goes for us when we take medication too).

    I’m sure you know a whole lot of ways to nurse your hens back to a better balance – I know you’ll do the right thing for Maisie and Siouxsie.

    Your youngsters are looking great BTW :-) Isn’t it good to see them exploring new things!


  9. So sorry to hear about this. It seems no matter what you do it ends up going badly. Still hoping with fingers crossed that Mazie is still ornery enough not to die yet. It seems a shame you can’t get hysterectomies done for chickens like you can for the more expensive type parrots. That would get rid of a lot of health problems it seems for older hens.

  10. Oh, Terry, I’m so sorry! It’s never easy to lose a hen, but especially one you just thought you’d saved. I love that you ended on a positive note though, those young chicks on the roost outside are quite adorable. Chicken antics cure any ill.

  11. I’m so sorry about your girls. Even though the young ones are so enjoyable, it’s still hard to see the adults struggle. Wishing both of them another recovery.

    And the young ones? Mine are starting to cluck and they’re just delightful. Yesterday it hit 97 degrees here so I had to keep a close eye on everyone….lots of panting. Even my broody hen decided it was too hot to sit in the nest box all day. Summer has arrived.

  12. Dog gone it. It does seem like at times if it’s not one thing it’s another.

    I’ve got my fingers crossed they make it.

    The chicks at fun at their current age, everthing is an adventure for them. I like it when they launch themselve from perches and they think they are big stuff flying a few feet.

    How is that Delaware looking? More like a hen or a rooster?

    • The Delaware – who I’ve named Opal – shows no signs of roo behavior. She’s skittish and shows no signs of boldness. She does have a rather large wattle. The jury is till out.

  13. Sorry to hear about the new troubles. Hope Souxsie and Maizie make it. I’ve had hens pull through with like symptoms. I tried anything and everything to keep them interested in eating..even force-feeding them! But my vet had said once they make up their mind to shut down nothing can save them.

  14. I’m so sorry to hear of Mazie’s and Siouxsie’s setback. What a tough emotional roller coaster for everyone. I am hoping for the best. Take care.

  15. so sorry to hear about mazie & siouxie. *sigh* it’s hilarious listening to roosters figure out how to crow. is it as amusing watching chicks learn how to roost?

  16. So sorry to hear this latest news. I’m going to keep positive thoughts for both of your sick girls, and for you as well as you deal with this again.

    The picture of the roosting chicks looks like they’re teetering a bit. Pretty cute! Also, I was just thinking last night, as I watched Opal moving about… kinda big comb… maybe a roo… what then?

  17. I went back through your post because I lost one of my Buffs last night. She was only 2 but had some health issues when she was about 6 months old and I think her system was always a little weakened. I’ve had her on antibiotics a couple of times, one recently. She rebounded but then our past 2 days were in the upper 90’s and she went downhill fast. I knew she was probably not going to make it, so I took care of her, held her, cooled her down, and put her in an open crate in the coop last night to be with her friends. Poor sweet hen. I only have one original Buff left, so I’m glad I have 2 new ones in my batch of chicklets who are now 3 months old. It’s so hard to lose a hen:-(

  18. Just wanted to send you a quick note to say that Doxy binds to Calcium, thereby preventing it’s absorption in the body. My hubby is a vet…comes in handy!! Don’t know if they’re still on the antibiotics, but if you can somehow give them Calcium and then wait two hours before you introduce the doxy each day, they might be able to absorb more? Don’t know if this helps at all, sorry for all the worries you’ve been dealing with!

    • Thank you for telling me this! I thought the side-effect was more dramatic than what I’ve seen with other antibiotics. The girls are off both the Doxy and the Tylan. I gave them yogurt today and they have free-choice oyster shell grit. One hen (I don’t know which) laid a soft-shelled egg, but Siouxie’s egg was back to normal.

  19. Hi Terry, Sick birds are the worse and so hard to diagnose. All my girls are finally off the Tylan for weird symptoms I could not put my finger on except some sneezing and just acting “punky”…They are laying like crazy and it kills me to boil up all the eggs and feed them back….1 more week and we should be in the clear. Saying prayers to St Francis for your brood….