Spa Treatment Update

Since 2008, I have been advising people with sick hens how to use my Spa Treatment. The first time that I used epsom salts was to treat a skin problem on my hen Eleanor. After research and observation, I came up with a protocol that addresses far more than irritated red skin (although it’s good for that, too.) Numerous people have written to tell me that it has saved their chickens. I’ve recently updated the FAQ, and I thought this would be a good time to write a bit more about it.

You can divide chicken ailments into three categories: injuries, respiratory diseases and other. Treating wounds is straightforward. Identifying respiratory disease is obvious (wheezing, mucus discharge.) It’s the other category that is problematic. Chickens are not long-lived animals, so you will have hens become sick and die within a few years of starting your hobby. Most people come into backyard chicken keeping not from a practical, farming background, but from the perspective of a suburban pet owner, who, at the first sign of illness, hands the problem over to her vet who makes a clear diagnosis and provides a treatment plan. Going to the veterinarian is rarely an option for the backyard chicken keeper. I’ve written why here.  Instead, you have to be able to observe your birds and make decisions on your own. The honest truth is that most of the time hens show signs of illness only when they are suffering from something fatal – cancer, peritonitis, internal laying, ascites, etc. In those cases, euthanasia is a kindness.

But, once in awhile, the hen has a problem that can be alleviated, and almost always, the cure is my Spa Treatment. Simply put, it is a warm epsom salt soak and a dose of olive oil. Read why and how it works on the Spa Treatment FAQ. Here’s the thing – you’ll know if it’s been effective. A hen that previously stood hunched over will walk normally. A dark comb will turn red again. A listless hen will get her appetite back. You’ll also know when it doesn’t work. The hen will not improve. It won’t help to keep bathing her. It won’t help to force fluids and food into her. You have to know when to let go.

It’s good to have the Spa Treatment option because either a) your hen will revive, or b) you’ll know that she is too sick to save. In either case, knowing exactly what ailment has plagued your chicken is impossible. After doing twenty necropsies on older and ill birds, it’s still guesswork for me until I look inside. Don’t believe anyone who gives you a diagnosis after just hearing a description of behavior and external symptoms. But – that doesn’t matter. What does is that you’ve done what you could, and that you have a way to decide the kindest option for your hen.

spa treatment

If you’ve had success with my Spa Treatment, please leave a comment!

Note – This treatment originated on my blog. I’ve since seen versions on other sites. Some of the info is good, but some has been altered in translation. Do share this advice, but please send people directly to my FAQ. Thanks.


  1. I have used the spa treatment 4 times, in the last 3 years, two of those times on the same hen. That hen, as well as one other, are still fine, one, who was the worst candidate, died. I have passed on your knowledge to other “chickeneers”, who have also had success in saving their hens, with the spa treatment.
    Thank you so much! The hens would thank you if they could, because the spa makes them feel soooo good!

    • Can I use this epsom salt bath on a chick – very young – 3 weeks old? Or am I risking them getting too cold afterwards even if I dry them? I have lost one but there is one more who is listless and very sleepy al to of the day but otherwise is fine. I thought maybe this would work. I will put it in her water though if you think they are too young for the bath. If so, what age is considered safe for the bath version?

      • I’ve never used it for a chick that young. There are so many reasons that chicks look listless – many are management issues (feed, temperature) some are genetic (there are some that do poorly and eventually die) and a very few are ailments. Look at other signs – growing normally? manure normal? normal breathing? If you’ve already lost one (out of how many I don’t know) then you might have a larger problem to address. I’m always happy to answer private emails to try to help (all I ask for is a “cup of coffee” in return.)

        • Thank you. We only have 6, well 5 now. We are beginners to the chicken world and they all seem to be doing well, have heat lamps and the others are growing great, but this one that is listless isn’t growing like the others although we thought maybe she is just small, no big deal there. But she sleeps a lot and falls right asleep in your hand. Manure is normal, not sure how I can tell about the breathing but she seems fine. That other one that died had eaten a small rubbery thing and was small to so I think she had a blockage. My daughter was devastated. We will get her another one. Anyway, I am going to give the epsom salt in a syringe to the little one, see if it helps her, thanks.

          • Word of caution – adding a new chick to an established group can lead to severe pecking issues. I’ve got a FAQ about that.

  2. I have used your “spa treatment ” twice the first time it worked the second my hen was to old, and too sick. I have noticed with chickens like sheep by the time the show outward signs of sickness it is to far along to do much for them as we say a sick sheep seldom survives and I now see this to be the same for the chickens. I do what I can then will not let them suffer and have learned to call it, even though that is a hard decision to make. It is what is best for the animal.

  3. I have used this treatment a few times with my RIR who lays soft shelled eggs. This past summer an egg broke before she laid it. She was walking around clearly in discomfort. After a soak in warm water and epsom salts, I was able to remove the remaining shell and the yolk and whites slid out. I believe that these baths have saved her life! Thanks so much!

  4. YES! Well said Terry! It either works or it does not. I have saved hens with this treatment, but I have also lost more than I have saved just due to the facts you stated above. This has not been a good bird year for me. I have lost a lot of birds just due to old age and diseases.

    • When you get all of your flock at one time, you’ll lose them close together, too. Though there will usually be a few stalwart long-lived birds, too.

  5. I have had several occasions to employ the spa treatment…there was always some improvement, some more sustained than others. Much of the time, there seemed to be improved circulation, (better colour), more motivation for food and a couple of times, lashes laid. I have also at times given dissolved epsom salts orally if I did not have the time immediately for a bath. One of my hens in particular, has had so far an extra year of seemingly very healthful living as a result…..Thanks Terry….your advice has always been sound…the spa can do wonders….and at times,there is clearly something quite serious going on where the spa will not be enough,…kindness indeed…..seems to be our ultimate responsibility to our little friends.

  6. I have used the spa treatment for Gracie this past summer when she suffered from prolapsed vent. Every day for a week I let Gracie soak in a warm Epson Salt bath for 30 minutes then applied Neosporin without pain reliever in it and it worked! I did not try to push the prolapse back in. I let nature take its course and after soaking every day in her “spa” she healed herself. Gracie is a 2 1/2 year old Silver Grey Dorking and is happy and healthy today. I owe it to the “spa treatments”.

    • I haven’t had the opportunity to use it on a prolapsed vent (thank goodness!) Very interested to hear your experience and success. Good job!

  7. I’m just wondering, what types of ailments does the spa treatment alleviate? Or is it just a general pick-me-up that detoxifies and reguvinates?

  8. Yes have used your spa treatment several times. I swear by it! Matter of fact I soak myself in Epsom once a bath in my bath lol

  9. I’ve used the spa treatment several times with good results on the whole. I had 2 little white Leghorns in the trug together last week….. wish I’d had the camera. Sadly one died and the other has recovered but has started her big 2nd year moult poor thing. Thank you for the wonderful advice.

  10. I can’t legally have hens yet, but love learning in case one day we are allowed or I can pass on what I learned. The Spa Treatment seems to be used for ill hens. Could it not be used more regularly as a Preventative Measure instead? Monthly Spa’s for all hens?

    • The hens do fine without the monthly treatment, and trust me – you don’t want to bathe and blow dry a flock of hens on a regular basis :)

  11. My bantam roo had been…ahem….pooped on by the looks of it more then one messy hen and as I wanted to wait until the weather warmed up the offending mess had hardened up on his once beautiful white feathers. He seemed to lose some of his `cocky` look at me attitude as the weeks went by. He had never been fond of any kind of handling and was shy of human contact so I was expecting a bath would be less then pleasurable for him. Well I could not have been more mistaken! He LOVED his spa bath! It was seriously hard to let myself end the bath and dry him. He even enjoyed that and just let me do anything. it really was like my old nursing days when giving an appreciative patient a lovely soak. Lucky is back to strutting his stuff and hopefully will stay away from the target areas under the roosts.

  12. I should have added that while I know this treatment was not for a medicinal purpose in my roo`s case, it certainly made us both feel better. :)

  13. I’ve used the spa treatment on two of my hens and had great results! The first gal showed signs of a respiratory problem during her first couple days at my home when she was still under quarantine. I gave her some antibiotics and she started having green poo and wouldn’t eat. I gave her the spa treatment and she perked right up. That was over a year ago and she is still doing great! The second experience was with my one year old hen. She stopped laying, her comb became dull and pink instead of bright red. She started standing like a penguin too. I gave her the spa treatment and she is good as new! Laying, eating, bright red comb and all.

  14. Hi Terry,

    Your Spa Treatment has helped several of my hens, and I’ve lost track of the number of times I’ve sent someone a link to the Spa Treatment, knowing that it can help. Thank you for all of your advice and information. :-)

    • Ditto – your “spa treatment” has helped three of my hens, and I’ve provided the link from your website to a number of other chicken keepers who were looking for advice on what to do about chickens that seemed off or looked ill. Thanks, Terry!
      One of my hens wasn’t terribly interested in sitting in the tub for very long and didn’t easily settle down into the tub without some gentle encouragement, but the other two were fine and weren’t in any rush to get out.

  15. Yes! I have used the spa treatment many times on many of my hens and my first go to if something is wrong. Lifesaver! Thanks Terry for all of your advice, I so much appreciate your experience and help!

  16. Used the Spa treatment three times so far, once for a prolapse and two for sour crop. I bathed Marge after she strained too much to lay, blow dried her, slathered honey on the vent part (to shrink the skin back inside her body) and voila! Done. She then had sour crop a year later and so did Bubbles. Both survived and died of old age. Thanks for the awesome advice as always Terry.

    • So interesting about the sour crop. That’s not something I’ve dealt with here. Good to know it responds to the epsom salt.

  17. I find the spa treatment to be beneficial to my hens. When I see one sick, I always begin with a warm Epsom salt bath and then drying. Then I put them in a warm dark place with good food and water. Sometimes, that is all it takes for the hen to bounce back. Other times, I had to do more, but it always relaxes and rests the hen.