Emergencies/Illness Health Issues

Treating Chickens For Shock

Online chicken groups are filled with requests from owners looking for help with health issues. I often see folks post videos to demonstrate what’s going on for their birds, usually accompanied by some encouraging the bird to walk in order to replicate its symptoms. Or keeping them with the flock hoping they’ll just get better on their own. If I was hit by a car or attacked by a bear the last thing I’d want is for a first responder to push and prod me and I’d definitely require some TLC.

We often think of shock as an emotional or psychological state – that is, we have experienced or witnessed something that caused extreme surprise, distress or fear. We may suffer repercussions later, but usually they are not life threatening.

On the other hand, physiological forms of shock – those that affect the body – can be critical when there is a sudden drop in blood flow. The heart is a muscle whose job is not only to circulate blood, but also oxygen, around the body. When a chicken is in shock, their organs aren’t getting enough blood or oxygen.

If you’re advised to treat a bird for shock it doesn’t mean just addressing their psychological needs, but requires dealing with their physical signs. If your bird has experienced a trauma the first hours afterwards are critical in dealing with shock. If not, it can lead to unnecessary death.


  • Predator Attack
  • Injury or trauma
  • Heat stroke
  • Blood loss
  • Severe infection
  • Poisoning
  • Burns and smoke inhalation


  • Pale wattles and comb
  • Low blood pressure
  • Open mouthed breathing; panting
  • Cold, clammy skin
  • Rapid, weak pulse
  • Limp or weak
  • Disoriented


  • Always have a well stocked first aid kit
  • Immediately separate your bird from the flock to avoid further injury
  • Keep the patient warm and quiet
  • Confine in a sick bay to prevent them from moving. The goal is to restore blood and oxygen flow to the brain and internal organs. This also allows you to monitor their intake (water and food) and output (poop)
  • Deal with blood loss, injury, wounds and fractures
  • Offer pain medications, if applicable
  • Put electrolytes in their water. Do not force them to drink. Read this post on how to safely give oral medications/water.
  • Do not feed until they are alert

Some birds may recuperate in a few hours; others may take a couple of days. Shock is the result of another condition and often accompanied by other issues such as wounds or burns. You’ll have to treat those and monitor for infection that may complicate your bird’s recovery.

Featured Photo Credit: Sandy Weightman

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