My Hen is Limping. How to Fix it a Lame Chicken.

A couple of weeks ago I came outside to see the most pathetic sight (other than any of the Kardashian shows) these two eyes have ever seen.

There, dragging herself through the chicken run, was Norma.  The gimpy chicken.  While all the other chickens ran at break beak speed to come and see me, Norma hobble-limped halfway towards me, gave up and then laid down.  At which point all of the other chickens sensed a weak member in their flock and attacked her.  Just like that they turned on one of their own.  Again, not unlike the Kardashians.

I immediately went into medic mode, strapped a flashing red light to my head, screamed out some surprisingly loud siren sounds and made my way to Norma.

The first thing to do in assessing a chicken injury is to LOOK.

So I gently picked Norma up and gave her a thorough once over.  I looked for broken bones sticking out, wounds and thorns.  She looked fine.  But it’s hard to see through all of those feathers.  The next thing I did was flip her over and take a look at the bottom of her feet.  I was checking for Bumblefoot (a potentially deadly infection on the underside of a chicken’s foot).  No Bumblefoot.

The second thing to do is feel for warmth.

Like with other animals an easy way to check for pain or infection is the gently feel around the body parts.  An injured area will often feel warmer than the rest of the body.  No such luck with Norma.

The third thing to do is start guessing and eliminating.

The one thing it could possibly be was a case of Norma being egg bound.  I wasn’t convinced this was the case because it really looked like a sore foot or leg, but I wanted to be able to rule out the possibility of her being egg bound (also life threatening).

So I did what you’re supposed to do to make her feel better.  I put her in a bath and got ready to stick my finger up her bum.  No idea if this applies to the Kardashians as well.  I suspect it does.

Norma was incredibly cooperative.


Sick Chicken 1



I sat her in the kitchen sink filled with warm water and went about my business in the kitchen.  She didn’t seem to have any desire to move.  She just sat there quietly, waiting for me to get her out.

Sick Chicken 2


The kitchen was a bit cool and Norma was wet, so I wrapped her in a towel which made her warm, dried her off a bit and had the added bonus of making her look like a superhero.


Sick Chicken 3 B


Aftercare involves keeping the patient quiet and allowing them to rest.


Sick Chicken 4


Once the patient is able to eat and poop, they can be discharged.


Sick Chicken 5


I took her outside and gently put my finger in her bum. I was carefully checking to feel if there was an egg stuck in there.  I didn’t take pictures of that.  I tried.  But it’s kindda awkward to hold a camera, a chicken and a suppository.  Just kidding about the suppository.  It was my actual finger that went up her bum.  This is why as a chicken owner you should a) be brave and b) own an entire box of surgical gloves.

If you’re desperate to see a chicken bum, which is also called the vent, you can see one here.

Norma was relaxed, there didn’t seem to be an egg stuck in her and I was back to square one.  There were two possibilities.  She could have had a stroke.  Or … she could have just jumped off the roost a bit wonky and twisted something.

If a chicken has an injury that’s causing them pain the easiest and most effective thing you can give them is 1/2 a baby aspirin.

So that’s what Norma got.  One half of a baby aspirin.  If the limp went away that would let me know it was just a twisted ankle or pulled muscle.  If it didn’t help it could mean it was a stroke.

This is all random guessing of course, but that’s what you do in these sorts of situations.  Hell.  It’s what your doctor who went to a real medical school and everything does.

I held out the aspirin in the palm of my hand and she gobbled it up right away.  I kept her away from the other chickens so she wouldn’t be tormented and came back an hour later to check on her.

This is how she looked.



No limp. Or very little limp. So I knew that the injury was probably a muscle or inflammation issue, not a stroke. It isn’t always great to mask the pain on an animal because as far as they’re concerned as soon as the pain goes away, it’s hokey pokey time. A free for all of running, jumping and playing hopscotch. They don’t know the pill is masking the pain and they still have an injury they need to be gentle with. The simple truth is they just aren’t smart enough (insert your own Kardashian joke here).

So with animals you have to use a bit common sense. If I left Norma with her limp she’d be more careful with her injury … but only for the next 16 hours or so, until the other chickens devoured her alive.

Chickens can spot weakness faster than a schoolyard bully looking for lunch money. And they can take down your average 9 year old quicker.

So that’s why I opted to give Norma half an aspirin until her leg healed. The injury lasted for about 5 days so I prescribed 1/2 a baby aspirin every morning.

And now you’re going to think I’m weird. A loon. A bit of a softie. Since I helped Norma I’ve noticed she’s become much friendlier with me. She’s no Cuddles, but she lets me pick her up and look her over without a single squawk. Once she even asked me how my day was.

I told her it was O.K. I mean, I couldn’t keep up with the Kardashians. But who can?


  1. SuzyM says:

    Oooh, I want chickens so badly I can taste it, well, not taste it, but badly nevertheless. The old coop is out there, the one that housed the guinea fowl, but the hawks circling overhead continue to concern me. Maybe next year.

    On to Norma. Great story. Seeing her in the sink, she took to that like a duck to water….hmmm.

    I don’t mean for you to get all graphic and my guinea fowl never turned on one another, but what really happens with the flock when one of their own is sick or injured? They seem like such docile animals. Do they really get violent?

    • Karen says:

      SuzyM – They really do get violent and aggressive. They start by picking on the weak chicken and chasing her, which usually escalates to pecking at her. Chickens really will pick another chicken to death. ~ karen!

      • Pati says:

        That’s true…I had a Road Island Red pet chicken and once the other chickens could tell she was docile, they almost pecked her too death ! So my mom built her a pen off by herself till she could recover and from then on, we kept her separate from the others. She was my first pet. <3

  2. Sarah In Illinois says:

    You are such a caring chicken mother! And I am sure she know you were helping her!

    On a side note, underneath this post where it says “You might also like”, one of the suggestions was ‘How To Make Delicious Breaded Chicken Burgers’ I’m glad Norma was spared! ;)

  3. Leanne says:

    You realize what this means, right? Once gimpy tells her buddies the next time any of those chickens are wanting a little love…. YOU’RE gonna be their booty call. Good luck with that.

    PS (You ALWAYS go above and beyond, up and in now don’t you? ;) )

  4. Jodi T. says:

    Poor Norma!!! (I love that name btw – it was my Grandmother’s name, and she took awhile to warm up to people too). :)

    Glad she’s feeling better.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Jodi T. – Norma is named after my father who died several years ago of lung cancer. His name was Norm. And his nickname was Grump. :) ~ karen

  5. Gretchen says:

    I missed you. I missed your chickens. I missed your stories. I’m so glad you’re back. (didn’t write it yesterday when thousands were logging in, but today’s tale warmed my heart. And I had time to write as well.)

  6. Debbie says:

    OMG you made me truly laugh out loud reading this. Can’t wait to show it to my husband, who is a veterinarian AND who raised chickens when he was a youngster. Your Kardashian references are hysterical! Keep ’em coming Karen!!

  7. Linda says:

    Sweet Norma and sweet you! She loves you even more now.
    This happened to one of my ducks a short while ago and it turns out she was egg bound. It was a case of learning as I went and she got through it all unscathed, thank goodness. It’s pretty scary though.

    • Karen says:

      Linda – When I visit the farm again I’m going to steal a duck egg. I’d love to try one. ~ karen!

      • Ann says:


        Duck eggs taste pretty much like chicken eggs. But with a much much tougher shell to crack. Unless you want to make duck egg mayo(delish) or use them to bake cakes, they are pretty much not worth the extra effort. And ducks are not nearly as much fun as chickens.

  8. karol says:

    Perhaps Norma “faked” her injury. Anything for a little attention and 1/2 of a baby aspirin.

  9. Rondina says:

    I learned a lot about chickens from this one. Some things I can apply to my cat, but she has a way of communicating pain without me feeling her up.

    I’m thinking that Norma is a bit more cooperative because of all the special attention, but more so, because she had free run of the backyard all by herself. She felt special.

  10. Beth Sanders says:

    You are a hoot…oh, sorry…a cluck! We have a few goats and once had a couple of wethers that developed urinary track stones. Believe me, I understand the need for those surgical gloves and what we do for our animals! Great story today!

  11. Heather says:

    what a good chicken mama you are!

  12. J9 says:

    This made my heart grow 3 sizes too big. You’re the best chicken owner ever. Actually, you’re the only one I know but for the sake of being a loyal reader, I’ll stick with that.

  13. This was better than any episode of Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman.

    No lie.

  14. Kimberley says:

    Very informative. I need to pin this for any future chicken mishaps. I’m glad Norma is feeling better!

  15. Becca says:

    I was very disturbed to see today’s post. A lovely picture of Norma under the title reading “… How to Fix a Gimpy Chicken.” Beside Norma… A MEAT CLEAVER!!!

  16. mayr says:

    Such a good chicken mama.

  17. Maryanne says:

    You are brave! No,You are very brave!
    So cute to see a chicken in the sink, having a soak.

  18. Kim Jordan says:

    My week-day mornings are back to normal…cup of tea and reading theartofdoingstuff! I’m so glad you’re back! And I’m glad Norma is on the road to recovery.

  19. Jen says:

    And now, a sentence I’ve never written and will probably never write again: I’m glad your chicken is no longer limping!

  20. Ev says:

    You are a good chicken mama! Sweet Norma looks so pretty, and contented. Hope you sent the others to bed with no supper for being mean!

  21. Tigersmom says:

    I think Norma faked the whole thing because she sensed you needed a bonding experience.

  22. Maureen Locke says:

    Lucky Norma. I think it’s incredible that she just sat in the sink without trying to get out. Crazy.

    I did find it a bit disturbing however to see a link for “How to Make Delicious Breaded Chicken Burgers” at the end of your post. I know you’d never dine on your girls but it did give me a “WTF” moment. lol

  23. Shelly says:

    That’s EXACTLY how me (a trained RN) treats my kiddo when she’s limping about. Including the finger up the bum. I did that once when she was about 6 months old because my mum told me that’s what you do when you think a baby may be egg (oops, I mean poop) bound…and was immediately greeted by a torrid green explosion. Thank you very much. She grinned and all was well. Of course, 15 years later, she’s much more verbal about her various aches and pains and gobbles ibuprofen like tic tacs. But if I ask if she constipated she immediately backs away, calls a friend and is outa here.

  24. Jeff Walker says:

    This make my day. I’m so glad you’re back. We should wrap you in a warm towel and make you look like the super hero… you actually are.

  25. Ann says:

    Very recently, I was working with one of my rabbits. I was sitting with it on my lap, out by the rabbit hutch when I looked down and saw something very odd. One of my new boy chickens hanging upside down with his foot at a very odd angle off the back of the hutch. He must have climbed up and then caught his foot when he went to jump back down. Oh, I was distraught. But I had to get the bunny caged again before I reached for him. He was totally still anyway so I thought I might have already lost him. But I carefully lifted him up off where he was caught and he did squawk and twist around some so I knew he was alive.

    But that leg…oh that twisted, toe out at the wrong angle leg. I ran into the house to scream for DH to come help. Him being the chicken expert…not. He just asked why I would not just end his misery since we have 2 extra roosters in that small young flock and will need to cull 2 later. But I wanted to give him a chance. So DH thought to go get a drinking straw and some medical tape and we fashioned a splint for the toe. But it was obvious that he had either a dislocated, badly sprained or broken leg also. So I took a smallish cat carrier, put in chicken bedding and put him in there for the night. He resisted and fussed a bit, but then settled down and rested nicely. In the morning, he still would not walk so I kept him in a very small pen with food and water. But where he could see his other flock members and feel a part of it. We kept this up for 4 days and slowly he recovered. Now he is back to normal. For a chicken.

    This breed is a really cool one that has only been in the US and Canada since 2010. They are so friendly and I can carry all 3 girls around with me when I am outside and if I sit to have coffee in the garden I often have all 3 girls on my lap and the boys on the chair next to me. And they are the best bug catchers of all my breeds. But they are 3 months old now and soon I will have to decide which of the 3 boys I will keep. I am betting on Mr. Ortho Case right now. Get it….Ortho as in Orthopedic. I know. Karen, your position as funny girl on this blog is totally safe.

    • Karen says:

      LOL. Made me laugh! What breed is it? ~ karen

      • Ann says:


        The breed is Euskal Oiloa. Most people, as well as I, simply call them Basque chickens since that is the region of Spain they brought them from.

        I love these guys so much that I would love to bring in another blood line so I could breed and sell the chicks. Not to make money but to introduce them locally to as many people as possible. I also have Wyandottes, Welsummers, Easter Eggers, White Jersey Giants, Brown Leghorns, Blue Marans and none are anywhere near as sweet and calm as these guys.

        • Karen says:

          I’d like one and a Blue Marans please. Especially if they lay a really dark egg. Just hang my address around their necks and hopefully they’ll make their way here. ~ karen!

        • Ann says:

          LOL, my chickens barely find their way back into their coop at night. Let alone go cross country. And across the border into Canada.

          Yes, the Marans lay a very dark egg. With all the chickens I have now, I have white, cream, beige, blue, blueish green and the very dark brown. Would love an olive egger to get green eggs. That is a cross between a Black Copper Maran rooster and an Easter egger hen. Maybe in the future. I have so many chickens now that when I put them up at night, I don’t even count to make sure they are all there. Just hope for the best!

        • Alisha says:

          Phew Karen, your position as funny girl might be safe but the title of most knowledgeable might go down the tube after reading that! :p

  26. Suanne says:

    What an awesome Chicken Momma you are!!!!

  27. Molly says:

    Better living through chemistry, I’m all for stopping the pain (except for silly animals who will further hurt themselves). You probably got your Scout badge for Chicken 1st Aid ages ago, lucky Norma. And that recovery room? What a fabulous floor!

  28. Carol says:

    I’m so glad Norma is feeling better. You’re amazing!

  29. arlene says:

    Any chance Norma is a faker — just wanting a warm bath — some drugs and a finger up….. ? The coop CAN be a very boring place you know~~ at least that is what my girls tell me ;) Watch out for Cuddles and the “weak wing thing” next… oh.. and.. Welcome Back :)!!

  30. Lynn says:

    What a lovely heartwarming story. Norma is one fortunate chicken!

  31. Karen Duke says:

    My chickens will one day be happy that you tutored me on diagnosis and treatment. THANK YOU!

  32. mimiindublin says:

    2nd last photo…I don’t see poop.
    You sure she was ready for discharge?

  33. marilyn says:

    looks like a mutual admiration sweet!

  34. Laura Bee says:

    Animals just know. Glad Norma is well again.
    We had to do a tooth snip on a hamster I “rescued” (The girl’s aunt said she wasn’t giving it the attention it needed) Obviously not – his tooth was grown right around …and I’ll stop there. Anywats, he just laid in hubby’s hand while I snipped.. never want to do that again.

  35. DzynByJules says:

    Glad Norma is doing better and hope you are doing OK too!!! I just love your sense of humor! Thanks for all the giggles, much better entertainment than “reality” TV!!!

  36. Adele says:

    she is lovely, I can’t imagine one of my mad chickens sitting quietly in the sink like that!

  37. Jenny says:

    The things we do for our pets….

    I drove over 80mph with my dog shaking and foaming, convinced he was going to die.

    Turns out he just needed his anal glands expressed.

    Apparently they weren’t being very articulate.

  38. caroline says:

    So funny, and so sweet at the same time i always love reading your posts about the chickens,
    lucky for Norma you did know to give her baby aspirin, i never heard that before but it’s good to know for when my chickens ever need it.
    maybe then they will ask me how my day was :)

  39. Jo says:

    Thanks for yet another heart warming chicken story. It’s made my day :)

  40. Julia says:

    I live in horror of one of the chickens you made me get ‘coming down’ with something…
    Gertie had a sort of a cough thing a month ago and I spent a good while researching chicken respiratory diseases, until I decided to just leave her alone for a day or two (handy advice as she is the one hen I can’t catch and you cannot buy antibiotics online in the UK).
    Thankfully my treatment worked and her cough is cured!!
    I am bit gutted I haven’t had to stick my finger up any bottoms yet…

    • Julia says:

      Oh, and I forgot to say it’s so lovely to see you back again. How rude (but you know what us English are like with our emotions)

      • Karen says:

        Indeed. ;) – karen

        • Auriel says:

          I brought home 3 chicks, 2 now are limping then hopping. I checked them out and they both had cuts encircling their mid legs like something had been there and as they grew it imbedded itself inside their left legs. I cut off the bands that were around their feet when I got them. What else could it be and what should I do? The 3rd chick doesn’t have anything like that on her leg.

  41. Linda says:

    You are a dead set Crack Up!!!
    Thanks for the giggles! x

  42. Kathe says:

    You’re a good chicken mom

  43. Kat says:

    Well I’ll be damned that was seriously one interesting post. I kinda panicked there for a bit after watching your chickens on the web cam I didn’t want to see anything bad happen to any of them. “Chicken Vet”… one more for your resume LOL!

  44. Denise Leavens says:

    I’ve had a chicken in a bath in my kitchen sink before, too! It sat there quietly until I was ready to take it out. It didn’t have any feathers. Or, come to think of it, a head. It was no super chicken either, so I didn’t even think of wrapping it in a towel.

    I don’t think a towel would help any one of the Kardashians to look like a superhero. But a warm bath and no head might be an improvement.

  45. mia pratt says:

    That’s more than I ever imagined I’d know about chickens…which is timely because I’m having these icky feelings when I go to eat things that were once alive…not like carrots are alive, but like cows and chickens were once alive. Just out of the blue, these feelings. Actually I saw a photo on facebook or somewhere of a little girl with her cow asleep with his head in her lap, and they were both asleep – and I think that did it. And now with your nursing a chicken, and even putting your finger up her bum to deliver a breech egg if that were the case…well…I’m just going to have to see how it goes from here. I’m not a big tofu fan. And I will have to finish that giant package of corned beef I still have in the fridge. But I just don’t know if I can keep eating Cuddles and Normas and Elsies any more. Maybe this, too, shall pass?

    • Molly says:

      You aren’t alone! There are so many tasty foods out there that make me too sad to eat them. Knowing that the individual had a good, natural life and a quick death helps. But Norma? or Cuddles?! I could never do it. I take it as a creative challenge to make delicious food that I can feel good about. Good luck to you :)

  46. KiwiKat says:

    My cousin had a chicken called Mrs Flop-bottom – she used to get egg-bound all the time…not pleasant! Glad it was a relatively easy fix for you both!

  47. Therese says:

    I’ve given my chickens baths at various times of illness too. They are pretty much calm and accepting, so I guess they really are ill and the warm bath relaxes them. If you’ve ever tried bathing a perfectly well chicken it goes somewhat differently, and there is a lot of noise and splashing. One way to tell if your chicken really is ill or faking it! Thanks for the baby aspirin tip.

  48. Bonnie Cramond says:

    I took my hen with a broken leg to a vet. They put a cast on, but when they took the cast off, she kept holding her leg out like the cast was still on. So, I gave her physical therapy–holding her legs and “helping” her walk across the deck every day. You would have thought I was doing something weird the way people reacted!

  49. Chris says:

    Norma is lucky to have you. ;)

  50. Laura says:

    It’s funny how pets love and hate grooming.

    • Bob says:

      My family have a bbq and all the hens roost on it (it’s quite a funny sight) but one hen, called mimi isn’t as certain as the others at jumping off as her previous owners did a horrible job of hacking away at her wings, I am sure she has landed funny, thanks for the advice, we are trying it now!


    • Brenda Ellis says:

      I have a limping hen. I have been ill so not spending as much time as usual with the gals. She is very thin her breast bone is sharp. However she is eating. I put her in the eglu at night so she does not have to struggle up the ladder. She comes down on her own in morning. But I wonder as she is wobbly did she fall down and hurt her foot. I thought she may be terminal but she is eating drinking. She hangs out with her little friend and she sits on a compost bag in the greenhouse unless the sun comes out. The other gals have not attacked her at all. They have been very good considering she is bottom of pecking order.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

  • Seed Starting Calculator

  • About Karen