My Hen is Limping. How to Fix it a Gimpy 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?


148 Comments

  1. taria says:

    thank you for this. I have been kicking around the idea of backyard chickens. I don’t need more animal problems around here. 2 big dogs and 3 cats are wonderful but a lot of work. 2K of vet bills so far this year. I think I need to stick with store eggs. You are a good chicken mama.

  2. Janet says:

    OMG! I am SO, SO, SO glad you are back. This mornings post…all of it….had me laughing so hard…several times, that my husband came plodding out to see what the heck I was laughing at. He thought it was the birds in the birdbath or the Hummingbirds fighting, again….birds…they are pretty entertaining creatures. So are you and your readers. Love the post!!! Glad Norma is feeling better.

  3. safety dog says:

    I once had a parakeet who became egg bound, about half-way through laying. Didn’t expect her to lay an egg, so it was surprising. With a little lubricant and time (and many funny expressions on her face), she was fine.

  4. Melissa Leach says:

    Great job, Doctor. Do you think adding Espsom salts to the warm water would help/hurt? Just wondering should I should ever need to give a chicken a bath.

  5. Jacqui says:

    I had a cockatiel that died of being egg bound . Her bird mate and I were inconsolable for weeks. It was heartbreaking. I felt that I had not taken very good care of her and let him down. I applaud you for your fearlessness and giving your chicken such good care. I don ‘t think I could have done the suppository.

    The rest of the story:The egg daddy went on to be an absolute delight and we were popular playing pirates at my kids school.

    And Karen, welcome back! So good to see your blog this morning in my inbox. Big hug

  6. Janet says:

    You stuck your finger up there for nothing. That’s love.

  7. Awe, that is so sweet! If I die, I want to come back as your chicken! Warm kitchen sink baths….who could ask for more!

  8. Jeannie B says:

    Karen, you are a truly, good person. I’m glad that Norma is okay.

  9. Nancy Blue Moon says:

    I do admire the kindness & love you give to animals..it shows what a good heart you have..Also..thank you for not showing us a video of you sticking your finger up Norma’s butt..

  10. Shauna says:

    oh, I’ve had to stick my finger up my chicken’s bum. thankfully, not egg bound as well. that is when I knew I was meant to be an urban chicken farmer:) However, my chicken was far less amenable to any of those steps – didn’t like me picking her up, putting her in water and perhaps was most calm when my finger went up her bum. Kinky ladies.

  11. Debbie says:

    I haven’t talked my Husband into chickens yet so I just have a dog tale or tail. Recent visit to the vet got us a reprimand for our Diva dog being over weight Nick name Chub Chub. We have started walks but its not working at all or very fast. Wanting to be a good dog Mom I found a place that I could take her swimming with me for exercise. At first she was afraid then it was love for me and the water. So the new problem is this dog is my Husbands baby and she has been sticking to me like glue. Bonding over water its powerful, watch out with Norma. So happy your back.

  12. Barbie says:

    My mothers name was Norma….she was grumpy too! …and when ever I helped her when she was sick (which was often) (she was a hypochondriac of sorts) she became very docile as well! LOLOL
    I have teased my hubs about getting chickens…but we cannot imagine the extra work right now! Our garden is giving us a real heartbreak at present!…we have lost our entire beet harvest to a vole or gopher or something…we have been battling this all summer…first our garlic, then potatoes , now the beets! I am SICK over it…I can my beets every year and they were beautiful this year! I tried your chiaoggia ones BTW and OMG! My favorite now (of the few I got)…even more than the golden beets (which I LOVE) ….they were all ready for harvest and beautiful and we planted extra this year for canning! :((( My local organic farmer told me to get some outdoor cats! He said this would solve the problem. We cannot get cats. Severe allergies…

  13. Mickey says:

    So glad you’re back.

  14. Jasper says:

    OMG.. You are a hot mess…. You crack me up… I am so glad you are back. that man of yours was a dumb ass. Thank You for starting my day off with a laugh. You need to be writing books…

  15. FlagirlinTN says:

    Now your other chickens are going to start limping when Norma tells them about her “spa day”.

  16. rktrixy says:

    Norma is a fine chicken. I’m glad she’s feeling better and your finger only had to go so far…

    The things we do for the creatures we love!

    Welcome back. Your kitchen floor is lovely. I hope you are feeling better or, like Norma, are on the mend. I missed you in my inbox.

  17. Ellen says:

    I just texted my boyfriend your “up close and personal” photo of a chicken vent. Thanks for making that possible.

  18. Ellen says:

    Did you keep Norma separated from the other hens the whole time she was recuperating? Or did you put her with the rest of the girls at night? When one has chickens, does one have to plan on occasional separations and therefore have a separate area for ones that need alone time?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Ellen. No, I didn’t have to keep Norma separated because once I gave her the aspirin she no longer had a limp and therefore wasn’t perceived as the weak chicken. If I hadn’t been able to fix her I would have had to separate her until she was healed otherwise the others would have harmed her. I’ve had to separate my chickens on several occasions due to various issues. I didn’t make any special place for them. Sometimes I keep them on one side of the coop, separated by a screen, other times I bring them inside. It’s never been for more than a day or so. ~ karen!

  19. jenny says:

    This was really funny. I feel bad for having KFC for dinner. If I’m to continue reading this blog, I may have to give it up.

  20. mary catherine says:

    this was so educational. i learned so much about chickens and their community and trouble-shooting them! and i can’t believe how invested i am in norma and her physical well-being. i almost cried seeing her sitting quietly in the sink. i think i need chickens real bad now. xo

  21. Mondo says:

    fantastic stuff! thanks for the laughs.

  22. maureen mcgraw says:

    I love the hen story especially the short videos. Glad she is ok.

  23. Bob says:

    Hilarious but super instructive – thanks for posting!

  24. Amber says:

    So I’m not a chicken mama, nor any kind of mama, and after reading all these posts the only thing I can think about about is WHAT do you DO with an egg-bound chicken??? How do you get it out of there? Does the finger up the vent release steam or something? I’m going to be up all night thinking about that, and not because I want to be… bet you a nickle I’ll dream about egg-bound Kardashians. Yick.

  25. Pam'a says:

    What I want to know is, where were the cats? Aren’t they fairly interested in the chooks?

    • Karen says:

      Pam’a – The cats didn’t seem to care. I can’t remember if they didn’t happen to wander into the kitchen or what, but there weren’t any problems. Besides, it’s the cats that need to be worried. A chicken could rip em apart. ~ karen!

  26. melanie says:

    Karen, you rock! Your animals are very lucky to have you as a friend.

  27. I have to say, when I opened the email containing your message I just saw a picture of a chicken and a picture of a cleaver so I thought your chicken was going to meet her maker and maybe end up in a stew.

  28. It is truly another world in Karenland, and a better one at that.

  29. Erica O says:

    Oh, Norma has such a cute fluffy chicken butt!
    When my chicken got sick, I just brought her in to live with me until she got better. I’m not sure why that worked, considering I was still a kid and living in my parents’ house and she made my room smell vile, but…they let me keep her in there until she got better.
    However, I never gave her aspirin. I am going to write that down. I’m glad I know where I can find a chicken doctor, if needed. (meaning you)(well, meaning your blog, actually)

  30. Helana says:

    Karen, at the end of each post it gives me posts with similar solutions. For this one there’s several on the chicken coop … and one on how to make the best chicken burgers ever.

    Made me laugh.

  31. Jennifer says:

    I happened upon your article after many searches “how to help a chicken with a sprained leg”… okay, you are witty and fun… I learned, I laughed and I dislike Kardashian life as much as you.
    Thanks for the lighthearted real life drama. I think Norma is one of the happiest birds alive. 🙂

    • Karen says:

      Hi jennifer. Welcome to my site! That baby aspirin works wonders with a limping hen so I hope it works for you. ~ karen!

  32. Alix says:

    This is absolutely brilliant!!! My poor Poppy has the same sort of limp and now the folks are on holiday I’ll get her inside for a bath!!!!

  33. Pamela says:

    We have a Rhode Island Red named Penny that is limping. Your blog popped up when I googled her symptoms. So, glad I stumbled across it. Very amusing and entertaining. Glad Norma is feeling better. I’m going to start eliminating illnesses with Penny. I’ve been blogging about our chickens at: joeyschickencoop.blogspot.com
    I’ll post Penny’s progress. She is losing weight too. I think the other hens won’t let her eat.

  34. Pamela says:

    She is smaller than our other RIR hens. She’s happy, eats well, but has that limp and doesn’t seem to be getting plump like the other hens. I’m going to video her tonight and post it on my blog. I changed the blog address to http://www.bohemianprairiechicks.blogspot.com/

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  36. Lee says:

    What a treat to read this!!! You had me in stitches…thank you. I am still trying to find out what’s wrong with my hen though 😉 She walks funny as if she has chewing gum stuck to her feet?? I thought she was just having a good stretch as she has been sitting on 23 eggs for 2 weeks now … could that be?? Her feet look somewhat grey and crusty, not yellow and smooth(ish) as the others? Input valued .. thanks and blessings all round

  37. kiley johns says:

    my chicken,lug nut, is only about 4 months old and when she walks she rocks around a lot (like a ship on waves) this happened to my other chicken ,Cally, she ended up getting murdered for that reason…by the jerk chicken ,dinner. would the same rule apply for the egg bound part?

  38. Michelle says:

    I have a rooster he’s a outside chicken but at the moment I have him in my house in a box poor thing someone tell me they think that he had a stroke but he can walk around I gave him water I try to feed him but he cannot use his Nick he could not hold his head up at all he tried and tried I just need some help the poor little thing I don’t know what to do with him someone said you might have pulled a muscle and that he may get better but then other say just go put him in a pot with the noodles but I can’t do thatplease if you have any information that you could give me that would be great thank you..chicken in metter,ga.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Michelle. I’m so sorry about your rooster. It’s really difficult to tell what’s wrong with him without seeing him, and to be honest, I’m definitely not a chicken expert when it comes to all of their health issues even though I’ve been through a fair amount of them. I’d like to suggest you contact Terry from http://www.Hencam.com Her email address is terry@terrygolson.com She has a great deal of experience with chickens and at one point helped me a bit with one of mine who was deathly ill this summer. The one thing she may recommend is giving him a bath in epsom salts. They find it soothing and the minerals in the epsom salts are good for their health all around. Good luck and let me know what happens. ~ karen!

  39. joann milich says:

    I just read your article about your hen having a gimpy leg. She has a bubble on the top of her toe. Other than that she is fine, red cone, eats well…and she is broody so she squats. Hurts her to walk on gravel. We put an antibiotic on her owie and a band aid and like a kid she was holding her foot out trying to remove said band aid. We are putting her in a dog crate tonight so she doesn’t have to climb ramp to coop and jump up on perch. I think I will try the 1/2 baby aspirin and maybe get her to soak in some ebsom salts. Thanks for your article.

  40. Katrina says:

    Such great advice! One of my roos is limping, he was last week then stopped and is worse now. I’m guessing he’s not egg bound!
    Any suggestions for getting the aspirin down if he won’t eat it out of my hand?

    • Karen says:

      Hi Katrina! Sorry ’bout your rooster! If he won’t take it out of your hand just surround it with something that he likes. I always have good luck with cherry tomatoes. ~ karen!

  41. Jennifer Smith says:

    Hey,
    Your blog came up when I was searching what to do to help my rooster. So I thought I would ask you for your input.
    My poor rooster has a swollen sore with a black scab on his middle toe. His spurs are a little long so Im not sure if they cut his toe. due to this he is now limping and laying down alot.
    So I soaked his foot in epson salts, took the scab off and poured diluted peroxide on it. Then I covered it in antibiotic cream and wrapped it.
    I have repeated the epson salt bath and the cream. It doesnt seem to help.
    I read about the 1/2 of child apirin, so I might try this. Does aspirin come in pill form? I would think children aspirin was a liquid?
    Is there anything else you would try?
    I can send you a picture if this helps, but im pretty sure it isnt bumblefoot……

    thanks so much
    Jennifer

  42. Keisha says:

    Hello I have a question? I had my 6 month old chicken out side on a snowy day and she felw off my hand onto a rock and hit her left leg it does not look broken ….it feels cold and she is limping and dragging it What should I do?????please I need some help!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Keisha. That’s a bit out of my league especially when I haven’t actually seen her. All chicken owners are the same … we have to act as our own vets. 🙁 If it doesn’t look broken doesn’t mean it isn’t broken, but there isn’t much you can do other than take her to a vet for an x ray. If I were you I’d keep her in a cage that limits her movement. Chickens aren’t very smart about keeping off of sore limbs but if you can limit her mobility it will help her heal. The tiny bit of baby aspirin will help her with the pain but you don’t want her thinking she’s O.K. and over exerting and injuring herself more. ~ karen!

  43. Laura says:

    I have two week old chicks. My smallest started limping around last night after all the bigger girls started getting rough with her. I want to make sure it’s just inflammation but wonder how much baby aspirin to give her. Maybe 1/4? She’s my sweetheart & I want her to feel better!!

    • Karen says:

      Hi Laura! I probably wouldn’t give that small of a chick anything. Give her a good look over though and make sure her tiny little leg isn’t broken and is straight like it should be. Also pay attention to if her legs are splaying out. This is a thing that small chicks can get. Usually they’re younger than 2 weeks though. Anyhow, if she’s splayed you’ll have to brace her legs. Just google Splay leg or Spraddle leg. Hope she feels better soon! ~ karen

  44. Mary Madigan says:

    My sons last remaining old chicken became ours but in the past month she has been limping. i tried half aspirin but it didn’t work so I did more online searching and found a vitamin lift.
    It is half to one boiled egg, one gel capsule (for two days) cut open and the oil which is made with green lip mussel but the recipe had 1 teaspoon cod liver oil which I could only buy in a huge bottle so I opted for the green lip mussel capsules, 2 tablespoons of rolled oats, one tablespoon natural yoghurt (without sugar) a very small drizzle of honey, cut up green nettles, small amount of grated apple, 1/2 multi vitamin pill ground up, 1 dessertspoon of beef CAT FOOD (not dogfood) I bought a small small foil meal with peeled top.

    GUESS WHAT she is not LIMPING TODAY .!!!! I have been doing it for about 5 days. I will continue to do this to maintain her health.

  45. Michele says:

    Help!! I am experiencing the same exact thing now with my sweet hen Penny. I Did all of the above.. I don’t believe it is an egg bound… But I am truly concerned because she is acting lethargic, doesn’t want to drink. Is nibbling on food. But not normal eating how she would if she was feeling 100% and No water at all.. I had a hen that displayed the same symptoms as Penny and died randomly. They both had a random lip out of nowhere. My question is was Norma not wanting food and water like normal along with the limp. Or as anyone else experienced this?

  46. Betty Jagen says:

    Thank you so much for posting the Limping on one leg chicken. I did everything you said and she seems better. I am a novice and only have 2 chickens. Ava which is a Delaware and Wynonna who is a Sumatra. Wynonna is the one with the leg issue.
    She even ate the half baby aspirin.
    thank you so much for the information.

  47. vanita says:

    my one female chicken has recently hatched a chick. all is with well with her and the chick except she is walking in a strange manner since the hatching. she seems to lift each leg very high up as she takes each step??? what could this mean??? could it be that while sitting on the egg for so long their legs get stiff and feel lame in a way?? she doesn’t seem like she is in any pain but it looks odd and i hope it isn’t something i cant see??
    what is Bumblefoot and is it fatal???

  48. C Flores says:

    Chickens are smarter than the Kardashians

  49. Emy says:

    Did your hen lay any eggs while it was injured?
    I am having the same situation with my hen. It’s limping, not laying eggs, and it was bullied by the other hens.

  50. Emy says:

    Did your hen lay eggs while it was injured? My hen is having the same situation. She started limping a few days ago. And was also getting bullied by the other hens so I brought her into the house. She seems to be very happy inside. She’s eating and drinking fine but still limping and no eggs.

    • Karen says:

      Hi Emy. If a chicken is under any stress at all (being bullied, in pain, gets startled by a loud truck, lol) they can easily stop laying eggs for a bit. Keep her inside or away from the others until she’s healed and she should get back to laying. Have you checked to make sure she’s limping and not egg bound? I suspect she isn’t egg bound just because it isn’t very common. Good luck! ~ karen

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