Are my chickens feet dead? Are they going to fall off? Leg mites the cause?


8 Years
Oct 14, 2011
My husband is the one that normally takes care of the chickens. In the warmer months I help out and do a lot if the "looking after" them. My husband usually just goes down to the coop in the mornings and lets them out and at night he feeds/waters them. He's not one to really pay too much attention to detail. There was a chicken that was laying in our coop and he noticed that she wasn't really moving each day (thought she was laying on a nest). I went down to the coop one day to check her out. She was out of the coop (they are free range) but I noticed she was walking really funny. She was "high stepping." So, the next day I looked it up online. I narrowed it down to leg mites. I went down to the coop to look at every ones feet, and sure enough that's what it was. We went down armed with Vaseline. When we got to the one that was "high stepping" we noticed that her feet were black and her toes were stiff. There was a red line going down to her middle toe, which we assumed was blood and maybe her feet were just full of leg mite poo. Fast forward, its been about 6 weeks and her feet are still black. She has problems with balance and she uses her wings to help out when need be. We have her separated from the flock because they peck at her now. I was wondering if someone can confirm that in fact her feet are dead. Are they going to fall off if they in fact are dead? What is her quality of life? And is she in pain? I don't want her to suffer. I've attached pictures. Why are the top of her legs above the black part so swollen? We are still treating her with Vaseline, also treating the coop. Anything will help. Just want to give my chicken the best quality of life, whatever may be left.

I don't need anyone to judge me or leave nasty rude comments.
It looks as if her feet got frozen and are indeed 'dead'. I have had chickens survive fine with frozen toes that later fell off, but doubt that your hen will fare well. It has nothing to do with the mites or anything that you did or did not do.
I'd have to agree that yes they are indeed dead from getting frost bite. they must have frooze this winter. I do think its likely they will fall off. after that I think its going to be impossible for her to walk sadly...she can still live if you bring her her food and water but not sure what her quality of life would be. sadly... this is a decision you will have to make. not sure how long before they fall off but I think because of the frostbite it will happen.I'm so sorry about your bird! I wish I knew of something that would help or remedy the situation but as far as I know there is nothing.... I wish you the best and again I'm sorry for your hen. wish I could be of more help to her but I don't know what Else to for her .best of luck.
Her feet are certainly dead and unfortunately I've not heard of anyway to resolve the problem :( I have heard of many chickens losing toes and getting along just fine though. You know her best, if you feel that her quality of life is sub par with the loss of how ever many toes than you may consider euthanizing. Just do your best to prevent infection when any toes come off. Also, just for future reference, I have heard that using a wider bar for a roost such as a 2x4 will help prevent frostbite on toes. It allows the whole foot to be tucked underneath them rather than something like a dow rod where their toes are curled under and unprotected. Best wishes to you and your girl!
There is someone who makes neoprene poultry shoes, who made a customized pair for my friend's chickens that lost feet to frostbite. You can find more info in the Prevent Frostbite section on the Poultry Podiatry page on the site in my sig below.

The enlarged/swollen area above the dead areas is normal with the die-off of an extremity due to frostbite, cut off circulation, or severe scaley leg mites--to the best of my knowledge. My impression is that it doesn't necessarily indicate infection. You could apply Neosporin (the kind without pain relievers--some of which are hazardous to chickens) above the swelling just in case. Once the ends do fall off, I'd try to keep tips from being too moist, though. That way they should callous more quickly.

However, I don't know what will be the best decision for whether to keep her alive or not. It will depend on your flock set-up, etc. My friend's two crippled chickens lived in a small coop by themselves, & their floor was well bedded with pine shavings.

I'm very sorry she's had this problem. Sometimes things happen before we're aware, & I'm glad you're looking into the cause & what can be done. Best wishes!
Last edited:
Thank you everyone! My husband and I are still baffled as to how her feet got frostbit. We have 2x4's for them to roost on. No metal dishes or anything metal in the coop besides the heat lamps that were on ALL winter for them...Thank you again!
What did the vet think? What did you decide to do? We'd be interested to hear an update!
I have a hen that is 5 yrs old (Black Sexlink) she lost both her feet this year, she is getting around fine, the other girls were picking with her for a while but she has learned to avoid the girls that are most aggressive with her, She doesn't act in pain at all, And she gets around fine her ankles or whatever have healed over and she walks really good on them. the only thing she has trouble with is sitting on the Roost, so I have made her up a dog crate full of straw that she sleeps in a night and comes running to me in the morning. She's super sweet and I couldn't put her down she still lays eggs fine I'm so glad I didn't put her down now, but I had to think long and hard about it. Good Luck with your girl! If I had a camera I would send ya pics of her but I don't.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom