Broody Hen/Injured Leg/Feather Loss


Apr 28, 2015
So, about two weeks ago I noticed one of my buff orpington hens (she's young, 9-10 months) was not leaving her nesting box and would fluff up and cluck at me when I'd go into the hen house. It's dark by the time we're home from work, and my husband had taken over pulling eggs and checking on our flock, so I'm not entirely sure how long this behavior was going on before I was told. I started pulling her out of the nest box on the when light enough, closing down the hen house, and forcing her to interact with the others. She seemed to have a slight limp at that time.

I came home one night and double checked the hens and found her stuck between her hen box and the small rail attached to it. I immediately took her out and also found she had smashed an egg beneath her so I don't know how long she was stuck like that. When I set her on the ground to evaluate her, she would not put the injured foot down. I pulled her into the garage in a large dog crate to take care of her. In about 4 days, she seemed to be bearing weight on the leg. I was worried about leaving her too long in the garage separated from her flock and so I put her back in one evening and noticed she was roosting with the other girls for about two days.

Unfortunately, yesterday morning I went out to check on them all and found her stuffed in a nest box again. Her waddle/comb looked extremely dull to me compared to her sisters. When I pulled her out, she was holding up the leg again and it looked like she was shedding feathers. Fearing that she hadn't been eating or drinking, I pulled her back into the garage. I got her to eat hen scratch, grapes, drink some water and her color improved and she was talkative with me.

This morning I went out into the garage and I noticed she dropped a lot of feathers. I've been googling various times about this injury but wanted to see if anyone had some direct advice from the symptoms I've described. I've found a few obvious "worse cases" like Marek's disease or Botulism - which I had not even considered, I've only seen that in a dog once (I was an ER vet tech) and it is horrible.

How long should I keep her in the garage? Will she be able to integrate with her sisters if it's a significant amount of time? This is our first set of hens and so I'm new in their care and I need help! I am very encouraged by the fact that she wants to eat and drink. Her waterer and feeder are kept close so she doesn't have to move to eat/drink. She does not want to shift her own body around a lot at all I noticed, she reaches the leg out and then hesitates and doesn't move. Yesterday she settled down to lay in her hay and seemed content after I made sure she ate.

Is there any special food I should offer her to support her during this time? I've been a bit naughty in offering high value snacks, but after fearing she wasn't eating at all, I wanted to make sure she would go for her favorites (grapes, dried meal worms, the hen scratch) but she also has her standard feed in there.

Any advice would be appreciated and thank you!


Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Apr 3, 2011
southern Ohio
Where mostly was the feather loss? If it was in the chest and belly, it could be because she is broody. If it is in other places, she could be going through an early molt (since most first big molts occur around 16-18 months old.) If she was holding up the sore leg, I would say that it isn't Mareks, but a leg injury. Mareks causes more paralysis of a limb. Botulism which can cause feathers to be easily pulled out is a very fast killing disease which causes paralysis of both legs which spread upward in the spinal cord to the wings, and the neck before suffocation occurs. So I doubt it being botulism. Can you pen her up in a cage or dog crate inside the coop, so that she remains in contact with the others? Give her food and water with vitamins/minerals and probiotics if possible, Or substitute eggs, tuna, or liver, and plain yogurt in addition to her usual feed.

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