chicken behavior ?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Aug 28, 2013
Hello Everyone, We have 11 chickens and one of our ladies acts very strange every morning when we let them out! She is the last one to jump off the roosting pole and walks oddly ( like kind of sideways) and has her head turned to the side, for the first 5 minutes she is up every day, after that she is fine but this has been an on going thing for about 6 months now, none of the other chickens act like this just her, any idea what it might be ??


6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
:/ That is indeed very strange. Are you able to get photos or video of it?

Best bet at this point is neurological abnormality, or in other words, brain/nerve damage.

Could be due to so many things it's hardly worth the time to guess at it, but lead poisoning is probably the number one toxicity associated with asymmetrical symptoms like that, it's as common as dirt for chooks and other animals and even humans to have heavy metal toxicity, with or without obvious symptoms.

Best wishes.


Free Ranging
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Feb 18, 2011
X2, that is odd, if she is fine after a few minutes outside? Is she normal otherwise, eating, laying etc? could something be going on when she is on the roost... is she crowded into a strange position, near a vent or something? Have you given her a good going over, does she seem thinner or weaker on one side?


In the Brooder
6 Years
Aug 28, 2013
Right now all of our ladies are just getting back to laying eggs after molting so I am not sure about egg laying. She was laying eggs fine all summer. She eats fine she does miss a lot of the goodies we give them every morning because she's the last one out. We have two long roosting poles so everyone has plenty of room . How would she have gotten brain/nerve damage ? She never acted like that the first six months we had her. Ill try to get a video of it .


6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
How would she have gotten brain/nerve damage ? She never acted like that the first six months we had her. Ill try to get a video of it .

The causes are myriad and common; brain damage is something more or less every animal and human in civilized areas has some degree of.

Almost all of it will remain 'sub-clinical' and the individuals will present as normal; common symptoms of subclinical poisoning include aggression, anxiety, and depression.

Your bird though, if it's toxicity symptoms we're seeing here, would definitely be a clinical case since she can't pass as normal.

We've allowed tens of thousands of untested chemicals to be used, only a minute fraction has actually been tested for any effects, and that's only speaking of artificial chemicals --- natural ones are also plentiful and capable of causing brain damage, as are other natural causes (tapeworm/other parasite cysts in the brain etc, viruses, bacterial infections, other infections, damage from pecking, the list goes on...)

The WHO calls iodine deficiency a global epidemic, impacting humans and animals all over the world, causing fetal brain damage in mothers which are deficient in it, and IQ drops of up to 16 points in otherwise normal adults. Again, these people --- which is us, and everyone we know --- 'pass' as intellectually 'normal'. (Something to consider next time you see people acting stupid, or see someone comment on the so-called 'average human IQ', or on their 'stupid' animals.)

In many places, lead toxicity is quite literally as common as dirt, but so are other toxic residues. Pesticides that were in common use in suburbia, farms, roadside sprayings etc by council are also very common, many of them persist even many decades after they were banned. You will still lose animals to them as they're still present in the soil. 'Organic for 3 decades' just doesn't cut it, once conventionally farmed the soil should always be suspect this side of a full century, if no deliberate attempts to detox are made. Unfortunately many 'organic' certified products have been grown on farms that have only been organic for a matter of years.

Got a garage or shed on your property? That's one big vector of neural damage. Even if you don't, there are hundreds of seriously toxic chemicals that tend to be found in the soil around anywhere someone had a shed where they worked on certain types of projects, specifically those involving mechanics or vehicles... Or just anywhere vehicles were parked regularly. Asides from the chemicals and heavy metals deliberately used, like 'bog' and the toxic residues of welding, those accidentally released into the soil (e.g. via a battery leak) also persist in soil indefinitely.

Lead is an extremely common and extremely toxic contaminant, you find it everywhere you find civilization more or less. Main roads or regularly used suburban roads have large buildups of lead residue from fuel fumes all around the roads, all that is necessary is that the road was used regularly enough for long enough.

Some miscellaneous info on lead and other poisoning... By no means comprehensive but educational enough nonetheless:
Metal Madness: Lead Doesn't Just Poison Birds, It Scrambles Everything They Need to Survive
Thursday, 09 October 2014 00:00 By Lindsey Konkel, Environmental Health News


NOTE: this is not the full article.

North Grafton, Massachusetts - By the time the veterinarian saw the Canada goose, it was starving. Lumpy bulges ran the length of its neck, from its white chinstrap to its shrunken breast. It was too weak to squabble – so sluggish, in fact, that the veterinarian could scoop up the goose and move it to the stainless steel table without throwing a blanket over it.

A team of four rushed in to treat the goose, flushing a bucketful of sand from its esophagus. But X-rays of its digestive tract bore out another problem – tiny flecks in the sand. A blood test confirmed the veterinarian's suspicions: lead poisoning. The goose had eaten sand laced with lead at a pond near Boston.

It's well-known that high levels of lead kill birds. But now it's becoming clear that amounts commonly encountered by waterfowl and raptors can mess up their digestion, brains, hearts, vision and other body processes critical for their survival in the wild.

Fledglings exposed to low levels may wander from nests and stumble around, while their parents may be unable to maneuver around power lines or swerve out of oncoming traffic.

No one knows how many birds die of lead poisoning and how many more are contaminated with lower doses. But some studies of scavengers such as condors and eagles have suggested that more than 90 percent have detectable lead in their blood.

Despite the emergency treatment at the Tufts clinic, the goose had to be euthanized because the damage to its digestive tract was too severe. Lead scrambles the muscle contractions that move food through the esophagus into organs that can absorb nutrients. "The bird was literally starving to death on a full stomach," Pokras said.

Lead Still Ubiquitous

It's not clear where the lead that poisoned the goose might have come from. Scrapings of old house paint, fragments of lead shot or shavings of scrap metal were a few of Pokras' guesses. Urban soils and waterways across the country are littered with lead, deposited there by centuries of human activity, that pose a health risk to people as well.

While lead has been removed from gasoline and most paints, today's sources include hunting ammunition, fishing tackle, abandoned smelters, old bridge paints and car batteries.

"It surprises some people, because we think we've solved the lead problem, but it remains a serious problem in the environment," said Joanna Burger, a biologist at Rutgers University in New Jersey.

Lead is one of the most-studied environmental toxicants. In ancient Rome, people were poisoned by lead pots used to store wine. But it wasn't until centuries later that people started to link the symptoms to the source. In the 1700s, an English physician showed that severe abdominal cramps commonly experienced by cider drinkers were caused by lead leaching from the presses used to crush the apples.

Half of all condor deaths in Arizona are attributed to lead poisoning.

Scientists working on Midway Island in the 1980s described a "droop wing" in albatross that had eaten paint chips near an abandoned building. Their wings hung flaccidly by their sides. For centuries, physicians had observed a similar problem with wrist nerves in lead-poisoned people.

Researchers began to realize that many of the health problems caused by lead in the environment were not specific to humans. The gastrointestinal symptoms found in England's early cider drinkers, for instance, are similar to the signs found in birds.

Everything Disrupted

"Lead literally impacts every system of the body," he said.

Its chemical structure is very similar to calcium, so the body confuses the neurotoxic metal for the vital nutrient. Humans, birds and just about every other living thing on the planet need calcium to send brain signals from cell to cell. Important connections are lost when lead disrupts those pathways.

Herring gull chicks exposed to lead were slower to recognize siblings and parents. In the late 1980s, Burger was studying herring gulls on Long Island when she noticed their chicks acting weirdly. Some would wander from the nest into neighboring gull territories, where they were killed. "It was happening at some nests and not others. I was seeing these behavioral abnormalities that I just couldn't account for," she said.

Burger collected feathers and found that some had elevated lead levels. She had a hunch that the young birds, like children, suffered from neurological problems when exposed to lead. Over the next two decades, Burger and her husband Dr. Michael Gochfeld, a human physician and lead expert at the University of Medicine and Dentistry of New Jersey, performed a series of experiments to test that hypothesis.

They found that lead-exposed chicks stumbled more when they walked, often missed the mark when pecking at their parents' bills for food and were slower to recognize their siblings, parents and nest site in the wild or their caretaker in captivity. All of these are important learning tasks for chicks that may be killed if they wander away from the nest and approach the wrong adult.

"Almost every test we did, lead impaired them," Burger said.

British researchers studying mute swans found that those with moderately-elevated lead levels were more likely to suffer injuries from collisions with power lines than birds with very low lead levels or birds with very high levels. Birds with extremely high lead levels may be too weak to fly at all.

Poisoned Condors

For condors, the survival of the species may hinge on reducing lead exposures. In the 1980s, only 22 remained alive in the wild. Intensive conservation programs have brought the population up to around 400. In certain parts of the birds' range – in northern Arizona and Utah – scientists have struggled to reintroduce the condor. Lead poisoning is the major culprit.

"Lead is the number one problem. It accounts for about 50 percent of the deaths in our [condor] program. Without getting lead out of the environment, we have very little hope of recovering the species in all parts of its range," Parish said.

"Lead is a very, very severe poison. It's silly that in the 21st century we still allow this," said John Fitzpatrick, director of the Cornell Lab of Ornithology.

Roughly 98.5 percent of the eagles admitted to Minnesota's Raptor Center had measurable levels of lead in their blood. In Maine, about one-third of the eagles treated over the past decade at Avian Haven, a rehabilitation center, had blood lead levels above 10 micrograms per deciliter, according to executive director Diane Winn. Out of those 44 eagles, 28 died either from a lethal dose of lead or from an injury to which their lead exposures may well have contributed.

Lead hunting ammo left behind in gut piles poisons birds of prey. It's not clear what amount of lead is deadly to birds. Lethal exposures seem to vary a great deal between species, and even among individuals. Geese and ducks apparently tolerate higher levels of lead than eagles or condors. Effects may start to appear at lead levels between 20 and 60 micrograms per deciliter. With treatment, prognosis for survival is generally good below 100 micrograms, according to Dr. Pat Redig, a wildlife veterinarian at the University of Minnesota. Many rehabilitators begin treatments to remove the toxic metal from the blood around 20 micrograms.

In comparison, for lead-exposed children, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends action for levels higher than five micrograms per deciliter, although it adds that "no safe level has been identified."

Far less is known about the subtle effects of lead on the animal brain. A handful of studies have documented aggressive behaviors in dogs and cats as well as in rodents and songbirds.

"In humans we've observed that chronic low levels of lead exposure in early childhood may have a greater effect on cognition than higher levels of exposure, but we don't know whether that holds true for birds," said Dr. Bruce Lanphear, a professor at Simon Fraser University in British Columbia who specializes in children's health.

Permanently Impaired

Even with treatment, the road to recovery – and release – can be an uncertain one. Many birds treated at clinics and wildlife centers for lead poisoning are left with permanent brain damage.

Sometimes the birds "show signs of mental illness," Redig said. "A healthy eagle should hiss at you, open its wings or show some kind of fear response. Many times when you approach these birds, it's like nobody's home."

Other birds are permanently weakened because lead interferes with heart function. "We'll try to exercise a bird and discover it has no stamina," Redig said.

In severe cases of lead poisoning, lesions are found in parts of the brain that control the body's auto-pilot processes, such as heart rate and breathing. Deformities also are found in the ventricles that pump blood in the heart.

In less severe cases, the damage can be harder to spot, but the deficits are often lasting. One bald eagle was thin and dehydrated when it arrived at SOAR Raptor Rehab center in Dedham, Iowa in 2011.

A blood test showed lead levels exceeding 20 micrograms per deciliter. The eagle went through chelation therapy to clear the toxic metal from its blood. Over the next couple of weeks, she gained weight steadily, but she navigated clumsily about the flight pen.

"Her vision was permanently impaired. We couldn't release her," said Kay Neumann, executive director at SOAR.

Although the eagle survived, Neumann counts her as a "wild mortality." She will never return to the wilderness to hunt, nest or reproduce, and she won't pass her genes along to the next generation of Iowa's rebounding eagle population.
Best wishes.
Last edited:

lazy gardener

Crossing the Road
7 Years
Nov 7, 2012
Try giving her concentrated B vitamins. Liver or brewers yeast are good natural sources. A good product that you might want to pick up is Poultry Nutri-drench. You can give her several drops daily directly into her beak and see if that changes her behavior. Read the product label, and treat her for at least a week, perhaps up to 3 weeks. It wouldn't hurt to give it to your whole flock. Just be sure that it doesn't sit around in the water too long, again, read product label.

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