Hen with leg paralysis and soft egg passed


7 Years
May 28, 2012
My husband found one of our layers in the yard this morning laying on her side. Her legs seem paralysed and she doesn't move her wings. Her head is still up and moving a bit but she doesn't attempt to move, eat, or drink.

I didn't notice anything different with her yesterday. She is about 2 years old and we have never had any problems.

My husband moved her to the security of the coop and placed her so she could drink (however she isn't). She has not moved in over 8 hours. It is hot here, 93+ degrees so I have her by the open door with a fan circulating the air for comfort.

She isn't the most friendly hen, but she doesn't even try to move away if I bend to touch her. I just went out to check on her and found a very soft egg that she has passed in the last hour or so.

They are in our backyard with no other animals. They free range within our fenced in area so no chance of outside predators. Please, does anyone have any ideas what is wrong with my little hen? Any ideas or things I could try to help her. I'm completely lost, this is our first illness since we got them a year ago.

Thank you!
Hi Prettykittymb,
the soft egg could have been because of some sort of shock. I'm wondering if she may have been injured, either by an aerial predator (have you looked about the neck and rear end under the feathers? There may be clawmarks) or by some mishap.

There are some disease that cause paralysis, but I wouldn't think this is Marek's. Botulism (from eating or drinking something contaminated) is a possibility, but usually the head is flopped over (or becomes that way in time). It seems more likely to me that she's been injured, perhaps even high up in the neck by a rooster treading her or by some other cause.

I would put her somewhere safe and quiet on her own, but I'm not sure about force feeding yet. See how she is in the morning, perhaps. I don't usually try force feeding as it's very easy to end up sending the food and/or water into the lungs, and generally I find that sick birds either begin to eat when they're ready, or are unable to for important reasons (e.g. crop blockage). Then again a lot of people nurse birds this way. Crop feeding is a safe way to get food and water into a sick hen, but you'd need to google it to find out exactly how. Perhaps if you make a firm mash you could roll it into balls and place it at the back of her beak. If you do give her water, make sure you dribble it onto the lower beak so she can swallow; don't be tempted to inject it into the mouth or the back of the throat.

If she's a beloved pet, this might be a vet case, sorry.
Check her body weight (especially around the breastbone) in case she has some underlying chronic thing, and of course look for signs of injury, but otherwise perhaps she needs warmth and time.

good luck,
Well I checked her over thoroughly. She has no signs of trauma. No scrape marks, claw marks, or bites. I haven't found anything in their area like a dead mouse or old food etc. Other than their regular food (layer crumble) and scratch they haven't had much extra. We did have BLT's three nights ago and the next morning they ate the leftover lettuce and tomato. I guess this might be a cause of botulism.

I just sat with a dropper and gave her some water. She was eager to drink it. Chewed the end to get it in her mouth. Afterwards I lowered the main water even further to the floor right by her head. She took a few sips. I am not going to try food till tomorrow. Maybe some yogurt or scrambled eggs as I have read on other boards.

My vet is closed for the holiday so no help there. I just hope she makes it through the night. She did have a considerable amount of poop around her vent area. It was dark green/black and very runny.

I moved her around and checked under wings etc. Her wings are flaccid as well. She is still moving her head. Should I just prepare my children for the inevitable? This is my 6 year old daughters hen.

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