Is she "retarded"?


6 Years
Feb 16, 2013
Columbia, Virginia
I posted this in the emergencies forum, but only got one response, so I thought I'd try here.

My favorite beginning to worry me. I noticed at around 4 weeks old that her toes on the outsides of her feet turn outward instead of down. Looking back at pics from 1 day old, she started to show signs at two weeks, but I never noticed then. Here's pics of her going backwards in age...from yesterday at 7 1/2 weeks to 2 weeks old.

Yesterday (the foot that's on the ground...look at her outer toe):

5 weeks:

3 weeks:

2 weeks:

I didn't think too much of it, since she walks just fine. I figured she must have a birth defect or something, or maybe because she was on newspaper for the first 2 weeks (with her brothers and sisters, though none of them have toes that turn outward).

But...then a couple of weeks ago I noticed something else wrong with her. Her eye/beak coordination is extremely off. If I put a treat in my hand and give it to her (mealworm, worm, bug etc.), she will peck around the left, to the right...and I'd say once in ever 50 pecking attempts to get the treat, she'll get it...but the majority of the time she doesn't. My other chicks nab the treat on the first try. She doesn't. I don't think she ever has on the first try...but I only noticed recently. She does it out in the run too during playtime...trying to peck at something on the ground, and she misses constantly. She'll keep trying for about 30 seconds, then give up...if one of the other chicks haven't stolen what she was trying to eat by then.

Is she handicapped? The person who replied in the emergencies forum said it could be neurological, or it could be Marek's disease. I'm hoping it's the first. I don't mind babying her. She already is babied...cuz she's my favorite and is so friendly towards me (she will come right to me, and jump in my lap sometimes...and doesn't throw a fit when I pick her up). Do you think the toe problem and the eye/beak coordination are related? She doesn't get picked on by the other chicks, and she seems to be growing just like the rest of the chicks. She's exhibiting no other symptoms that I can see.

Please give me your opinions! Thank you!
This is my first year with chickens, if you don't count when I was little (and not too involved with them, except that I got pecked by a rooster). But my aunt-in-law has a chicken that sounds just like yours. They got her last year as a chick, and she was fine as far as food and drinking and everything else went. Her chicken even had the outside edge toe on the right side nearly broken looking...not only were they turned out like yours, but that toe was bent in the middle like it was double-jointed. And it pointed backwards.

It sounds like her depth perception is off? Maybe that's why she's having trouble nailing that treat in your hand? Her chicken would also do the same thing, and had a little difficulty flying when they first brought them outside. I believe they ended up trimming her feathers on one side to stop her from flying and hurting herself. She'd try to fly to the perch and end up flying into the fencing. They coddled her, though, and paid special attention to her, so I don't think she ever felt left out.

I can suggest what they did. They kept a watch on how "off" to one side or the other her pecking was when she was trying to nab mealworms. And when they put them outside, they made sure that, where their feeder was, it wouldn't be a big deal if she was going after one particular piece of food, because she would end up grabbing something anyway. I think that when she was still inside, they helped with that problem by taking one of those 7 lb feeders from Tractor Supply and snapping out a couple of those divider things so she could get a beakful when she wanted. Same thing when they were outside, although I believe then they just used a Rubbermaid garbage can with holes drilled into it set in a pan large enough to catch what ran out. And the chickens would just eat out of the pan.

The same thing with water. They didn't make her use a nipple waterer. She could never really get the hang of it, since it's about precision. I'm not sure what kind of waterer they used, but I can check today (heading over to talk about coop setup for a couple of hours with her).
Thank you!

I don't use the typical feeder with the round holes in it...I haven't since they were about 4 weeks old. They spent so much time scratching the food out through the holes (and yes, even though their feet were bigger than the holes, they still managed!) that it was just too much waste for me to be ok with. So I started putting their food in a cardboard box cut down on the sides. I use a collander strainer to strain the poop out, and it's worked wonderfully!

I don't use nipple waterers...I use the standard, and just change it daily.

She's my baby, so she will always get special attention. I have never seen her try to fly, so I'll have to watch when she does. Hopefully she won't try and therefore can't hurt herself!
Does it look at all like she is going blind or having a hard time seeing? Do her eyes look any different than your other birds or do her pupils seem off? I have not actually experienced Marek's personally but I believe those are likely the symptoms the other poster was concerned about. It doesn't quite sound like that from your description but just something to be aware of since Marek's is pretty serious.

Good luck!
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have you looked for mites on her ... i had a chicken that had an eye problem not getting close to it even if i put it right in front of him then he started having a hard time walking but then i did stuff to treat the mites using ashes from wood and he is now fine well oh most fine he is starting to walk a lot better but he is a little stiff legged walks a little weird
Sometimes chickens are born a bit off. It doesnt sound like a disease to me, just sounds like she has a few biological problems. i doubt the problems are connected, but they very well could be. Do you free range? i would be concerned of a predator attacking her because shes "special needs"
Sometimes chickens are born a bit off. It doesnt sound like a disease to me, just sounds like she has a few biological problems. i doubt the problems are connected, but they very well could be. Do you free range? i would be concerned of a predator attacking her because shes "special needs"
Nope, I don't free range, at least not yet. They are still inside their brooder, except during the day when it's nice outside...I put them out in the run attached to the coop, which is predator proof. I don't know if I will free range, because we aren't supposed to here in my county unless your property is fenced (or your livestock and poultry are trained never to cross your property line LOL) and I'm afraid they'll wander onto the neighbor's property or onto the road. We have lots of strays out here in my neck of the woods, and at least if I keep them in their run, I know they will be safe from them (at least I hope!) there's another reason why I may not free range.

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