Limping/paralyzed leg? Ideas?


In the Brooder
5 Years
May 14, 2014
Roswell, GA
Seems that I have seen several posts that sound like the one I'm about to make. I'm hoping that someone has an idea or two.

In the last several months we have had 2 (possibly 4) birds that have died from what appears to be a common ailment. The birds begin limping... This lasts for a day or two before the chicken is unable to use a leg and becomes essentially immobile.

From what I can tell, it doesn't appear to be a contagious disease. In reading others' accounts, I am on the side if some type of mycotoxin being the cause. Does anyone have any treatment ideas or similar experience?

I live north of Atlanta if that is helpful.

It sounds suspiciously like Mareks disease, so I would do some research on that disease. Were the chickens vaccinated for Mareks? What were the ages of the chickens when they became sick?
Hello! Opening poster is my husband, so I'm talking about the same chickens. He's not replying fast enough, so I will! Here goes...

So, when you read about 'gradual paralysis' in Mareks, does that happen over about 2 days? Because what has happened is that one chicken has died every 3-4 weeks (the first time it was 2 chickens that died at exactly the same time, so we have lost 4 total). The chickens are approx 17 weeks old. Most were bought from a feed store (I'll call in the morning to see if they were vaccinated against Mareks, they were advertised as vaccinated when we bought them), and some were hatched from eggs and are completely unvaccinated. So far only the feed store chicks have died or been sick. Originally, we had some problems with mold in the outdoor feeder. That is what we thought the problem was with the first deaths. We have completely fixed that problem and now have another sick one, so we are thinking that they must be getting into something in the yard as they free range 2 acres from sunup to sundown. The first chicken to get sick started limping and within a couple of days was completely paralyzed and unable to eat, so we chose to put it down because it seemed the most humane thing to do. One small silkie died at the same time as that overnight in the coop, no limping or anything...seemed fine one day and then dead. The next bird it happened very quickly...we did not notice one being sick and then it was completely paralyzed and died pretty much within a few hours of us noticing a problem. The sick chicken now can stand up but is very gimpy and breathing funny with its mouth open like a sick chicken. It is completely separated from the flock with food and water. We will watch it and see what happens but I am assuming it will quickly progress to complete paralysis.

Does this still sound like Mareks? We keep thinking it sounds more like the birds are getting into something toxic as it is one at a time.

I am sure that Cherok will chime in if he does not think my info is 100% accurate!
Mareks can look different in every chicken, but yes it is possible to progress that fast. The most common signs are weakness or paralysis in one leg with using the wings to try to balance. Both legs or wings can also be affected. They also may lie down after a few steps. Other diseases can look like Mareks, and the first link below lists what those are. Feed store chicks are hardly ever vaccinated for Mareks, but they require 2-3 weeks to develop immunity before being expose to it, so if it is in your environment, a vaccinated chick could still get it. I would definitely send this chick off to the state vet to be necropsied if it dies, and ask for a Mareks test. Below is a link for finding your state vet where the chicken could also be euthanized, along with links on Mareks to read:'s_Disease
According to the feed store, all of their chicks are vaccinated for Mareks at the hatchery. She named a couple of hatcheries (Ideal and one other that I can't remember) and said that Mareks is 'pretty much the only thing' their chicks are vaccinated for. Our extension office put me in touch with a poultry place that I can take the chicken to where the vet will necropsy the chicken and can help us figure out if it is Marek's, another virus that is apparently going around, or something toxic in the environment they are consuming. Now, however, the sick chicken seems to be sick but stable, so we need to decide if we basically want to sacrifice the bird to see what the problem is or if we want to wait to see if another one becomes sicker.

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