My Poor Little Crippled Chicken! Any Ideas?

Advertisement Purina Flock Layer


7 Years
Jan 27, 2015
Redding, California
Hi! This is my first year keeping chickens. At present, I have five laying hens, sixteen pullets, four roosters, and my poor little favorite, who is a crippled Polish hen/pullet.

She came to me in (I believe) late January, as one of five sick Polish (three females, two males) chickens that I was given to nurse, because their savior, a local rescue goddess, did not have time to care for them. They were all in fairly sad shape when they arrived, such that I did not notice that one "hen" had different symptoms. However, as the rest improved, my little girl began to stand out. Or, rather, she did NOT stand ... anywhere. She could not get to her feet, and would simply lie around, splay-legged, and flop toward food and water when she had to. I was told when she came that she was likely about a year old. I realize now that she was much younger. I have kept one of the roosters that came with her (the other three re-homed), and he has doubled in size since their arrival. She has grown too, but not nearly as much. Because he has begun to mount her, I conclude that puberty has set in.

Some research here and elsewhere first led me to believe that she had been hatched splay-legged, and the problem had been ignored. I was, and continue to be, amazed at the will to survive that she must have, to have gotten this far in life! I am no longer convinced that she has had this problem life-long, but even the four months that I have had her would have done many critters in, I believe.

At any rate, I approached the problem the way you folks said I should handle such a chick, were one to be born. I have some elastic, sticky, vet wrap. I make a set of "shackles" for her, to keep her legs more-or-less under her. This has made a big difference, most of the time. On her "good" days, she can stand up tall (which she delights in doing), and can hobble slowly around the yard. Sadly, her "bad" days see her unable even to balance. She simply flops over on her side, unless I prop her on both sides with cushions, or rolled towels, or whatever.

My husband, a life-long stockman, has twice given her itty-bitty shots of LA300. These seem to perk her up for a week or two at a time. Then the gradual decline begins again. For the first two months she was here, she had repeated doses (a week at a time) of the water-soluble antibiotic. These treatments seemed to have no effect whatsoever. Her appetite is excellent. In fact, because she so often flops out of reach of food and water, she usually dives into both the minute I return them to her. I question her eyesight, because she often misses her mark, when she jabs for a bit of food. I thought it might just be her poufy feathers, but I have trimmed them a bit, and she still seems to have trouble gauging the distance from beak to bite.

I have absolutely fallen in love with this chicken! If I could afford it, I would have had her at the vet long ago. As it is, I have taken to simply keeping her with me, as often as possible. I made a sling, like they make for human infants, and she sometimes will tolerate riding in that, though it seems to leave her feeling too unstable. She prefers to be tucked under my arm, like a handbag. I wouldn't mind this, but it makes working with cows, doing chores, etc. a bit awkward. She sleeps in a box, on my nightstand, much to my husband's chagrin. He says she stinks. I say that it is all in his mind. He is likely right, she does stink a bit ... but so do the gaseous emissions of our pugs, and they get to stay in.

My little bird gets nearly no exercise, and unless she is riding with me, she spends her time alone, crouched into herself, or ducking and dodging the mean, bullying assaults by the rest of our flock. Only her rooster is loyal, but this new "romantic" behavior seems a bit overwhelming for her.

So, wise ones, any ideas what this might be? That awful Marek's disease? The symptoms do not quite fit... plus, shouldn't she have recovered or died of it by now? Any insight, suggestion, correction or referral you might be able to offer will be most appreciated. This little lady is such a fighter! If she can be helped, or perhaps cured, she sure deserves it. Thank you much!


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