Older hen with strange symptoms


Free Ranging
17 Years
Jan 26, 2007
central Ohio
This is just a weird thing that I have never seen before, I was just curious if anyone had any input. We have a five year old mixed breed hen who has hatched many broods for us over the years and she still lays regularly. She's been a little lame lately, and when it started getting worse, and her tail started to drop, I decided to catch her to evaluate her. She's got two little marks on her right foot, which is the sore one, but no swelling or inflammation that I can find anywhere, so I'm not sure if it's bumblefoot starting, or not. Her claws are extremely long and sort of soft. Her weight is excellent, she's bright eyed, eats well. She seems to be walking a little better since she's been in confinement for two days, and we've had her on two baby aspirins a day, for pain, and Vitamins/ Electrolytes in her water. She's carrying her tail upright again now. I haven't tried to soak her foot or anything yet. She's been in a tractor during the day so she's got sunshine and soft footing to walk on. But she wants out, of course, and is probably a little stressed at being confined. Today she laid TWO eggs...a normal one, and a soft shelled one. It was totally soft shelled. I looked it up and found that this could be from age, stress, or calcium deficiency, all possibilities because I haven't been giving the flock layer for a bit because we have some very young pullets running with the flock that are too young to have layer, so the flock has been foraging and they have Purina Flock Raiser and mixed grain. So I will make sure she's getting some oyster shell, but I just wondered if maybe calcium deficiency could cause lameness, and possibly the soft claws also? And what would cause her to lay two eggs in the same day? Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated, thank you.
I would think stress caused the soft shelled egg. Being confined when she's used to being free would be stressful.

Some of my older hens develop arthritis in their legs and back, so perhaps she's got some starting. Older hens also occasionally need their nails trimmed too, so I would do that to see if it helps.
Reproductive disorders can cause a hen to be lame. It's possible with her age she may have Peritonitis. Soft shelled eggs can be very hard to expel, so it was more than likely inside and then the hard shell egg helped to push it out.

I use Flock Raiser all year for my adult, supplementing calcium with oyster shell. Since she is older she may not be absorbing the calcium like she should. Try offering her some poultry vitamins and give extra calcium- there are a few easy ways to do this - crush a Tums and add it to her feed (sprinkle on a treat;)), give her a daily dose of liquid calcium (1cc - or read your label) or give 1/2 tab of Calcium Carbonate (like Caltrate) daily until she starts to lay hard shelled eggs.

If she seems to be doing ok, eating/drinking pooping well (no signs of stress while pooping), give her another day with some extra attention, then let her back with the others and see how it goes.

Just my thoughts - I hope she gets better.
In an older hen, I agree it could be arthritis, but the tail down posture usually indicates troubles with the egg tract.

Your layers should be getting calcite grit or oyster shell if they are not on layer. I prefer the calcite grit as it seems to be absorbed better by my birds, who are also on all flock as I've got a lot of ages ranging together right now.

Low calcium could also cause some lameness...it can cause muscle cramping and aches as well as small bone fractures, common in cage layers.

She also might have strained the leg a bit jumping off the roost.

Wyorp Rock gave you all good suggestions. Follow those and reassess in a few days. Watch for any more tail drop. If she does limp with tail drop, especially in a penguin posture, that is a sure sign of egg binding or duct issues.

Hopefully a few days of TLC and calcium support will set her right.

Thank you all. We also had a sudden heat episode here and I learned that can also cause soft shell eggs. She seems to be doing great. I have had her on vitamins all this time, as well as the aspirin, and today I switched her to B & K vitamins. I also bought her her own layer feed, plus oyster shell, today, and she ate everything. She does not seem to be limping at all now, but we are going to keep her confined for another day, and plan to release her on Sunday. Yes, I will trim her claws, I had to wait for my son to get home to help me do that, so we will do that on Sunday before we let her go. We do usually have oyster shell for the flock but ran out, and since they free range, usually they get quite a bit of calcium that way, but the flock will get oyster shell too now that I finally have more. Do you think I should give her additional calcium supplement with the Tums, or is the layer feed enough? I don't think she laid an egg today. I will make sure the flock has calcite grit for future needs. thanks for all the info, we've never had a hen lay a soft shell egg..that I have ever seen anyway...let alone two in one day!
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