Supportive Care for Lame Bird


8 Years
Sep 20, 2014
Denver, CO
Hi! I'm not sure if this should go here or in "Managing Your Flock" so please let me know if I should repost in that forum instead.

I have a 2+ year old hen that has survived a bout with Marek's disease. (Yes, it is confirmed in my flock by multiple necropsies.) I did not euthanize her when she first showed symptoms because she was still actively eating, drinking and laying eggs and I couldn't bring myself to do it when she had such a will to live. (By the way, this is unusual for Marek's in my flock... usually they die very quickly or at least refuse food and I know that they're done living.)

Anyway, as a result, she is now lame. She is, however, making progress albeit slowly: she started out completely unable to move her legs and in the chicken splits BUT now she is pushing back on my hands when we do "chicken physical therapy", standing with balance support and even attempting to take steps.

I'm wondering, what more can I do to support her in this (hopeful) recovery? And if she doesn't ever walk again, what can I do to support her in her lameness? Presently she is in a box and a hammock - which is working really well. (She's even trying to jump out when she gets excited.) She is back with the flock in the day time (they seem to like having her back and don't bully her at all) and inside at night. She gets out of the hammock 1-2 times per day, in the dirt (which we put on her because she can't dust bathe on her own yet). I also move her legs up and down, back and forth and encourage her to push back against my hand. I have her practice standing, with support. She isn't laying right now, and she's pretty skinny, but she's spunky and making progress.
Some people use chicken slings or make wheelchairs for their disabled chickens. The hammock you are using may be similar to most slings. Do you have a picture of her in it? I had a hen last year who was unable to walk for about 5 weeks, and I kept her in a recycling basket in my coop while I fed her 3 times a day. Her food was chick feed with water, cooked egg, and canned cat food, and she got all of her liquids from feed. I supplemented with vitamins daily. She was able to stand, but then would fall over. Since spring, she has been free ranging all over my yard, but still is wobbly at times. Your hen may have Mareks, but they may also have some sort of inflammation or infection that can put pressure on the sciatic nerves. My hen did not have Mareks, so it is unclear what her problem was. Here is a good thread with pictures of slings:

Thanks so much. I am sorry I didn't get a picture of my hammock/sling this weekend. We were busy. It's basically a cloth slung across a plastic bin secured with binder clips (the big big ones) with leg holes cut in place. There are water and food cups attached to the side with more binder clamps. She doesn't drink the water from the cup but I place her close to the hanging waterer (with nipples) and she drinks from there off-and-on all day.

She also manages to turn herself 90 degrees in the direction of her week side, so I put the food where she can reach it after she turns. Goofy.

The bin is not too tall (puts her at eye level with the others) and she is getting strong enough to work her way out of the sling now - sometimes winding up under the sling stuck in the box, and other times ending up on the ground where she scoots around a bit. I am working on a top "bar"/cloth to avoid this in case she gets stuck and I don't see her all day. I let her out in the afternoon to dust bathe now but I don't want to leave her out all day because she won't have access to food and water. Or at least, not reliable access.

I love the PVC type "wheelchair" and the PVC part looks pretty easy to assemble. I have to figure out what/how to do the sling part. I like my sling right now because if she doesn't twist too much she end up pooping off the edge of it and isn't sittlng in her poop for extended periods of time. My husband wants to make her a swing, which frankly sounds easier. I may try that sometime this week.
Update: My girl, Marigold, has improved by leaps and bounds, as shown by the video progression below...(NOTE: around August 20 she began limping, by August 27 she was doing chicken splits. Here she is a week ago and today)

October 17

October 18 - you can notice a big difference in even one day - a week prior to this video she couldn't eat standing up, but here she is not only eating (a piece of lettuce), she is shaking her head. :celebrate

Today, October 26

I find it interesting that she puts her left foot directly in front of her right foot when she's walking so she's definitely still progressing in the healing process but MAN what a difference from the chicken splits!

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