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3 Reasons Your Chicken Might Be Limping

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Is one of your chickens limping or walking like it is in pain? It’s never fun to see an animal we love. Injuries are often very noticeable to people who have raised their chickens from chicks. Finding out why your chicken is limping and giving them the proper care is a priority.

Chickens can limp for various reasons. In many cases, chickens limp because of minor injuries like cuts or broken toenails. However, sometimes the limp is caused by something much more serious, like scaly mite infections.

Sometimes, basic care for your chicken is enough to get it back in full health. Other times, though, you’re going to need more serious medical intervention from a vet to heal your chicken.

hens at the farm

Getting to the bottom of why a chicken is limping is the first step to figuring out the proper treatment. Here are three of the most common reasons why your chicken might be limping. Let’s dive in.

1. Scaly Mites Can Cause Limping

Scaly mites are microscopic bugs that burrow into a chicken’s feet. They essentially dig holes and tunnels into the chicken’s feet and leave residue behind.

As a result, chickens lose feeling in their legs and, ultimately, struggle to walk.

If enough gunk builds up in its legs, your chicken won’t be able to run and will limp when it walks.

Basic signs of scaly mites include swelling, peeling skin, and frayed toes.

A scaly mite infection can be excruciating for your birds. It can also paralyze them once the infestation becomes severe enough.

Chicken soaking it's foot in water before being treated for infection

Early treatment of scaly mites is crucial.

  • If you spot scaly mites, the first thing that you should do is soak your chicken’s feet in warm water.
  • Then, once their feet are clean and softer, you can exfoliate the dead skin away.
  • Then, apply oil to the chicken’s feet to get the mites out.

If that doesn’t work, you’ll likely need help from the vet. They can prescribe medications that will rid your chicken of the problem.

This is more of a serious problem, so if you spot your chicken walking with a limp, take a look at its feet for any signs of scaly mites.

2. Injured Chickens Limp to Favor Their Hurt Leg

Hurt chickens limp when they can’t put normal weight on their hurt leg. The area can hurt and become infected, whether it’s something like a thorn under their feet or a splinter they caught in the coop.

If an infection occurs and causes swelling, it’s even more of a reason why your bird will limp.

open wound injured chicken in the free range farm

Another way a chicken might injure their legs is if they get into a fight with one of the other chickens or try to get into an area where they aren’t supposed to be.

But, unfortunately, chickens get stuck or caught in fencing and wire often, and they’ll yank their legs until they break free of whatever’s holding them.

Usually, minor injuries go away after a few days or weeks. However, if the limp persists, then it’s more cause for concern.

Observe your bird to see whether its limp is improving. If so, then you should be in the clear pretty soon. If not, however, you’ll need to schedule a visit with the vet.

3. They May Be Sick

A sick chicken may look like it’s limping because it can’t keep its balance. But on the other hand, your bird may not be limping at all but is having trouble walking in a straight line.

When a chicken is sick, the illness could affect its ability to stay balanced. As a result, it will move from side to side when it’s walking forward. In addition, it will move haltingly, which may look like a limp.

A broiler chicken is sick she has bad legs lives on a farm.

There are many reasons why a chicken may feel under the weather. They may have eaten something rotten or have been exposed to too much heat.

Some chickens get sick because they drink contaminated water. There are a lot of diseases that take down birds, and young chickens are, unfortunately, more susceptible to disease.

Checking Your Chicken for Injuries

When you see your bird limping, the first thing you’ll want to do is figure out why. Most of the time, a quick physical inspection of their feet will point you in the right direction.

If you’re a new chicken owner, you may be a bit concerned about getting that close to your chicken, especially if your birds are shy. Still, you need to take a look if you want to find out what’s wrong.

Unhealty looking chicken

Pick up your bird and secure them under one of your arms. Then, flip them onto their backs so their feet are facing forward or upward.

Usually, when chickens are in this position, they close their eyes as a coping mechanism.

You should have plenty of time now to put your hands on their feet and feel for any cuts, swelling, or broken toenails. If you can’t feel anything, your eyes may be enough to spot the issue.

Veterinarian with stethoscope holding and examining chicken on ranch background.

DIY Care vs. Veterinary Care

Simple problems are relatively easy to handle yourself. For example, you should be able to pull a splinter or pluck some thorns out of your chicken’s leg without too much trouble.

Any significant issues, like scaly mites, larger cuts, or broken legs, need a veterinarian’s attention. Schedule a visit as soon as possible to get your chicken the right care.

When you don’t know whether you should go to the vet, play it safe and go anyway.

You’ll be glad you did, even if your vet tells you it’s not a huge problem.

Final Thoughts

As chicken owners, we spend an enormous amount of time caring for our birds. When they’re in trouble with an obvious limp, it’s time to take action.

Don’t let your chickens limp around the yard or the field in pain for too long.

Get the help that you need now to get your chicken back in good health. Hopefully, your chicken will be in great shape in no time and will be romping around the grass, pecking at bugs again.


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