There’s nothing quite like seeing your hens and roosters strutting around the coop or run, marching about like they own the place!
Having happy, healthy chickens can put a smile on any chicken owner’s face, but what do you do when that strut no longer happens?
A common issue that many chicken owners face is dealing with birds who have dislocated legs.
The good news is that a chicken dislocated leg situation is nothing to panic about.
While this can sometimes be a dangerous situation, it is fairly easy to prevent and there are treatment options available.
In this post, we’ll take a closer look at the potential causes, symptoms, and treatment options, so you can get your chickens back up and running (literally) in no time.
What Causes Dislocated Legs in Chickens?
There are a few ways your chickens can dislocate their legs. Here are a few of the most common causes:
Trying to Fit Through Small Spaces
As we all know, chickens are naturally curious and exploratory creatures.
As such, they may try to squeeze through small spaces in coops or runs that are not designed for their size, resulting in leg injuries.
This can include attempting to fit through narrow doorways or gaps in fencing that aren’t meant for their body shape.
Another potential culprit that can lead to a dislocated leg is jumping. Chickens are quite excitable and often jump up and down in their pens or runs.
When they hop down off the perch in the morning, this can also be problematic, especially if you don’t have the perches or roost installed at the right height.
In most cases, this is harmless fun for the birds, but if they land awkwardly or on an uneven surface, it can result in a dislocated leg.
Leg Getting Caught on Something (Like Wire)
Chickens may also tend to get their legs caught on objects such as wire, nails, or other sharp edges in their environment.
This can occur when trying to navigate around obstacles or when simply exploring their surroundings.
While this usually just leads to small scratches and scrapes, major run-ins can lead to breaks or dislocation.
Getting Stepped on or Crushed by Other Birds
As much as we love them, chickens aren’t the most agile—and they can easily get stepped on or crushed by other birds in their coop or run.
This can lead to serious injuries, including dislocated legs.
Catching Chickens by the Legs
Another common cause of dislocated legs in chickens is improper handling.
It can be tempting to catch chickens by their legs, as it seems like an easy way to pick them up. It immobilizes them and, when they’re turned upside down, often calms them.
However, this can put a lot of stress on their joints and potentially lead to dislocation.
Of course, predator attacks can sometimes lead to dislocated legs in chickens.
If a predator has gotten ahold of one of our chickens and tried to bring it down, it may result in a dislocated leg, especially if the predator tried to drag a chicken through a too-small opening (like a gap in a fence).
While this doesn’t necessarily cause dislocations in and of themselves, another factor that can contribute to the issues is genetic predispositions, a common issue in broiler chickens.
Some breeds may be more prone to this condition due to their genetics—they might not have strong joints or bones.
So when an injury does occur, they’re more likely to suffer from a dislocated leg as a result, where another breed might be completely fine.
Obesity can also be a contributing factor to dislocated legs in chickens.
If your chickens’ diet contains too many high-calorie treats and not enough nutrients, the excess weight can put pressure on their legs and joints, causing them to become dislocated.
When chickens don’t have enough space to move around and stretch, they can develop muscle weakness, making them more prone to injuries.
They’re also more likely to fight with each other, which, again, can cause leg injuries.
Like certain genetic predispositions, nutritional deficiencies can also lead to dislocated legs.
Chickens require a balanced diet with the right mix of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to maintain healthy bones and joints.
If they’re not getting enough of these essential nutrients, their legs can become weak and prone to dislocation.
Difference Between a Dislocated Leg and a Broken Leg
If you’re someone who raises chickens, you need to know the difference between a dislocated leg and a broken leg.
This knowledge can help you provide the correct treatment to your feathered friends, which can improve their chances of healing and returning to their normal activities.
In general, a dislocated leg is when the leg joint gets pulled out of its socket. On the other hand, a broken leg is when the bone is fractured or broken.
Although the symptoms of both conditions may appear similar, there are some visible differences.
If a chicken’s leg is dislocated, it will usually hang or dangle from the hip joint, leaving it unable to support its weight and move around properly.
Compared to a broken leg, the dislocated leg may appear swollen, and you may also hear a popping or clicking sound when you handle the affected leg.
Broken legs, however, will cause the chicken’s leg to appear shorter than the other and may even be twisted or bent at an unnatural angle.
The chicken may also experience extreme pain and discomfort, leading to an unwillingness to stand or move around.
You may even see the bone itself popping out from the leg area.
What Are the Risks of Not Treating a Dislocated Leg?
As a chicken owner, it’s important to keep an eye on your flock’s health.
If left untreated, a dislocated leg can lead to serious complications for your bird and even put its life in danger.
So, what exactly are the risks of not treating a dislocated leg in your chicken?
First and foremost—and perhaps most obviously—a dislocated leg can cause your bird to experience a lot of pain and discomfort.
If your chicken can’t move around properly, it may not be able to access food and water, which can lead to dehydration and malnourishment.
Furthermore, a dislocated leg that goes untreated can cause long-term damage to your bird’s joints, muscles, and ligaments.
This can lead to chronic pain and mobility issues and even make the bird more vulnerable to future injuries.
If a chicken can’t move around properly, it also becomes more vulnerable to threats from predators and even other chickens, who will target the injured animal and peck it mercilessly (or sometimes even cannibalize it).
In some cases, a dislocated leg that isn’t treated can even lead to a life-threatening infection.
If your chicken is unable to keep the dislocated joint clean and free of dirt and other contaminants, it can become infected and spread throughout the bird’s system.
So, as a responsible chicken owner, it’s critical to address a dislocated leg as soon as possible.
Signs of Dislocated Legs in Chickens
Now that you know the causes and dangers of a chicken dislocated leg situation, here are some signs that this is the specific problem you’re dealing with.
Squatting Instead of Walking
One of the first signs you may notice is your chicken squatting instead of walking.
This is a pretty obvious indication of pain or discomfort.
Another common sign is a high temperature. If you suspect your chicken has a fever along with other symptoms like the ones we’ll discuss below, it’s best to consult with a veterinarian.
If your chicken is running a fever, that means its body is trying to fight off an infection or heal an injury, and the dislocated leg could be to blame for this.
Hopping, Limping, and Swelling
Hopping is another sign of a possible dislocated leg. Your chicken may be trying to avoid pressure on the affected leg.
Swelling is also an indicator, usually caused by fluids building up around the joint.
Limping is another sign to look out for, as it could indicate a dislocated leg or other injury.
Loss of Appetite or a Drop in Egg Production
Loss of appetite is another indication of discomfort and pain.
And if you notice a drop in egg production, it could be due to the pain and stress the chicken is experiencing.
How to Treat a Chicken With a Dislocated Leg
So your chicken has a dislocated leg. Very sorry to hear that! So what do you do next?
Ultimately, the most important thing is to act quickly and immediately.
Treating a dislocated leg can be tricky, but with proper care and attention, your chicken can make a full recovery.
Here are some steps you can take:
Isolate the Chicken from the Others
The first step in treating a chicken with a dislocated leg is to isolate it from the rest of the flock.
This will not only prevent other chickens from accidentally injuring the bird, but it will also reduce stress and allow the bird to rest and heal.
Make Sure It’s Getting Enough Food and Water
During the recovery period, it’s important to monitor the chicken’s food and water intake.
Make sure the bird has access to plenty of fresh water and feed them a healthy diet that’s high in protein to promote healing.
Use Splints or Wet Wraps
To immobilize the dislocated leg, you can use splints or wet wraps. These can be made from a variety of materials, including popsicle sticks, cotton bandages, and even tape.
Be sure to wrap the leg snugly, but not too tightly, and check on it regularly to make sure it’s not rubbing or causing discomfort.
Contact a Vet
If the dislocation is severe or your chicken isn’t showing signs of improvement (or, of course, if you’re not comfortable treating the injured leg at home), it’s always best to consult with a veterinarian.
They can provide additional advice and may even suggest surgery to help your chicken heal.
Cull as a Last Resort
In severe cases where the chicken is suffering and is unlikely to recover, euthanasia may be necessary as a last resort.
This decision should only be made after consulting with a veterinarian and considering all other options.
Tips to Prevent Chicken Dislocated Leg in the Future
So how do you prevent your chicken from hurting its legs in the first place?
While you can’t always control every single little thing, there are a few general precautions you can take.
First, remember that one of the primary reasons why chickens can experience dislocated legs is because of crowded living spaces.
Make sure that your chickens have enough space to move around comfortably and exercise.
A good rule of thumb is to provide at least two to three square feet of space per chicken inside a coop and even more space in outdoor runs.
Believe it or not, the food you feed your chickens can also impact their leg health.
Feeding your chickens a healthy diet that is rich in nutrients (such as calcium, protein, and vitamins) will help keep their bones strong and their legs healthy.
Avoid feeding your chickens too many treats or scraps, as this can throw off their nutritional balance.
Also, be gentle while handling your birds. While it’s important to handle your chickens regularly, whether it’s for routine wing trimming or basic health checks, it’s also important to be gentle when doing so.
Rough handling can cause leg injuries or dislocations, so make sure to pick them up carefully and avoid excessive twisting or pulling.
Remember, too, that dirty living conditions can lead to a buildup of bacteria and other harmful substances.
This can weaken your chickens’ immune systems and make them more susceptible to injuries.
Make sure to clean out your coop regularly and provide fresh bedding for your chickens to rest on. This will give them a nice cushion to make leg injuries less common.
Chicken Dislocated Leg: Before You Go…
There are many reasons why your chicken could have a dislocated leg. And it’s one of the worst things that could happen to your birds.
Aside from the pain, your chickens won’t be able to do their daily activities like they used to. That even includes tending to their basic needs like food and water.
Fortunately, we can help our chickens alleviate the pain and feel a little better.
By following these tips and treating your chicken with patience and compassion, your feathered friends can return to their feet in no time.
Now that you have this advice, you’ve got a real leg up as a chicken keeper—quite literally!