If it's obvious that one of your chickens has injured its leg, you need to investigate and find out just how serious the injury is.
Chickens are hardy creatures - but on occasion, they will break or dislocate a leg, and need some medical attention.
In this article, I'm going to explain how you can tell if a chicken has a broken leg, and how to help fix it and provide the care they need:
How to Tell if a Chicken Has a Broken Leg
If you suspect that your chicken has a broken leg, there are a few things you can look for to confirm your suspicions.
First, check to see if the leg is held at an abnormal angle. It's not always going to be the case, but fractures can result in the leg visibly bending at an unnatural angle.
Second, check for swelling or bruising around the injury site. There will almost certainly be swelling if the bone is broken.
Third, try to move the joint above and below the break. If there is no movement, or if the movement is very limited, it is likely that the bone is indeed broken.
Finally, check for any open wounds as an infection is also a serious concern.
If you find any of these signs, it is best to consult a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Chickens with broken legs will not be able to walk properly, may get picked on by other chickens in the flock, and their health is going to deteriorate quickly.
Related - Reasons why chickens lay down all the time.
What Do You Do for a Chicken With an Injured Leg?
If you have determined that your chicken has a broken leg, there are a few things you can do to help.
First, if the break is open, clean the wound with hydrogen peroxide or Betadine. You should then make a splint with two small pieces of wood to stabilize the leg and then bandage it up to keep out infection.
Second, give the chicken some pain relief. You can either buy over-the-counter pain relief medication from your veterinarian or human pharmacy, or you can make your own remedy.
A simple concoction of apple cider vinegar and water will do - three tablespoons of vinegar to one quart of water. Soak your chicken's leg in this mixture for about 10 minutes twice a day.
Third, set up a temporary pen for the chicken so it can't move around too much and further damage the leg or be picked on by other chickens.
This video shows you how to create a simple brace and care for your chicken:
How Do You Make a Chicken Leg Brace?
If you want to make a leg brace or add split supports to your chicken's broken leg, there are just a couple of things you will need:
- Two small pieces of wood (or PVC pipe)
- Some bandages
All you have to do is cut the two pieces of wood to be the same size and place one on either side of the leg on top of the first layer of bandaging.
Then simply wrap the leg with another bandage or dressing to keep the supports in place.
Make sure it's not too tight, else your chicken might develop a pressure sore. You're just looking to keep the splints in place and add some stability to the leg.
Take the dressing off each day to check how the leg is healing, then apply clean bandages if needed and reuse the splints.
How Long Does It Take for a Chicken Leg to Heal?
It can take anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks for a chicken's leg to heal properly, depending on the severity of the break.
If you have to make a brace or use split supports, it will be more comfortable but might take longer as the chicken won't be able to put any weight on the injured leg.
You'll have to monitor your chicken closely during this time and if there are any signs that the injury is not healing properly.
It's certainly a lot quicker than how we recover from a broken bone - and chickens complain a lot less during the recovery process, too!
How Do Chickens Break or Injure Their Legs?
There are a few ways chickens can break their legs, but the most common type of injury is when they get stepped on or pecked by another chicken.
Other, more serious causes can include:
- Falling off a perch or ladder
- Escaping and getting stuck in fencing
- Getting run over by a vehicle or something that moves
- And, sometimes it's just a complete mystery
If you keep your chickens in a pen or coop, make sure it is escape-proof and that there are no exposed wires or nails that could potentially injure them.
And always be careful when driving around your property or walking amongst your hens, too - it's worth slowing down and watching where you step.
Chickens have a lot of tiny bones in their feet, and their leg bones are also pretty fragile.
If you see one of your chickens limping, hopping, or walking funny in any way, you should inspect their legs for any signs of injury.
If you discover they’ve broken their leg, try not to panic.
It’s not difficult to deal with most fractures. A bandage, some splints, and a lot of care and attention and you’ll be able to nurse your chicken back to full health pretty quickly!