Why Do Chickens Stand on One Leg

Why Do Chickens Stand on One Leg? (3 Reasons)

Have you noticed one or more of your chickens standing on one leg? It looks odd at first, doesn’t it? Almost like they are performing some kind of bird yoga.

It’s perfectly normal behavior though. More so for other birds, like flamingos and ducks. But not it’s not that uncommon for chickens to stand on one leg too.

There are a few reasons that might be behind this behavior. If you’re seeing it for the first time, I recommend reading through the following explanations below.

It’s best that you try to determine why your chickens are doing it to be on the safe side.

Why Do Chickens Stand on One Leg? 3 Reasons

There are three core reasons why birds, in general, stand or sleep on one leg:

Warmth

This is nearly always going to be the reason why your chicken is tucking one leg up into their body while standing.

Birds’ bodies are perfectly designed to keep them warm. Depending on the species or breed, they have feathers, plumage, down, and other forms of fluffy and warm coats to keep them warm.

Their legs, however, are often exposed. They don’t have feathers on, are thin, and they’ll often be standing on the damp or cold ground.

To warm up their legs, their options are limited. All they can really do is bring it up and tuck it in against their bodies that are much warmer.

According to Birdnote.org, birds’ legs are designed as such that the arteries transporting warm blood are close to the veins that return cold blood to the heart.

By simply tucking one leg in close to their bodies, it’s believed they reduce the amount of heat lost through their legs by at least half.

So, if it’s chilly out and your notice your flock tucking a leg in, you know they’re doing to keep a little warmer

And who can blame them!

They’ve Injured Their Foot or Leg

Chicken with injured bumblefoot

The reason you need to investigate as to why your chickens are standing around on one leg is in case they’ve injured themselves.

Some common foot or leg-related problems that can cause a chicken not to rest their foot on the ground includes:

Bumblefoot – This is a bacterial infection that is pretty common for chickens and some other birds.

Also called “sore socks”, bumblefoot will usually cause swelling and inflammation that is obviously very painful. If your chick can’t even bear to put their foot down they need some attention asap.

Broken Toes or Toenail Injuries – Chickens have tiny fragile bones in their feet, something as simple as getting caught up in a bit of chicken wire can cause a broken toe.

If it’s too painful to stand on, it’ll cause the same reaction as an infection like bumblefoot. The treatment required is quite different though, you might have to get it splinted.

Scaly Leg Mites – Scaly leg mites are caused by little parasites that live in the ground. They make their way onto a chicken’s leg, then burrow under their scales causing great discomfort.

If left untreated it can be painful for a chicken and they might lift their leg due to the discomfort.

Related How to deal with poultry lice.

Comfort/Resting

Sometimes, lifting a leg might feel comfortable for a chicken or they might be doing it to get some much-needed rest.

It’s hard being on your feet most of the day, especially scratching around on rough terrain.

Who are we to judge if this is how a chicken chooses to relax, right? If you own chickens, you’ll know they develop their own personalities and have their own little habits.

What to Do If Your Chicken Is Standing on One Leg

What to Do If Your Chicken Is Standing on One Leg

As I mentioned, there are some possible injuries that might be the reason why a chicken isn’t resting their foot on the ground.

For this reason, you have to check they are not nursing any injuries. You won’t always see visible signs of injury, they may have sprained a joint or damaged a muscle.

Just make them walk a little to make sure they can put weight on their feet. If you’ve disturbed them and they were clearly just resting their leg, say “sorry” and tell them you’ll know in future that they’re fine!

In Summary

It’s not that uncommon to see a chicken standing on one leg, especially in cold weather. Don’t panic if you witness this yourself, but I do recommend you check that there are no health issues.

Resources

Image credits – Photos by Tuân Nguyễn Minh, Andrea Junqueira, and a fei on Unsplash