Hen Walks Spraddle-Legged, Tail Down

by Tracey
(Corpus Christi, Texas)


Hen Walks Spraddle-Legged, Tail Down: My production red is about 3 years old and for several months has walked very spraddle-legged.

At first I thought she was egg bound but that was not the case. She free ranges during the day and is penned at night with 14 other hens of varying ages, and a Rhode Island rooster.

All other hens are healthy a prolific layers. I have been keeping chickens for over eight years and have had a few other hens through the years sicken and die within a matter days.

I have never had more than one die within weeks or even months of each other so I never suspected contagious disease nor do I in this instance.

Her walking (waddling) seems to have become more labored, and for the last several nights she has been unable to climb to the roost. She has been roosting on the ground.

Her tail hasn't been up for months and she has had chronic diarrhea. Strangely, her appetite remains good, her daily diet consisting of scratch, lay pellets and fruit and vegetable scraps from the kitchen.

I picked her up today and her abdomen seemed unusually enlarged or swollen, yet she doesn't appear to be in any pain.

Could she have a growing tumor that is restricting her ability to walk? Would it be more humane to have her put down? Thank you.

This condition is probably caused by internal malfunctions, possibly an infection in her reproductive organs.

Not being able to see inside leaves us only able to guess. Many laying breeds of chickens are designed for two good years of production, after which time they are sold or used for food.

Some breeds and blood lines have better longevity than others. “Production Bred” chickens are designed for the most growth and egg production in the shortest amount of time.

The diarrhea may be an indication of infection, in which case antibiotics may help. Remember to support her with probiotics during and after antibiotic medications are given.

Good bacteria can be killed off during a course of antibiotics, leading to diminished digestion and malnutrition, even when eating well.

Though doing her best to keep up with the flock, tail down and inability to roost may mean she has pain or debilitating discomfort and muscle weakness.

There is a non contagious disease called: “egg peritonitis” in which eggs can get over produced, cause swelling, due to congestion of normal egg flow, and lead to infection.

Unfortunately this can only be diagnosed accurately after death with a necropsy.

This production hen has been genetically pre programmed for short lived high production. There may have been nothing you could have done to prevent this. Diet sounds good.

There could be a possibility of calcium, other minerals and vitamin deficiency, lack of exercise, insufficient proteins, or digestive problems allowing food to pass through not fully processed and vital nutrients unabsorbed.

Hope this helps. I know it’s never easy to consider putting an animal down, when not sure what the problem really is.

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