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Why Is My Chicken Limping? 6 Most Common Reasons!

Chickens are usually seen running all around the yard. It may then be surprising and even concerning to see one of the members of the flock hobbling around. You ask yourself, “Why is my chicken limping?” Well, there happen to be several common reasons to consider. Sometimes, the limping is caused by an injury, but it can also be a symptom of disease.

You may need to conduct some detective work to uncover the exact reason why your chicken is limping, but this article will help you get started.

dominant red barred chicken looking for food in the garden with grass

How Do Chickens Limp?

In chickens, a limp is more than favoring one leg. If a chicken is doing any of the following, something is wrong:

  • Favoring a leg when moving
  • Standing on a single leg with the opposite foot tucked up
  • Sitting on hocks and not standing on feet
  • Curled or twisted toes
  • Splayed or spradled legs
  • Wobbling movements
  • Walking crookedly
  • One leg dragging

See how it looks in this video:

Now let’s take a look at the reasons.

1. Nutritional Deficiencies

One of the most common reasons behind a chicken’s limp is nutritional deficiency. When your chickens are not eating properly, then they are not going to be able to function either. Young and growing chickens, in particular, need the appropriate amount of food. Furthermore, if you are giving your chickens foods that are not nutrient-dense, they may struggle to get the right balance of nutrients. Treats should not make up anymore than 10% of a chicken’s daily diet.

Here are some deficiencies that lead to limping:

  • Perosis (dislocation of the hock joint) – caused by a lack of phosphorus and calcium
  • Rickets – calcium deficiency
  • Soft bones and lameness – lack of vitamin D3
  • Weak hocks – riboflavin deficiency

2. Injuries

Chickens can be klutzy. Sometimes they fall from their high roosts in the coop. Chicks may stumble and twist an ankle. They step on one another, run around the yard frantically, and do other things that can cause a tendon to slip. If you suspect that your chicken has a broken bone, sprain or strain, it is best to visit a veterinarian. They will be able to better test the chicken to see what is wrong.

Another injury that affects larger breeds of chickens is a dislocated hip. This can be problematic. Sometimes chickens die from this, but if you can brace the hip and help them move around, your chicken will recover with time.

chickens standing in sawdust

3. Poisons or Toxins

Sometimes the limping is caused by a neurological problem. Usually, this is the direct result of your chicken coming into contact with bacteria, mold, poisonous plants, chemicals, or metals. For example, if you chicken happens to eat green tomatoes or avocado, they may become very ill. Toxins and poisons will make your chickens seem depressed and lame. Their wings will be held away from the body as they wobble on weak legs.

4. Spraddle Leg

Spraddle leg is a common deformity in young chicks. It is caused by a tendon in the leg that slips out of place. The chick will lose control of its leg, forcing it to rest flat on its stomach rather than standing. Why does this happen? The bottom of the incubator is slippery, and so when a chick slides, they can be injured. You can prevent this from happening by purchasing some shelf liner. The chicks will have better traction.

Treating a spradled leg often requires bracing the legs of the chick with rubber bands or bandages. Once their legs are pulled under them, they can usually stand up and walk around enough to strengthen their wounded leg.

The video below shows you how to treat spraddle leg effectively:

5. Diseases

Chickens are hardy creatures, but they can be affected by disease, just like humans.

Marek’s Disease

There are a couple forms of Marek’s disease, but the most common strain attacks young chickens between 10 and 25 weeks old. Some birds will become permanently paralyzed by this disease, so try to get them veterinary care before it is too late.


One of the most common reasons behind a chicken’s limp is a bacterial infection known as bumblefoot. Starting as a wound on the foot, dirt and other substances get inside. Bacteria can also enter, forming a huge ball of fluid and pus. It can be difficult to treat once it starts to grow, but chickens who receive antibiotics usually make a full recovery.

Watch this video on how to get rid of this ailment:

Tenosynovitis (Viral Arthritis)

A virus that attacks the legs and hocks, making them swollen and inflamed. Growing chickens are often affected. Unfortunately, there is no treatment for viral arthritis. You will have to separate the chicken and give it plenty of TLC. Viral arthritis will weaken your chicken’s immunity, but they will not die from this disease directly. Keep their area clean and provide them with fresh food and water regularly. Your chicken will pull through.

Keep their area clean and provide them with fresh food and water regularly.

Staphylococcal Arthritis

This bacterial disease can be caused by a cause of bumblefoot but also affects older hens. You will notice that your bird’s legs are puffy with pus and hot to the touch. Penicillin is required for treatment.

Scaly Leg Mites

Your chicken’s limp may be caused by leg mites that bury into the scales of the feet. The scales become inflamed and start to bleed. Sometimes, scaly leg mites cause horrible infections, leading to limping and lethargy. To treat scaly leg mites, coat your chicken’s legs and feet in petroleum jelly, as that will suffocate the mites.

6. Frostbite

Depending on where you live, frostbite may be a threat to your flock. In areas that commonly receive snow, frostbite is always a risk. Chickens who get frostbite will end up favoring their injured feet, which could cause a limp. If you notice that your chickens’ feet are frostbitten, place them in warm — not hot — water along with some Epsom salt. Once their feet are less cool, wrap them in some gauze. Do this to each individual toe.

Sometimes, a chicken’s frostbitten toes will become infected. You may need to go to a veterinarian to get an antibiotic. The worst case scenario is that the frostbite causes your chicken’s toes to fall off or go gangrenous.

Final Thoughts on Why Chickens Limp

There are many reasons why your chicken may be limping around the yard. If you notice that your chicken is hobbling around, don’t worry. There is a very good chance that your chicken just needs some medical care. So long as you treat the cause of the limp, they will be back to normal in no time.