Ask the Expert: Feet & Legs
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Do Leg Bands Hurt?
My Polish hen (Queen) has a very long spur that circled back up and grew into her leg. I feel really bad about this because I never noticed it before. I can’t pull it loose and don’t want to pull very hard, as I’m afraid of hurting her. Is there anything I can do at this late date for her? Does it hurt her? Can a vet help her?
Kris Haywood, Michigan
Depending on a few things, you may be able to deal with this yourself. The spur can grow into the leg and cause problems, so it probably should be removed. Without seeing it, I’m going to assume a few things, but I think I can picture it.
If there is room to get a cutter in the loop of the spur, I would try to cut the spur off toward its base. Once that is loose, then I think it should pull out of the grown-in area. Get a good sharp pruning shears and try to cut it without crushing the spur. I’d probably try to cut about ½- to ¾-inch from the leg. Hopefully, this will be far enough out so it doesn’t bleed. If it does, some styptic powder will help stop any bleeding. It should stop fairly quickly. Another option, if you can’t get a cutter through the circle, would be to use a hacksaw and cut the spur. Again, I’d try to get out away from the leg, and cut through the spur.
Obviously, you’ll probably need a helper to hold the bird while doing this.
I would guess that she will be okay and this shouldn’t cause any long-term damage and she’ll be fine, but it probably should be removed.
I have two chicks. One is six months old (Jush), and the other is three months old (Jordy). They have the same father and perhaps the same mother. When Jush was about three months or so, she started limping like she had hurt her foot, and also was uncoordinated, staggering a little. Little by little the limp and stagger became more pronounced.
After a couple weeks, she was dragging her leg behind her, and for a month or two, the leg was useless. She hopped around using her wings for balance. Slowly, she began to get the use of the leg again. I had examined her leg on several occasions and found no external injuries. The muscle on her thigh was thinner than the good leg. Now she walks with a slight limp and is otherwise fine. A few days ago, I noticed Jordy starting the same limp and stagger. What is going on?
I have plenty of other chickens and chicks and no issues. Everyone gets their feed, scratch grain, and they also free range for a few hours a day. They also get rice or pasta from time to time.
Thank you for your help. This one has me stumped.
Stephanie Albino, Retired — U.S. Navy
The age of these chickens and the symptoms you mentioned immediately make me think of Marek’s disease. This is a viral disease that causes paralysis of the nerves, especially the nerves of the legs. Generally, however, chickens don’t recover from this. There seems to be a great variation in the susceptibility to this disease among different chickens, so I guess it makes some sense that some might be able to recover. There are also different strains of the virus, so it may be that this is not a very virulent strain.
Of course, it could be something else, and I can’t really diagnose this from an email message. For a firm diagnosis, you’d need to contact an avian veterinarian or your state veterinary diagnostic lab. There is a great deal of research that has shown different levels of susceptibility to Marek’s disease in different genetic strains of chickens, so I would not be surprised that you might see this in related chickens. I have known some flock owners (with specific breeds of chickens) that had very high mortality from Marek’s if they didn’t vaccinate. Other breeds of chickens don’t seem to have as much trouble.
I know the next question will be, “What breeds?” I don’t think it’s so much specific breeds as it is specific strains within a breed. So, one person might have a line of Plymouth Rocks that are very susceptible, while another might have Plymouth Rocks that are not.
If this is the cause of the problems, you can vaccinate day-old chicks. If you are buying chicks from a hatchery, I would suggest paying the extra cost to have them vaccinated. If you are hatching your own, you can purchase vaccine and do it yourself. The vaccine usually comes in 1,000-dose packages, and it is only good for an hour or so after making it up, so you might want to group your hatches accordingly. The vaccination is to be given subcutaneously, so it’s fairly simple to inject under the loose skin on the back of the neck.
Again, there could be something else causing this, but this would seem like the most likely thing.
My flock has a major problem with crooked toes that doesn’t appear until 3 months of age. I raise about 150 chicks each year in three standard breeds. I have no problem with my incubator. Chicks are healthy when they are born and hatch on day 20 and 21. My breeders are fed Purina layer feed with extra vitamins (Red Cell and probiotics) in the water and wheat germ and cod liver oil in their feed. The chicks are also fed Purina chick starter and flock raiser after six to seven weeks. They also get the Red Cell and probiotics daily. I hatch in November through January, so the weather is cold in Wisconsin but my coop is heated. I use pine wood shavings as bedding. I clean the cement floor about once every two weeks and usually have one to three inches of litter on the floor. Can too many vitamins be a problem? I just sold 14 Australorps, one Black Spanish, and one Standard Salmon Faverolle, all with crooked toes. It is a bigger problem with my Australorps than the Spanish and Faverolles. Every two years I introduce a new breeder male but the problem continues.
What else can I do?
Thank you for the detailed description of your management. That helps give a good picture of the situation.
I could not find any reports of excess vitamins causing this problem. Generally, excess B vitamins (including riboflavin) are just excreted by the bird, so excesses aren’t generally a problem. I do think there is a possibility that different minerals could be interfering with proper bone growth, but I don’t think crooked toes would be the most common sign. I think you’d see more problems with rickets (soft bones), perosis (slipped tendon), or improper bone growth.
I think the first thing I would look at are brooding conditions. In some old research I found, cool brooding tempera-tures caused in increase in curled toes. Other popular press books mention this, too. One study, for example, started the chicks out at about 95 degrees F, but lowered it about 8 degrees per week, rather than the 5 we would suggest, so that by week 4, the conditions were quite cool (about 70 degrees F).
They showed a significant increase in leg abnormalities, and in curled toes, specifically. Some have suggested that this may be the chicks are struggling to get under a heat source, and this causes strain on the toes. Another suggestion is that cooler temperatures restrict blood flow, and that this interferes with proper mineral metabolism. Either way, the end result is that there is an increase in leg abnormalities.
So I guess I’d encourage you to try to increase the heat (or possibly the area that is being warmed) when brooding. Hopefully, that will solve the problem.
The foot of one of our Leghorns seems to be swollen and when it walks it limps on that foot to the next. I was wondering what it is and if there is something that I can do to help prevent its spreading (if it spreads through contact), and heal it.
Jay Anderson, Iowa
Your chicken has a case of bumblefoot. This is a fairly common chicken issue, but it does need to be treated. This is a bacterial infection (often from Staph. aureus). It usually causes a solid core (often called “cheese-like material”). The biggest problem is that this core needs to be removed for the foot to heal up. You’ll probably need to cut it open (on the bottom of the foot) enough to get this core out. Once that is done, you’ll need to clean it up. You can use some hydrogen peroxide for this.
Once this is done, it’s best to try and keep her in a fairly clean environment for a few days. If you can put her in an area with some clean shavings, this will work well. Chickens usually heal very well, so it should get better quickly. Some people try to wrap the foot, but it doesn’t usually work very well. Don’t continue to use the hydrogen peroxide since it can damage the new tissue as it’s healing.
Bumblefoot often occurs after some other trauma. Large birds jumping down from a high perch might cause some damage, or they may get a small cut or splinter of wood in the foot. Staphylococcus bacteria are nearly everywhere, but don’t usually cause a problem until it can gain entry through a cut or injury like this.
I would start treating your chicken as soon as possible so it doesn’t get any worse.
I have three three-week-old chicks. This is only the second batch of chicks I have raised.
I am concerned about my Black Australorp pullet chick. Her toes are badly crooked, bending outward and even somewhat backward and twisted, with the claws on their sides. They were not like this when I first got her as a day old chick. The other two chicks (white Plymouth Rock and Gold Star) do not have this problem.
She seems to be getting around okay, and doing well otherwise, but I am still concerned about this. I have searched the internet for help, and most seem to suggest taping or splinting crooked toes for a period of time to get them back to straight. I’m hesitant to try this, and am concerned I may cause other problems. I would appreciate your feedback. What, if anything should I do? If I do nothing, how will she do as an adult hen? Also, what causes this?
Please provide guidance as specifically as possible.
There are a few things that can cause crooked toes. Deficiency of the B-vitamin riboflavin is one. This is not very common today, since most people feed a complete diet that is fortified with vitamins and minerals. Genetics can also be a cause. This is why we usually don’t suggest keeping a crooked-toed bird for breeding. This is not a real common occurrence either. The most common cause of crooked toes that we have seen is poor incubator conditions. Incubator temperatures that are too high or too low can cause this. Delayed hatching for any reason can also cause crooked toes. Since you only see this in an occasional chick, perhaps there may have been a warm spot (or a cool spot) in the incubator where that egg was sitting. If the chick was weak, even during hatching, it may have other problems, which could add to the general unthrifty nature.
Crooked toes can often be corrected, if you have some patience. Treatment usually involves taping the toes to a small piece of cardboard so they are held in a straight position. A few days of this (on a small chick) will often straighten the toes. If the condition is not too bad, it may occasionally correct itself as the bird gets older, too.
We hope this sheds some more light on how and why this is happening to your chick. We think you’re doing the right thing by switching the feed and trying to tape the toes. It looks like, with some patience, you might have success correcting this problem.
Swollen Chicken Feet
I’m very sorry to bother you, but I really need your help. I have an almost-nine-year-old Wyandotte hen who has recently presented with bilateral swollen feet. Today is the first I noticed the feet swelling. There are not any noticeable cuts, abrasions, or brown spots on her feet. It seems she has moderate pain with walking, more severe than usual. I cannot feel any cores.
For the past two weeks, she has been in the house in a large cubicle, due to a severe cold snap and because I noticed she had lost weight over the past month. I have her on the tile floor with a quilt on top of the tile and then newspaper on top of the quilt. She is not on any hard surfaces. Since she has been in the house, she has gained weight back, but now has this swelling.
What do you think her swelling is? I am not sure if she has bumblefoot, but I do not have any other differential diagnoses. I began treating her for bumblefoot, soaking her feet in Epsom salts and then coating her feet in a Betadine solution. I thought soaking her feet wouldn’t hurt until I can find out what is wrong.
She has a past history of being attacked by a hawk three years ago. Her entire side was ripped open, down to the muscle. It took one year for her side to completely heal and skin over. My vet couldn’t believe she lived or that the skin and feathers re-covered the area. She has been stiff ever since the hawk attack. Can chickens be given joint supplementation, such as glucosamine, chondroitin, and MSM supplement?
Thank you so very much. I love reading your Poultry Talk column in Backyard Poultry!
I’m not sure I have a great answer, but I’ll try. The health of nine-year-old chickens is sort of uncharted territory!
There are a number of things that can cause swelling of the feet, so it’s a little difficult to know what to do. As you mentioned, bumblefoot is a common one. The pictures certainly look like bumblefoot, but I agree that you usually see some cut or sore on the pad. Hers look very nice and clean. Bumblefoot is often a Staph infection, and it could be that the bacteria got there through her system, rather than through the footpad. Another bacterial disease, Mycoplasma synoviae, can also cause swelling of the joints. For both of these, an antibiotic might help. I’m not sure what antibiotic to suggest, and you’ll likely need a prescription from a veterinarian.
There is a reovirus that can also cause swelling of the joints, especially in the feet. If this is the cause, there isn’t much you can do after it is there.
I agree that soaking her feet won’t hurt. I’m not sure it will have much effect if there isn’t an open sore.
I did find a research report on glucosamine and chondroitin sulfate in chickens. It was done in Brazil, in broiler chickens. It did seem to show positive effects on bone health. A young, growing broiler would be quite different than a mature hen, but I wouldn’t expect these products to cause any negative effects. They might help.
Sorry, I don’t have more to offer. Good luck with her!
I’m sorry to hear about your chicken’s discomfort, but congratulations on nursing her through the attack and to such an advanced age!
Could it be that her age is the problem? An often-overlooked chicken foot problem is gout, which is a complex form of articular arthritis. Many chickens succumb to issues such as predators or accidents before kidneys can lose function and gout can set in. Our story on Countryside describes three foot-related issues, including gout. Though there is no cure, there are ways to lessen the pain and support your chicken’s health. You can find the full story here: https://backyardpoultry.iamcountryside.com/feed-health/a-guide-to-recognizing-and-treating-chicken-foot-problems/
I believe you are right! After I emailed you yesterday, I began doing further research and stumbled onto that exact article. It fits her signs perfectly. Unfortunately, I increased the amount of protein in her diet over the past two weeks, to promote weight gain. I was successful with the weight gain, but it probably triggered her initial gout attack. I stopped the extra protein yesterday and her swelling is slightly reduced, already. It is such a balancing act with geriatric chickens. I have a lot of old girls, the oldest I ever had lived to be 12. I currently have three seniors who are nine years old. Believe it or not, they still lay a few eggs.
I attached a picture of my chicken, Wilamina, enjoying an Epsom salt foot soak before I figured out she had gout.
I was wondering what to do with one of our chicks. One of my brothers stepped on one of our six-week-old chicks (not on purpose). Now that chick is limping pretty bad. I put her in a pen separate from the other chicks, with food and water (with Quik Chik for stress). She is eating and drinking just fine. Please tell me if there is something else I should be doing for her.
Abby R., Minnesota
Oh no! I’ve been there!
Are you sure it’s broken? If you can locate an injured area on the actual leg, you can splint it by using craft sticks trimmed to size, held on with vet wrap. I like the vet wrap because it’s not actually sticky so it doesn’t cause trauma when you remove it. Otherwise, it sounds like you’re doing the right thing. Ensuring she can rest and won’t be picked on while she heals will go far toward getting her back on her feet. Does she have a friend that can keep her company so she doesn’t have to endure loneliness with her injury? I would also keep her in a slightly warmer environment (such as a garage, if it’s cold where you live) because warmer temperatures allow more blood to flow to the injuries so they can heal faster.
I hope she gets better soon!
Sore Chicken Leg
One of my Rhode Island Reds (approximately one year old) has a sore leg. She had some bleeding on the upper part of her left leg (foot) which cleared up about a week ago, and seemed okay; however, today we noticed that she was limping and hopping around. (Not putting any weight on her leg, and there is no bleeding going on). The upper part of her leg seems warmer than the rest of her foot. We soaked her leg in Epsom salts for about 5 minutes, then applied honey on the injured leg, and put her in a box (with straw and pine shavings, keeping her inside our house. A lot of snow and ice this winter.
Not sure what else to do. There aren’t any “chicken vets” in our area here in central NH.
Do you have any suggestions as to what we could do?
Bob Patenaude, New Hampshire
I’m not sure I have a great answer for the hen with the gimpy leg. It sounds like there was an injury — it’s hard to know what internal damage may have occurred. In general, chickens have a pretty remarkable ability to heal, so she may get better. Keeping her comfortable, with feed and water, as you are doing, is probably the best. Mississippi State Extension used to have a bulletin (no longer available) that suggested an aspirin solution for pain. You could try that. I believe they suggested dissolving five aspirin tablets in a gallon of water and then giving that to drink. They suggested this for three days. I don’t think it would hurt, and it might help if she has strained something. Other than that, I guess I’d suggest giving it some time.
I’m not sure these are real technical answers, but that’s what I’d suggest.
Good luck with the flock!
I was wondering if anyone could help me with a problem I have. My 1-year-old rooster has developed little black sores on his feet, they seemed to not bother him a first but now he is starting to limp a little bit. I’m not sure if this is curable but I’d like to try to help him as best I can, thank you for your time.
It looks like your rooster has bumblefoot. This is really an infection of the footpad. It could have started with a wood sliver, or a small cut, or something similar. Bacteria then multiply in this sore, and it gets infected. It should be treatable. Usually, the most difficult part of treatment is that there can be a core, or “plug” inside the sore, and this needs to be removed. In your rooster’s case, it doesn’t look too swollen, so there might not be much of a core. BYP may have an article on treating this, I think. I would probably suggest soaking the sore foot if you can, so you can remove the scabby material. After this, apply some iodine (Betadine is a brand name that is usually available in a human pharmacy) to the sore area. Try to keep him in a dry, clean environment for a while until it heals. If it continues to be a problem, the sore may have to be lanced to remove that core I mentioned. Providing clean, dry bedding is important to prevent this in the future. Try to eliminate any wood that has slivers, or treat the wood (paint, etc.) to try to cover them up. There are reports that heavy roosters can cause damage flying down from their roosts if the roosts are too high, so you might consider lowering the roost. It doesn’t look too bad, so hopefully, it will heal fairly well.
Treating Leg Mites
I have enjoyed Backyard Poultry magazine for many years now and have gained a lot of good information and tips over the years. I may have gotten the following idea from your magazine, at any rate, it is a dandy way to take care of leg mites and might bear repeating.
When my chickens have leg mites, I dip their legs and feet in a narrow deep plastic container filled with cheap cooking oil. I also pour some tea tree oil into the cooking oil, but I don’t think that is essential. I do this at night, nabbing them easily from their roost and put them right back on the roost. Easy peasy. The first time we treated the birds this way I was dubious, but in a week or so the scales began to fall off their legs, revealing nice, smooth skin underneath. This is totally amazing and not toxic to the birds, me, or the eggs, unlike the harsh chemicals people used to use years ago. It is always curious why some breeds of my chickens seem to get leg mites and others don’t, but this treatment is quite effective. In some cases, repeat treatment might be necessary, perhaps every two weeks for a series of three treatments.
I sympathized with poor Thelma last month. The powder she is referring to is tetracycline, I think, and farm and ranch stores still carry it. It is tricky to come up with a proper dosage for poultry, but I believe a teaspoon in a gallon of water container is about right. It is cheap and effective as a broad-spectrum antibiotic, but you should not eat the eggs or the birds when giving this, and I really don’t know how long it persists in a bird’s system.
Thanks for the years of enjoyable and informative articles.
Cooking oil will work for leg mites, as you mentioned. The idea is to suffocate the mites. It can be a bit messy, so some like to use petroleum jelly instead. That can get messy, too, as shavings will stick to it. You’re right about different chickens having more trouble with these mites. There are genetic differences, but age and general health probably play a part, too.
Regarding tetracycline, this is supposed to only be available with a veterinary prescription, as of January 1, 2017. If stores are still selling it over-the-counter, they probably won’t be for very long.
Most antibiotics now require a prescription. There are a few things (mostly those that are never or rarely used in human medicine) that are still over-the-counter.
Enjoy your flock!
Rooster with Sore Foot
My rooster has a swollen left foot that is obviously painful. The lower part of his foot, below and between his toes is significantly larger than his other foot. He limps and does not seem to be able to put weight on it. He stands on his right foot and raises his left foot when he stands. He spends most of the day laying down. He is about six years old. What can it be and what should I do to help it heal?
The rooster most likely has bumblefoot. This is caused by an infection of the foot pad. It can be difficult to cure since there is often a fairly solid mass inside the swelling. This mass usually needs to be removed, or it will continue to be a problem.
Some people have had good luck cutting into the swollen pad and cleaning it out. Once it is cleaned, keep the rooster in a fairly clean area so that it can heal. Soaking the foot in an iodine solution can be helpful, too. There is a product called Betadine that is useful for this. If you have a veterinarian lance the swelling, they will likely also prescribe an antibiotic.
These infections often start from a sliver, or a small cut, in the footpad. To prevent future problems, you can try to make sure the roost doesn’t have slivers coming off, use litter that doesn’t have sharp edges, etc. There is also some evidence that having the roosts too high can cause problems as the chickens jump down, especially with heavier breeds. Wet litter can also cause damage to the footpad, so this should be avoided.
Good luck with him!
Thank you very much. We followed your advice. We cut off his infected area from the bottom of his foot, cleaned it real good, and put Neosporin on it. We bandaged it and kept him in a clean environment for two weeks. This is an eight by five dog kennel. We changed his bandage every other day and put fresh Neosporin. I put a hen or two with him to keep him from stressing. We removed his bandage and kept him separate but let him roam during the day outside the kennel for a couple of days so he could form a callous. Now he seems fine and he is back with his hens. Thank you very much.
I hatched out a baker’s dozen of Black Copper and Blue Copper Marans. Two of the chick’s two outer toes are fused together tightly on both feet. I looked it up on the internet and couldn’t find much information other than how to separate the toes surgically. There were a couple of comments about this being a genetic issue in Marans and other feather shanked breeds, and the birds should be culled and not bred. One blogger suggested that it is caused by an incompletely dominant gene but did not say how either incomplete or complete dominance is expressed. Are fused toes the result of one copy of the gene or two? But the information is anecdotal and I cannot find out any information that seems science-based. The moms (black) are three hens I purchased from a breeder two years ago as chicks. The birds are not great quality; they lay very dark eggs but are small and poor layers and their other Marans traits are mediocre (color, conformation, and shank feathering). The rooster (blue) is one I purchased recently from a local breeder and he looks like quite a nice bird, physically. I called the rooster seller and he said that in hundreds of hatchlings over the years he has had only two chicks with fused toes, two years ago, and he culled them. I have another batch from the same mating in the incubator now and a third batch waiting to start incubating in a few days that is from the same rooster but different hens (Easter Eggers), so by July I might have some idea if the gene is from the hens or the rooster (hopefully not both). Can you shed some light on the genetics of this deformity, and how the gene is expressed so I can start trying to breed it out of my flock? Thanks.
There seem to be several different genes that can cause “syndactyly,” or fused digits. There has been a lot of research into this in humans, and chickens have been used for quite a bit of that research.
To give you an idea of the complication involved, there has to be a system where cells multiply to a point, then some cells must be programmed to die, so the tissue between the toes stops growing while the cells that form the toes continue to multiply. There is also evidence that cells produce chemicals to communicate with each other and have influence on this growth so the location of the cells, relative to others, is important.
Some of the genes that have been shown to be involved are considered to be dominant to “normal” formation, and some were recessive. In many cases, they tend to vary in the degree of expression from chick to chick.
The hatch from the same rooster and other hens might give you some helpful information. If you don’t get any offspring with fused toes, it “might” mean the rooster is not to blame. The word might is used because it’s difficult to know how many chicks you’d need to hatch to know for sure. If it’s a dominant gene, you should see something in some of the chicks.
If all the chicks are normal, it either means that the hens were the culprits (so to speak), or that it’s a recessive gene and both had it. If that is the case, it’s probably best to try to use some different hens, since the rooster is good otherwise, and hope that the new hens don’t carry this gene. If it’s recessive, it may continue to linger in the flock, hopefully, at a low level.
To make matters a bit worse, syndactyly has also been caused by some environmental contaminants (such as the antifungal captan, for example). So, there’s an outside chance that this would be a consideration. It’s probably not, in your situation, but it could be a possibility.
Isn’t breeding chickens fun?!
Thank you so much for researching this. The second hatch from the same parents produced one of eight chicks with fused toes. A third batch from the same roo but different hens is due in about 10 days and I am anxiously waiting to see how they look.
I recently lost two roosters (both three years old) to a mysterious disease. They both had some bizarre wound between the honk and shank. It started with a redness in the area. This redness became kind of swollen and then the hens kept pecking the rooster’s wounds and they bled. They both had difficulties walking from that moment. So, the wounds maybe became infected. They smelled bad and eroded through the interior of the leg. I tried spraying it with rifocin and administered oral terramycin. After a week I didn’t see any improvement, so I just stopped. They both were extremely pale but were eating just fine. I worried that they might be anemic, so I started with a supplement called Hemolitan. After eight days of that, they died, both during the night on the same day. Everything happened the same way for the two roosters and they weren’t allocated in the same coop or even free ranging in the same area. I did some research on the internet and thought that maybe that could be something called septic arthritis. Now, another rooster has the same initial redness in the leg. He lives alone separately of all my flock because he’s blind from both eyes. I don’t want him to die. He’s my favorite one. Can you help me find out what is the problem and how can I treat him?
I attached pictures of wounds in the initial stage and in the final ones (the picture was taken when the rooster was already dead).
Renata Carvalho, ZSete Lagoas, Brazil
As you mentioned, this could be a sign of sepsis. If that is the case, strong antibiotics might help, but it’s not certain what kind would be best. You’d probably need to consult with a veterinarian for that.
Viral arthritis/tenosynovitis, caused by a reovirus, might be the cause. This can cause rupture of the tendon, which often causes bleeding and swelling. This is just a guess, but if that is the case, there’s not much that can be done. There are a few vaccines for this, but it’s likely too late for their use in your rooster. Here in the United States, those vaccines are mostly used by the commercial industry. For your rooster, you can try to nurse him along and keep him comfortable. If the tendon is ruptured, it most likely will not heal. If it’s not completely ruptured, and you can keep him eating and drinking, he might get over it. Make sure to monitor his quality of life. If he’s suffering, you may have to consider what is in his best interest.
Highly pathogenic avian influenza can cause symptoms like this, but you’d see other symptoms, including death, most likely. You would have seen other signs, and the chickens would have died more quickly.
A colleague also took a look at your pictures. He thought it looked like a sign of an injury and wondered if something was grabbing at their feet, or if they were catching them on something and causing a bruise. Since you said they are in different enclosures, this may not be likely, but it’s worth exploring.
Is My Langshan Rooster Losing Leg Scales?
First, let me thank you for the magazine and the Poultry Talk column. I have only had chickens for three years, and I enjoy reading the magazine and get a lot out of the articles.
My question: I have a 14-month-old Langshan rooster that I hatched last spring from eggs I bought from a breeder. This spring, I noticed he was getting dark red lines up the sides of his legs. They did not seem to bother him, and another poultry fancier, when I asked her, said that some roosters get red on their legs, so I paid it little mind, but kept an eye on him.
He has no other symptoms, but the red has gotten worse, and I have found out that red on the legs happens to breeds with yellow-pigmented legs, but not on ones with black legs. Also, this is not a pigmentation issue. It looks like the scales are coming off and leaving bare, red skin. The legs are not swollen, and the feet are not deformed. The bottoms of the feet are unaffected and look very healthy.
I have called the breeder from whom I bought the hatching eggs, and who has more than 45 years of experience in poultry, and has raised Langshans for years. He has never heard of or seen any such thing on any of his chickens.
I have seen nothing of this sort of any of the hens or on my other rooster (Jersey Giant, hatched at the same time). I do have one Langshan hen (same hatching) who looks like she might be getting some pink strips on the outside of her legs, but I have not caught her to check. For one thing, I have no idea what to do about this, so why stress her?
The photos, in order of appearance, are: the leg, the top of the foot, the chicken coop, and the Langshan in question. The photo of the rooster was taken when he was only about seven months old. Now, at about 14 months, he is a gorgeous guy, much taller, with a lovely erect tail, and, of course, the beginning of spurs.
When we caught the affected rooster to take the photos, we put a sulfur/pine-oil ointment made for stock on the areas. He did not act as if touching the areas causes him pain, and there are no weeping or open sores present. He does not pick at his legs.
At the same time I checked the rooster over well, and he had no mites, and no other discernible health problems. I use diatomaceous earth in the chicken house bedding, which is pine shavings, and wipe it on the perches, working it into any cracks and crevices. I do run deep bedding, but it is turned daily and kept dry and changed every few months. The chickens have a coop that is designed specifically for northern climates, for excellent airflow, and the ability to close some of the venting for the coldest parts of the winter. The back of it, where the roosts are, is completely draft-free.
The poultry is a mixed flock, and share a pasture with wooded areas with four ducks. They are fed layer pellets and fermented feed (2/3 organic scratch and 1/3 organic game bird starter), and have access to the mixed greens of their pasture. Sometimes crows visit the feeders, and I am sure other wild birds do as well.
Any help with diagnosis as well as treatment and prevention would be very much appreciated. I have looked in my poultry diseases book, and find no mention of this sort of problem with scales.
Thank you for your time.
We both looked at your question and the provided pictures. From the pictures, neither of us can see anything wrong with your rooster’s legs. It doesn’t seem any scales are missing or there are any problems that we can see.
We, too, have a rooster that has red tissue areas on his legs. He’s a healthy rooster and the pigmentation changes are natural in areas of exposed skin. Another example of this in the chicken world is the naked neck of a Turken, which becomes very red. Our guess is that this is what is happening with the skin on the side of the rooster’s feet, especially near the feather follicles.
Our recommendation is to continue watching him. If you see signs of trouble like limping or irritation, then it’s a good idea to consult a veterinarian so they can take an in-person look and diagnose what’s happening.
Good luck with your rooster!
Several of my Bantams have leg mites, which cause them to hobble around as if they are in pain. It has been so wet this year that they could not properly dust. They are confined in a yard about 50 feet by 50 feet, but roost in a 8-foot by 8-foot house. How can I treat the chickens, the coop, and the yard?
Scaly leg mites are a small insect that lives underneath the scales on a chicken’s legs and feet. They can lead to severe, even lifelong problems if not treated. Once one chicken in a flock has scaly leg mites, then the coop needs to be thoroughly cleaned and all the chickens watched for any signs of mites.
There are many methods for treating scaly leg mites. The most common is to soak the chicken’s legs and feet in warm water, and then gently dry the legs while removing any dead scales. Generously slather Vaseline on the feet and legs. You can also douse the chicken’s legs with white vinegar, garlic juice or Neem oil. Then scrub the legs with a toothbrush and slather with Vaseline, coconut oil or Green Goo. Whatever method you use, please know that it can take a few tries to get these mites under control.
Good luck with your flock.
What’s Going On Here?
Please see the photo I included of a bump on my 2½-year-old Ameraucana hen’s foot. It is hard like a grain of corn and seems to be getting larger. How do I treat and prevent this? Thank you.
It looks like your hen has a case of bumblefoot. When it’s hot, rainy, wet or humid, bumblefoot is pretty common. Just like your hands get soft when you sit in the bath too long, a chicken’s feet will soften as they walk around wet areas. Often, that softening creates a perfect way for cuts and infections to get into the foot, which after a while, turns into bumblefoot.
There is one other common cause of bumblefoot, and that’s the type of roost. A sharp roost or extremely narrow, the chicken can tear its foot just to hold on. Roosts should allow the bird to relax, so make sure their foot is not too curled.
Okay, but what to do? Bumblefoot is caused by Staphylococcus aureus, a staph infection, so you actually have to go in and give it a chance to get out of the body. Some will suggest cutting the wound open and removing any puss-filled materials. Others, who can’t stomach all that, recommend a more natural solution, which we’ll describe here. First, move your hen to a calm location away from a lot of distractions or threats. Then, holding her so she stays comfortable and does not hurt you, clean the area, using a Vetericyn spray or something similar, and wipe it down with a gauze pad or clean, soft rag. Then, using a sharp scalpel, scrape any scarring, and clean out the wound the best you can. You’re not doing surgery. You’re scraping away any infected skin and obvious bits of skin damage. Spray it again. After it’s dry, add some antibiotic ointment on the wound, and wrap it the best you can. Vet wrap works as a base, and works even better when a little electric tape (any weatherproof tape works) is applied as an outer layer.
Good work catching the injury, and best of luck addressing it and getting her back to health.
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