Case Study Emergencies/Illness Health Issues

Case Study: Broken Leg

Chickens can fracture their legs in any number of ways: being stepped on (by horse, goat or human); experiencing a hard landing from the roost bars or being caught by a slamming door. None of those were so in this case.

What are the most ubiquitous predators of chickens? Raccoons? Hawks? Nope, our faithful family dogs: they are with us everywhere and many folks don’t think of them as potential dangers to their flock. You only need to scroll through Facebook chicken sites to read about the mayhem that can be caused by dogs when they discover chickens.

Clara, 3-month-old Dominique Pullet

Elizabeth was a first time chicken keeper of three pullets. She also had a 7-year old Husky that hadn’t spent time with them yet. The girls were securely penned so their safety wasn’t an issue. One day, when the chicks were 3-months-old the dog was let outside and unbeknownst to the family their coop door had blown open, which left the birds vulnerable. I can imagine the dog was quite surprised when he encountered the birds in the yard. He had a bit of ‘fun’ with Clara before being found out. Her injuries included some puncture wounds under her wing and a broken leg.


Check out her broken leg (red line). Notice the .22 shell casing lodged in her abdomen? Somewhere along the line Clara ate it and it’ll probably be there for the rest of her life. Be careful with nails, screws and metal bits because your flock will eat them too.


There was some good news and bad news to this story. The upside is Elizabeth’s neighbour is a veterinarian who offered to treat her for free. She had x-rays done and was prescribed pain medication and antibiotics, which Clara took for a week. The downside was the leg was broken up high, in an area impossible to splint or bandage.

The remedy was to crate her for almost a month keeping her immobilized and allowing the leg to heal. Although she hadn’t started laying eggs yet, she was put on Layer feed and given crushed oyster shells in an effort to boost her calcium intake and support the bone to heal.

After 2 ½ weeks she was allowed outdoor physiotherapy to stretch her legs and build the muscle.

Three and a half weeks into her recovery she was deemed fit to rejoin the flock. Elizabeth, wisely decided to get another pullet to accompany Clara on her reintegration. Her companion turned out to be a cockerel (he may not end up staying) and Clara has since made a full recovery. She started laying recently, just on target.

Many thanks to Elizabeth Martin for her story, photos and x-rays. All material used with permission.

Two out of three of Elizabeth’s tiny flock experienced serious, potentially life threatening health issues before they were even six months old. Check out the story of Chloe and her bout with egg-binding here.

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