My Chicken Fractured Her Leg!

As a new chicken mum I sure have had to learn a lot fast!

From starter feed, grower feed, layer feed, medicated feed, pellets, crumbles, mash, apple cider vinegar with garlic, worming, different poop colours (and that smells that come with the various colours!) and then the annual moult, as you step out the back door in the morning and think a fox has gotten into your coup overnight…yes I honestly thought I was dealing with a crime scene during their first moult.

There was however one thing of which I was not aware. The importance of calcium. I thought if I gave my girls the best quality food, clean fresh water & coup, green leafy vegetables, daily free-range time they were living like queens, and nothing could go wrong. Right?

That was until one afternoon I discovered Violet had developed a limp.  I checked all over her foot and leg for potential signs of a thorn, bumblefoot a cut.  But nothing.
My first thought was that she might have gotten her leg caught in one of the weird and wonderful situations they tend to get themselves into. I kept a close eye on her for improvement, but unfortunately by the next morning Violet was no better and now struggling to walk.

Only An Experienced Eye Can Find It!

It was time to see our wonderful vet, Dr Lucilla for advice. After a thorough examination and x-ray Dr Lucilla discovered, Violet had a small fracture high up on her leg, likely the result of a calcium deficiency!

An intensive calcium supplement plan was recommended; liquid calcium + D3 to all drinking water, oyster/shell grit in a separate bowl to regular feed and six weeks rehabilitation. The supplements were a no brainer, easy really, but how do you do six weeks rehabilitation with a chicken?

Let me show you what Violets “rehab at home” looked like:

First things first: the jump from sleeping quarters to run had to go. A step installed to make it easier to move in and out. Simple pavers did the job.

Inspector Approved!

Morning: during the day Violet was in a large dog crate next to the chicken run to limit movement.

Yes That Is A Fan…A Girls Gotta Stay Cool!

Afternoon: when Pearl and Grace had free-range time Violet would go into a larger “play pen.”  She had more freedom to stretch her legs, but again limited her from running and scratching the ground heavily.

Violet Made One Friend!

Bedtime: at dusk they would all go into the sleeping quarters with a makeshift door closed until the morning. The door was an addition after the first night discovering Violet outside in the cold, unable to step back up into the sleeping section.

Each morning the process started all over again…. for six long weeks.

Violet did recover from her injury. Though when it was time to move her back in with her sister’s full time a whole new ball game began. Chicken bullying! Yes, you read that right….

We tried hard to reduce the impact that would occur with Violet removed from her sisters over the 6 weeks, by keeping her as close to them as possible. But it was inevitable, Violet who was the head hen had fallen rank, Grace had stepped up to head chook and Pearl her 2IC.

Grace and Pearl started to harass and bully Violet. Things got mean. Pecking and chasing her aggressively around the yard, not permitted to dust bath with them, they stopped her from eating/drinking and even banned her from sleeping with them for warmth.

I was stressing out so much that Violet was going to die from starvation, freeze to death or at least die from a lonely broken heart.

I googled around and read over and over “chickens will sort it out between themselves” but after a couple of weeks and things intensify rather than decreasing, I decided to take on the advice of members on a chicken group I follow.

Remove the bully “Grace” and place her in the “play pen” with Violet and Pearl allowed too free-range together. The aim, the bully will see that they get privileges while she does not. The idea was to create a neutral ground again. Seemed simple enough.

At first a strange thing happened, Pearl who was 2IC wanted nothing to do with Violet, she would sit outside the “play pen” next to Grace, refusing to move, she would poke her head through the gaps, and they would eat together.

Then it got even stranger, Violet started to “offer” herself up to Grace. She would approach the pen, put her head down through the gaps and allow Grace to peck her violently on the comb! You know that old saying “like a lamb to the slaughter.”

The plan was not working. Now what do I do?

I moved the feed bowl into the middle of the pen so only Grace had access to it. I also started feeding Pearl and Violet special treats, meal worms and sardines in one bowl together away from Grace to try and create a bond between them. It worked!

Fast forward a week, Violet was accepted back into the group. The “order of rank” did not change, but the bullying certainly did. I reckon I have now earned the title of “qualified chicken mediator”! What do you think?

What lesson did I learn? In hindsight, if this ever happens again, I would now make sure the injured hen was never alone in a pen. I would rotate a different hen each day to stay with the injured one. I think this may have helped with the re-introduction.

Author Bio:  Nikki is pack leader at Pressplay Pets, a blog for the modern age pet parent interested in health & care, news, reviews & personal accounts of unconditional love & at times heartfelt pain of pet parenting.  She is also proud mum to cute and cheeky Papillons ‘Amber’ and ‘Indy’! 

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1 Response

  1. Aca Baranton says:

    The importance of calcium for chickens is often underestimated until issues arise, as seen with Violet’s unfortunate injury. It’s great that you were able to adapt your setup to accommodate her needs during recovery. This story highlights not just the care needed in physical health management but also the complex social dynamics within the flock. It’s a valuable reminder for all poultry keepers about the need for vigilance in both nutrition and flock integration.

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