Just like people, chickens can get into problems that cause serious health issues. Chickens can lose legs due to disease, predators (dogs, foxes, etc.) or even by accident. This can be quite distressing for the chicken and for its owner. But can a chicken live with one leg?
A chicken can live with one leg. However, survival is not guaranteed. There are many factors (such as age, how the leg was lost, the flock, etc.) that can influence survival. It won’t come as a surprise that a younger chicken is more likely to recover than an older one, for example.
Here’s some video proof that one-legged chickens can enjoy life:
What Can Influence The Survival Rate Of A Chicken With Only One Leg?
There are 6 factors that are known to help determine whether a chicken can survive the loss of a leg, however, it is possible for all 6 factors to be in the chicken’s favor and for them still not to make it – mother nature can be fickle.
- The sex of the chicken
- The chicken’s age
- The chicken’s temperament
- The flock’s temperament
- The underlying reason for the loss of a chicken’s leg
- The level of care that is provided to the chicken
The Sex Of The Chicken With One Leg: It’s A Woman’s Advantage
You might think that a chicken’s sex is a peculiar thing to give it an advantage when it comes to losing a leg but actually, it’s a matter of physics.
Hens carry less weight on their bodies than roosters do. Thus, the remaining leg is more likely to come to an injury with a rooster and a no-legged chicken is going to find it impossible to survive.
Also, there’s a social factor at play. Roosters have one purpose in a flock – to mate with hens. To kickstart mating, a rooster must do a little dance to woo his hens, a one-legged rooster has no rhythm and the ladies reject his advances.
A rejected rooster is then quickly shunned by his flock. As a social species, this leads to depression in the rooster and often the loss of the will to live.
The Age Of The Chicken With One Leg: It’s A Young Chick’s World
As you’d expect, younger chickens have a better prognosis for survival than older chickens. There are several good reasons for this:
- They adapt better to having one leg which means they’re less likely to injure it
- They tend to avoid the kind of weight gain which would injure the leg (whereas an adult may already be carrying too much weight)
- They tend to be healthier overall and heal faster than older birds
However, this isn’t a universal rule. Chicks that are born without a leg don’t tend to survive. This is probably due to the fact that a birth deformity is normally an indicator of other issues and that a small but significant number of chicks (whether deformed or not) don’t make it to adulthood.
In older chickens, severe injuries can lead to other health problems which then reduce the likelihood of surviving with one leg.
The Attitude Of Chickens To Having One Leg: A Positive Attitude All Round Is Required
A chicken that has emotional resilience is more likely to be able to handle life with only leg than one which becomes depressed, withdrawn and isolated. Yes, chickens get sad and yes, just like in human beings, it affects their overall wellbeing.
The attitude of the flock is also important. In flocks where living space is limited, there may be a concerted effort to shun or even force out the injured chicken – this again will lead to depression which will reduce survival rates.
The flock isn’t being mean when it does this. It’s a survival mechanism. There’s an evolutionary imperative to keep the flock safe and injured and sick birds are likely to serve as an invitation to predators. They are also more likely to give diseases to other members of the flock. So, their response is entirely pragmatic.
Also, there’s a grim truth that if you have a chicken which is bleeding – you must take it from their flock because chickens (for some reason) love to peck at anything red and yes, this includes a bleeding fellow chicken.
If the flock choose to retain the chicken, it has a much better chance of survival.
What To Do With A Chick Born With Only One Leg?
Prepare yourself for heartbreak because no matter what you do, chicks with only one leg have a much reduced chance of survival and you can’t influence the outcome very much.
There are two possible endings to a one-legged chick’s story:
- Within a week or two it’s hopping around and learning to use just one leg
- Within a week or two it gives up, becomes withdrawn and depressed
In the second case, it’s probably best to euthanize the chick rather than let it starve to death which is the alternative. Sometimes, you really do have to be cruel to be kind.
How To Increase Your Chick Or Chicken’s Chances Of Surviving A Broken Leg
There’s not much you can do about why your chicken has lost a leg, in some cases this will have triggered internal bleeding which will almost certainly lead to infection and the death of the chicken but you can help treat your chickens to try and prevent them from losing a leg, in the first place, when they break one.
What To Do With A Chick Born With A Broken Leg?
If your chick has a broken or splayed leg, you can splint their leg (as we do with humans) using this simple process:
- Take 2 popsicle sticks (or something similar) and cut them to the length of the leg
- Use medical tape to splint either side of the leg and bind to the chick so the leg is in the right position
- Don’t force the leg, you don’t want to break it any worse than it is
- Remove the splints in a week’s time – check the chick starts to use the leg properly
You should also:
- Remove the chick from the other chicks. Bring a couple of companions so your chick doesn’t become lonely but otherwise keep it separate – this stops it from being trampled.
- Make sure it keeps eating and drinking. If it won’t take food this is a big warning sign that it won’t survive.
- Add a little Vitamin E to its diet. Bone problems can be due to a vitamin deficiency.
If worst comes to worst and the leg becomes infected – it may need to be amputated, we’d recommend that you get a vet to take care of this.
Please remember there are no guarantees your chick will survive though, and it may become necessary to put it down to end its suffering.
What To Do With A Chicken With A Broken Leg?
First, you need to work out which leg is broken, and this isn’t always clear at first glance. Check for bones sticking through the skin, where a leg bends the wrong way or if the chicken is favoring a particular leg whilst limping – if a leg is broken, the chicken won’t put any weight on it.
Secondly, if the break is above the joint of the leg, you should probably amputate the leg, as it is very unlikely to heal, and the chicken may die of blood poisoning. Again, we’d recommend a vet handle this.
If the leg is broken below the joint, you can try splinting it to see if it will heal:
- Clean the leg around any broken skin
- Use a sterile gauze to wrap the leg (to prevent the splint from rubbing and to keep the area clean)
- Use splints that are the right length (e.g. that don’t interfere with the chicken’s movement – don’t be afraid to cut them down as needed)
- Use a medical bandage to attach the splints to the leg
- Keep the chicken isolated for a week or two
- Give the chicken an electrolyte solution to prevent dehydration
- Change the bandages every 2-3 days
How can you tell if it’s healing?
- After a week there should be very little blood (if any) coming from a wound
- After 2 weeks you might be able to (gently) feel new bone growth
- After 2 weeks they might start using their leg again
- After 2-3 weeks the swelling should have dramatically reduced
- After 2-3 weeks any heat of infection in the leg should be cooling down
You may also find this video helpful when trying to heal a chicken’s broken leg:
So, can a chicken live with only one leg? Yes, though their sex, age, behavior, flock behavior, the reason they are sick, and your treatment of the chicken can all play a part in their survival rate. Once a chicken has lost a leg, there’s not much that can be done but you can prevent a chicken with a broken leg from needing to have their leg amputated sometimes and it’s worth putting in the effort to do so.
Here are some of my favorite products for chickens and their coops:
- Organic Fertilizer MicroLife 6-2-4 or 8-4-6
- Temperature Controller for inside your brooder or coop
- Mite treatment for chickens Diatomaceous Earth food grade
Now we have explored if a chicken can live with one leg, let’s explore if a chicken can live with one eye, why not read our latest article here.