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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 28931
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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I have a 2 1/2 year old buff brahma chicken that is having

Customer Question

Hi! I have a 2 1/2 year old buff brahma chicken that is having difficulty stepping up. Because of this she can't get up into the upstairs coop area with the perches and nesting boxes. She eats/ drinks well and has normal poops. She walks ok, slowly, but ok. No abnormal movements or postures , although her balance seems "off"... She stumbles and will pitch forward on her face if I gently push her from behind or when she steps down. Feet seem fine, no bumblefoot. I have her now in a separate cage from my other 8 chickens ( who have started to attack her) She started showing signs a few months ago and is getting worse. Any advice? Thank you. Pat
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner, Pat. We don't have many avian vets on this site. "Difficulty stepping up" yet no outward signs of trauma yet being unsteady suggests generalized weakness as seen with anemia or systemic disease both infectious and neoplastic (Marek's disease, avian leukosis, e.g.).

Unfortunately, the symptoms you've mentioned can indicate any number of illnesses or health issues. In avian medicine, there's rarely one cause of a condition, so we usually begin with a list of differential diagnoses and use lab tests, X-rays, and physical exams to differentiate one from another. With this in mind, your best course of action is to reach out to your county-extension poultry personnel or avian-oriented veterinarian (please see here: for help in differentiating the various causes of what you're seeing. Veterinarians can perform a physical exam and run diagnostic tests, including X-rays, to distinguish between the various etiologies. Do you believe Gladys to be obese? Her behavior is consistent with obesity particularly if hepatic lipidosis ("fatty liver") has arisen.

It's best to approach the diagnostic process with a clear sense of the Gladys's financial value to your operation. Although some services such as your county animal disease diagnostic laboratory might be available free of charge through a county agency or land-grant extension office, the expense of some diagnostic tests and treatments can add up quickly. While it’s always worth your time and money to identify a bacterial or viral infection that could potentially impact more than one member of the flock, this might not be the case with a condition that only affects one hen.