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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 29746
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 45 years of experience
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She is a 1.5 year old Black cochin. She began limping

Customer Question

She is a 1.5 year old Black cochin. She began limping yesterday morning. By noon she was lying in her dirt bath with her right leg out kind of on her side. The other girls were just starting to peck at her feathers, but I picked her up before anyone injured her. She tried to run a little and fell forward onto her breast bone. I picked her up and placed her on the plywood floor of the coop. She promptly fell to her left side. I took a few minutes to give everyone fresh water and when I finished she had maneuvered to the ground and ran off. Both legs were a little out to the side and she was leaning forward, but she made it about 25 feet to rest in the shade under a tree.
JA: I'm sorry to hear that. Have you looked to see if there is a wound on their foot?
Customer: I separated her in a kennel. There are no wounds. She has been broody, but we take her off the nest to make sure she gets food and water. Gave her a warm bath last night, Her comb was pale, but returned to brigher red. It's dry though. She has no mites that I can see. Her feet are a little pink on the sides, but she is getting new pin feathers on both feet. I can't find any wounds. I dried her with a warm blow drier because she was cold. Last night, both legs were splayed to the sides. when I tried to correct them with a Coban shackle, she falls forward onto her breast and beak. Last night she drank a little water. Today nothing. She won't eat or drink. Tried grain, scrambled egg, blackberry and a strawberry.
JA: Is there anything else the Veterinarian should be aware of about the bird?
Customer: She seems alert. Eyes open. Last night she clucked a little when I held her. Today not a peep. She won't open her beak even for a drop of water from my finger.
JA: What is the bird's name?
Customer: Oprah :) Her cluthmate is Gayle :) All the other hens and rooster seem fine.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm sorry to hear of this with Oprah. If you've carefully examined her legs from the tip of her toes to her hips and found nothing untoward, Marek's disease becomes an important differential diagnosis in these hens. Simply injury shouldn't cause such anorexia; hence, my considering a systemic disorder such as Marek's (herpesvirus). Please take a look at this site and let me know what you think:!mareks-disease/c1qzk

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
I read the article. Her legs are splayed horizontally not front to back. Also she is 1.5 years old. Don't know if that makes a difference. I thought she might need warming up so I placed her outside on the slightly warm pavers in the shade next to the tire of my SUV. Placed electrolyte/probiotic water next to her along with her scrambled egg and berries. The pavers also provide better traction so I can place her legs underneath her. She won't have a thing to do with the food and water when I'm with her, but when I walk inside and watch from the window, she dips her beak into the water and pecks a bit at the egg. She doesn't scoop the water like usual though. Doesn't seem to know what to do to eat anything. There is grit next to her on the pavers also. Also her feathers are still shiny and fluffy, but she is very thin under all that fluff and her crop is empty. She did have loose droppings yesterday, but nothing at all so far today.Could she be egg bound or maybe had a stroke?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Thank you. Egg bound birds often walk like a penguin and frequently squat as if to lay. A stroke at such a young age is very unlikely. Marek's is more common in younger hens but any age can be affected and any paresis (weakness) or paralysis in the legs is an important clue for that infection. To clarify why she's symptomatic as she is would require an avian vet (please see here: to thoroughly examine her including diagnostics in the form of blood tests. It's best to approach the diagnostic process with a clear sense of Oprah'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 affects just one hen. It frustrates me that I can't be more specific for you but such is the dilemma of poultry owners and vets alike.

Please continue our conversation if you wish.

Customer: replied 1 year ago.
How do I tell if there is an actual leg injury? I can move both legs, but the right seems to have increased tone in it similar to my stroke patients. I'm a physical therapist. I can't feel or see anything grossly out of place, but any attempt to bring her legs midline just makes her fall to her breast and beak. I brought her back in to the cat kennel propped on the front edge with her food and water right in front of her. She seems more interested in eating.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

When both legs are affected, we need to consider either a pelvic or spinal injury (as well as infections involving the nervous system). This would be very difficult to confirm without X-rays.

Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?