Q and A: Grain mill and lame chickens — 7 Comments

  1. Veterinarian here, and my thoughts run along a few lines:
    1: Trauma-are they injuring their legs on the roost or nesting box somehow? how high is the door in and out of the coop? spinal trauma or some thing rubbing/scraping as they go in and out? Is there a rooster in the coop with them that is being too rough? I recently lost a rooster with almost exactly these signs (his was left leg lameness, which progressed over a week or so to total paralysis and death) after a fight with another rooster.

    2: Marek’s disease, which causes nerve damage, and often affects the sciatic nerve running down the legs. No explanation for why it would be all right sided. Did you buy chickens from elsewhere? were they vaccinated? have you added any new chickens in the past several months? if so, was the flock you added them to vaccinated for Marek’s prior?

    3: Are they laying? I would think it would be really uncommon to have a series of egg-bound birds but it’s possible, especially if there is not enough calcium in the diet. Bound up eggs can cause systemic weakness, debilitation, eventual death, and often lameness or weakness in the legs due to pressure on the sciatic nerves.

    4: Far fetched, but possible-in smaller pet birds, especially parakeets, kidney tumors cause one-legged lameness, as the growth presses on the nerves running to the legs.

    If you lose any more hens, I would strongly recommend submitting the entire bird on ice to the closest Avian Pathology or Animal Disease Diagnostic laboratory for a full necropsy and histopathology. Since I don’t know what state you’re in, I don’t know where exactly to recommend, but you can contact your State Veterinary Office or a local veterinary clinic for more specific recommendations on laboratory send-outs.

  2. Go free-range with your chickens. The feed you purchase is not under your control and, despite what the label says, the only way to know is to be there when it’s made. Look at what the fast-food restaurants have been feeding in their burgers for years (ammonia, with govt’ blessing).

    Feed them worms, grubs, grasses, the stuff that they get outside.

  3. I don’t use the wheat gluten as I can’t tell much difference. My uncle’s bread always looked like your description. Along with the temperature of the water not being too hot, I knead 100% whole wheat for 20min by hand. Let rise until double in size, punch down & let rise again, then again in the pans. I bought the original Laurel’s Kitchen bread book 30 years ago & still use it for the whole wheat bread technique. It is a great resource.

  4. I had 3 chickens come up lame this year. They were born fine, and developed the problem later. I took the first one to the vet and she told me it was a genetic disorder so we put the chicken (about 2 months old) down. The second two were managing but not thriving, and they were about the same age. I put them together in a an isolated area and since they weren’t competing against healthier chickens for food they were doing okay, but flapping and dragging, not walking. One got out and was killed by a predator. As the other one grew bigger, fatter, and stronger, she still couldn’t walk, but then struggled more to get around. I brought her inside and after much thought, trial and error, put her in a small dog harness and hung her from a bungee cord in a dog cage. Because she would flap around, I secured the harness from each side with more bungee cords. I added food and water dishes within her reach. Checked her regularly for sores and raw spots, and took her out at least once a week just to pet and stroke and give personal attention to. This worked! She could flap, and she could swing her legs around, and she could poop clean. I changed the newspaper at the bottom of the cage once or sometimes twice a day. She did fine for about 3 months. I don’t know what happened, just found her hanging there dead one morning. Some would think it silly, what I did, but it gave “Chickadee” a longer life with some quality to it.

    Although the doctor told me it was a genetic problem in the chicken, other backyard chicken raisers told me the leg problem was from one of two things: 1. A deformity common to in-bred chickens (mine weren’t). 2. They type of bedding in the brooder. Newspaper or other slick bedding can cause the problem to develop in otherwise healthy chickens.

    Hope this information helps.

  5. Try adding 1 Tbs of Vital Wheat Gluten (found by the specialty flours – Bob’s Red Mill is one brand) per LOAF of bread. Also, make sure it’s being kneaded enough to get the gluten working.

    Make sure, too, that you’re not using water that is too hot for the yeast. The water should be “baby bath” temp. or you will kill part of your yeasties.

  6. I have a KitchenAid grain mill and mine does fine for bread. I usually grind one quart jar of bread flour and one of cake or pastry flour to keep on hand. Mine is an older, steel mill. I dont know if the mills have changed in years or if you need to adjust your grind more. Experiment before you spend money on another one.

  7. Could it be something digestive? Are they getting enough grit? Sometimes one will get constipated and act funny for a few days until whatever is in there gets out.
    They aren’t being bitten by something in their house are they? One time we had hens choking and falling over. Then I finally saw what happened. They were catching hornets and swallowing them. Well the hornet stung them in the throat and the throat swelled and they choked. Maybe you should try to look at the lame legs and look for a bite or injury. I hope you can figure this one out! It sure hurts when you raise them all this time for a few eggs then they die.