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Other Names: Broken Bone

Fractures (broken bones) are a type of traumatic injury which are very painful for the bird. Fractures mostly occur as a result of a high force impact or fall. However, chickens with underlying illnesses and conditions that may weaken their bones have a higher risk of fractures. For example, ex-battery laying hens often suffer from osteoporosis as a result of excessive egg laying. The bird might also have an existing infection or a tumor.

Fractures can occur in any bone in the bird's body. There are also a number of different types of fractures, and several ways in which a bone can fracture. One that damages surrounding skin and penetrates the skin is known as a compound fracture or an open fracture.

Treatment for Chickens with Fractures

Bone healing is a natural process, treatment revolves around giving the bone optimum conditions to heal itself. Some chickens may require surgery, while others may only require bandaging/splinting and a period of rest and physical therapy.

Open fractures are more at risk of a secondary infection, resulting in osteomyelitis. If fractures are properly aligned correctly by an avian veterinarian early on this will reduce the chances of them healing improperly. Most fractures will heal within 2 to 3 weeks.

Types of Splints
  • Figure-of-eight wing bandages: This method is best used for fractures of the elbow or carpal joint, or in small or very young chicks. It is important not to apply this bandage too tight.
  • Schroeder-Thomas Splint: This method is best used for fractures involving the tarsometatarsus (shank) and hock joint. It is developed from a wire or rod material, used to produce two right-angle bends next to the ring at the top of the splint, so that it runs parallel to the long axis of the leg.
  • Robert Jones Bandage: This method is best used for simple fractures involving the hock joint. It required heavily padded leg bandages that can be used with or without additional splinting material. Materials used for an external coaptation device various, however to be effective, it must be firm enough to provide support, and can include human orthopedic molds (orthoplast, hexcelite), wood applicator sticks, tongue depressors, aluminum rods, or similar such material.

Clinical Signs

Reluctance to move or stand
Pain on palpation
Green discoloration (bruising)
Discolored skin around the affected area
Abnormally angled
Inability to put weight on the injured area
Bleeding (if an open fracture)


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiographs


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Stabilization, rest and physical therapyMay be all that is needed only in very mild cases, however the only way to confirm this is to obtain radiographs by visiting your veterinarian.
SurgeryPerformed only by a veterinarian.
Rehabilitation/PhysiotherapyChicken wheelchair or sling



  • Be gentle when handling chickens, and NEVER try to catch them by their legs when they are running.
  • Minimize risk of impact injuries
  • Don't allow chickens to go out in pastures with horses unsupervised, as even the tamest of horses can spook and accidentally step on them.
  • Be mindful of where chickens are relative to doorways, especially when wind is present.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Improper or rough handling by a human
  • Accidentally stepping on chickens
  • Kicked or stepped on by a horse
  • Trampled by other flock members due to scary event
  • Flying or running into a solid object
  • Getting caught in a portion of the enclosure and freaking out
  • Vitamin deficiencies
  • Actively laying adult hens are particularly vulnerable to leg fractures.

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