Odd Health Conditions: Chicken with Curled Toes



Being an urban chicken consultant means encountering a lot of unusual chicken health conditions. I recently heard from James and Sarah. Their pullet Ruby had an odd condition: the toes were curled up on one of her feet, and Ruby was having trouble walking.

“She couldn’t put any weight on her feet. Whenever she tried to walk and put pressure on that foot, she would sort of slip and fall,” James told me. He had tried Googling her symptoms but was unable to find information on her exact condition.

I realized that Ruby was suffering from curled toe paralysis, a condition that is caused by a vitamin B2 (Riboflavin) deficiency. The treatment: vitamin B2 drops and a splint for the affected area. James isolated her from the other hens and gave her a few drops every day.

“It took her about 3 weeks to a month to recover, but she’s healed,” James reports. “She’s walking normally and her foot doesn’t bother her at all.”

James offers kudos for Home to Roost: “Jen’s service was great. Seeing how she handled hens gave us more confidence to help Ruby out. Jen was able to tell us what was wrong and what our options would be. This is our first time keeping chickens, and having her help and knowledge was really useful!”

Here is a lovely “after” photo of Ruby, with toes uncurled!



13 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Edith Bray-Menezes on December 14, 2021 at 11:32 am

    My chicken has a similar thing how did you splint the foot?


    • I placed wooden popsicle sticks along the underside of the lengths of the toes, being careful to prevent splinter, and carefully wrapped with gauze/vet wrap. It’s important not to reduce circulation to the toes.


      • Posted by abiganali on September 7, 2022 at 5:53 pm

        How long did you splint her leg for? Did you keep the point on even while she slept? My 5 month old is having the same issue.

  2. Posted by Kazumi on November 25, 2022 at 8:15 am

    A picture of the splint would be nice.


    • I’m sorry I didn’t get one. I believe I padded the toes and then used popsicle sticks running down each to to straighten them out. Then more padding and some medical tape or vet wrap. If you try this, make sure that the circulation to the toes is not cut off or reduced. If they look puffy or red, take off the splints/wrap immediately.


  3. Posted by Rachel on January 2, 2023 at 1:55 pm

    How old was Ruby when you started her treatment? One of my 12 week old pullets has that on one foot, she is the only one too.


  4. Posted by Tina Hove on March 29, 2023 at 12:18 pm

    Hi Friends! I have a similar issue going on. Beckie is an easeter egger and shes 8 months all of a sudden she was falling backwards sitting on her butt kind of and hobbling around, so I brought her in, thinking that she hurt her right leg or something. So then the next day, she was worse. so I found a specialty vet – b/c normal vets here in Wisconsin apparently don’t take chickens. so I went to an “aviation” vet – her legs arn’t broken. her chemistry pannel came back JUST FINE so I have a hard time think shes vitamin deficent, but shes been on antibiotics &pain pills for 5 days now and shes perked up and can move her feet, but she can not stand or balance. So I got the vitamin B liquid and syringe fed her something morning…her toes curling under both feet but she can move them and she tries. Thoughts? waiting on the other blood pannel to come back from UW-Madison. clearly its something w/ the siatic nerve that is making her not be able to balance or walk. but shes eating and drinking and seems very content being a house chicken. the dog is not thrilled haha help?


    • HI! I’m sorry you’re having so much trouble with Beckie. At that age, and with those symptoms, it might be Marek’s disease. A vet would have to formally diagnose. I believe there is a PCR test they can do to determine if she’s been exposed, but only a complete necropsy can diagnose.


  5. Posted by Chris on April 8, 2023 at 8:42 am

    We had chickens years back and just received 25 Tuesday and one RI Red had 1 splayed leg and curled toes on that leg. We hobbled her since Wednesday. We just changed out hobble from a nicely designed fuzzy pipe cleaner to vet wrap yesterday, but I just made a tiny light weight cardboard sandal for her foot yesterday also. She is eating and drinking good and has electrolytes, vitamin and probiotics in water.
    When we changed the hobble to vet wrap yesterday (because I didn’t have any at first) her legs appeared to be more normal, but the toes were a problem until I put sandal on she almost looked relieved.
    However she does not put weight on it much. It’s only been not even a full day so I’m hopeful. Should I do therapy with her?
    She’s in about a 14” cardboard box with paper towel bottom and have noticed the foot slide when she crouches. I thought of rubber shelf liner, but I think it may be to sticky like crepe soles for humans.
    Any thoughts? Just be patient and give it a few days? Short therapy for a minute a few times a day? Poor lil Miss Penny. She’s so tiny. Maybe no cardboard and vet wrap on toes? I used small straps of clear medical tape to hold toes to cardboard. Thank you for all your help.


    • Hi, Chris –
      Apologies for the delayed response. I’ve been swamped!
      How is she doing? Try giving her a cloth box liner (towel, washcloth, etc.). They can do ok with curled toes, but a leg out of place can be a challenge. Is the issue perhaps a slipped hock joint tendon? Do you have access to an avian vet who can have a look at her?


  6. Posted by Laura on April 19, 2023 at 5:05 pm

    I have a hen that is almost 7 months old with curled toes. She gets around, but not as well as the other hens. She’s always had an upright penguin like stance, so I don’t think her stance is caused by being egg bound, or anything else that would typically make a hen go downhill fast. It was just suggested to me that her stance is from her crooked toes. Is it too late to fix? Also she doesn’t appear to be laying yet, not sure if that’s connected.
    Thank you so much!


    • Regarding the stance I’m not sure what might cause that. Have you looked at the possibility of Marek’s disease, which usually manifests in the age range of this bird?
      In case it is a vitamin deficiency, I would try a multi-vitamin supplement, such as Poultry Cell, to add riboflavin and Vitamin C to the diet. Make sure you are feeding a balanced diet appropriate for the birds’ age (starter, grower, layer). [please note that I’m not a vet, and this advice is not diagnosis or treatment]


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