A Chicken With Viral Arthritis


There’s always something going on in my chicken flock. This is Sylvie, a Speckled Grey hen with leg problems. Basically, she can’t stand for longer than a few seconds. That’s tough when she is a free-range bird who should be spending her days scratching around for grubs and enjoying the fresh country air.

Her troubles started last September. I noticed she rested in the grass for longer periods than the other birds, but since she ate and drank as she should, I paid her little attention. However, gradually, over the last few months she has gotten a lot worse. Aside from never venturing very far, she lies down to eat.

Evidently, she is in a lot of pain and I feel so sorry for her.

The other day, I was digging the vegetable beds preparing for the new season when I was joined by the hens. It’s always fun watching them. As soon as I lift the soil they dive into the earth, snatching worm after worm. They are opportunists, but they are also greedy and had barely swallowed one when another was stretched away from the apparent safety of the ground.

All the time this was going on, poor Sylvie was resting her sore legs just outside the hen house. I decided then that I had to do something, and after spending some time researching, I reached the conclusion she has viral arthritis. Apparently, it’s a condition that’s common in chickens and turkeys, and there is no treatment. That’s never stopped me before. I never give up. (It’s the budding novelist in me!)

Since I have arthritis, I can sympathise with how she feels. The pain is wretched, and aside from making the joints ache, it slows down other bodily functions making the sufferer feel lethargic and very sluggish. It’s hardly any wonder that Sylvie has lost all of her desires.

So, I’ve brought her indoors, and for the moment she is living in a large box in an unheated room. The warmth will help her feel better, as, I hope, will her remaining treatment. On top of what she can manage of her regular food, I’m giving her an egg, which is great for inflammation, and a little flax oil, ginger and garlic. She is also on a course of aspirin, just a few grains, which I hope will help her deal with the pain. Then, she’s having her Epsom salt baths. Twice a day she rests in a tub of warm water and gently clucks.

Talk about spoilt!

Since it’s a virus, I believe there’s every chance she may improve and one day will return to her flock. Either way, at least I will have tried. Some of you may think I should just take the easy option and take her to an early death, but that’s not my way. I’ve never done that before, and I have had some amazing and completely unexpected successes.

There’s always a chance she’ll recover. It may be small, but it’s a chance I’ll take.

As I said, I never give up.

Until later . . .


About Honor A Dawson

I live in a rural location with my husband, dogs, cats and chickens. I love reading and writing, watching and playing tennis, swimming, and wildlife and nature.

Posted on March 4, 2014, in chicken tales and tagged , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Reblogged this on Forget the Viagra, Pass Me a Carrot and commented:
    A lovely story Honor and I am with you all the way. I love eggs and I know that there is no way I could have chickens to lay my breakfast and then expect them to provide dinner as well. I do hope that Sylvie will recover and join her friends.

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  6. Thank you for this post. My barred rock hen is acting the same way. She doesn’t seem to be in pain but is exhibiting the same symptoms.

    • The one thing about keeping any type of creature, there’s an inevitability that one of them will contract some weird disease of which many are unaware. Sylvie lived quite happily lifting herself around on her own small patch of grass, she got”bed sores” which scabbed up like armour plating! We altered her diet adding a small amount of ginger and garlic(1/4 flat teaspoon)considering she was disabled she was very mobile. #LLAP
      We have all sorts of herbs and spices we use on our animals that provide alleviation from various conditions, they so easy to obtain and save a fortune in vets bills!

  7. Hi Honor, I know my reply is years after you posted this. How did it go with your treatment of Sylvie? Was she able to join the rest of the flock again?
    I have a broiler hen, Penny, that I really don’t know how to treat. I first thought she had bumblefoot and the vet gave me an antibiotic but it didn’t help at all. I’ve soaked her legs in Epsom salt water as well as ACV. It seemed like she felt some relief.She was limping at first, then she started walking on her toes with the ball of the foot not touching the ground.
    She only walks a few steps then goes down.
    I’ll do anything to have her better again. I think the best will be to go for natural treatments.
    I hope this finds you and that your blog is still going.

  8. Hello Ina
    No I have not given up the blog, merely postponed posting articles as I have been absorbed with writing novels. I still keep chickens and tend my smallholding. I use many effective natural remedies for my animals as well as myself. Sadly Sylvie was taken by a fox because I put her in an insecure cage. She was well but had difficulty walking, though her skin, chest and leg abrasions healed as I applied frequent salt washes and garlic. This condition is prevalent in domestic chickens simply because we notice these maladies they do occur in commercial flocks but their lives are cut short after egg laying drops below their acceptable quota. Being responsible owners we take action to cure our livestock(pets). In South Africa you have some similar herbs to our British countryside a little research goes a long way. Hope you fare well.

    • Thank you for your reply. I’m soo sorry about Sylvie.It must’ve been awfull for you.
      I’ve done some research and it seems to me that Penny has arthritus. She is otherwise very alert and healthy. What type of herbs did you give Sylvie? I would like to try natural remedies and I’m so sure that she will be able to walk properly again. Her legs are also quite weak. Thank you for being such a caring person.

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