Mr. Rooster’s right leg has been deformed, as far as we can tell, from the beginning. We never saw any sign injury, but at about five months, when he was close to full grown, he had developed a thickened and slightly twisted right leg. This kept him from walking too far from the coop, but with use of his left leg and wings he could get about, and he enjoyed lying under the forsythia on warm days. At night he was first on the roost, securing his favorite spot near the wall.
A few days ago he lost all use of his left leg, which meant he had to hop on the deformed one. We could see nothing wrong with the left leg—but it clearly could no longer bear his weight. This limited his range even further, and in the last couple of days he could no longer jump up to the roost at night. Chickens need to be on perches when they sleep. They instinctively want to be off the ground (in the wild they sleep in trees to avoid predators), and it isn’t clean or healthy for them to lie in the shavings on the ground.
So we weren’t sure what to do. We certainly didn’t want him to be in pain or distressed. I called a wonderful woman named Laurie Lofton, who provides holistic veterinary services for all kinds of animals. She was trained in traditional veterinary medicine before switching her practice to homeopathic care. She made a “farm call” this afternoon, and took a lot of time looking at Mr. Rooster. She noticed that on both of his feet, the toe that should be oriented behind him (I assume for better balance), was facing forward. It seems likely that he was simply born with legs and feet that were misshapen. After discussing options with Dr. Lofton we realized the kindest thing was to put Mr. Rooster to sleep. Despite vowing not to get attached to the chickens, it is too hard not to once you know their personalities. So we will miss Mr. Rooster who crowed at dawn.