Sunday, January 12, 2014

Signs of a Stroke in Chickens - Yes, Chickens Can and Do Have Strokes.

Many of you will remember my post about my gyandromorphic chicken. You can read the post HERE if you would like to. Since the writing of the article, we named the chicken Italy. We couldn't call it a he or she and didn't want to keep referring to it as "it" so somehow "it" morphed into "Italy" over time.

Now I'm not so sure if Italy was truly a gyandromorph. It/he certainly may have been, but the more likely scenario, based upon recent developments, is that Italy may have had a chicken-y form of Cerebral Palsy.

Italy had a decided tilt to the left, and a very awkward, jerky gait. His/its tail bent to the left side and there is no question that normally I would have put a bird like this down... BUT...

...but... Italy was the sweetest, most friendly chicken I ever met. Italy ran to me for snuggles every single day. Italy wanted to be held, pet and spoken to... endlessly! Not a common trait in chickens. 
(I will refer to Italy as "he" going forward to simplify things.)

The above photo is a picture of Italy at 8 months of age. As you can see, he developed a hen-size comb and wattles, and the sickle feathers never grew or fully developed on his tail. Italy's spurs never began to develop whatsoever... but he did have quite a bit of male plumage as you can see by his hackle and saddle feathers. For comparison, here is a picture of Italy's half brother, Mace, at about 6 months of age (younger than Italy is in the above photo) on the right and an 8 month old Swedish Flower hen on the left:

Don't mind the hen's dirty beak. She just climbed out of a dust bath to snack on some ice.

As you can see, Italy did have traits and similarities to both sexes... but was it due to gyandromorphism or a form of Cerebral Palsy? 

I had no plans of allowing this bird to breed or reproduce, but that never ended up being a concern.

Italy did crow a few times, though it sounded more like a honk than a crow. He never showed any interest in breeding, and would spread his wings over younger chicks on the roost at night, much as a mother hen would. The older chickens didn't seem to mind his presence - not even the roosters who would normally chase off or beat up cockerels that came too close. Italy was almost treated like a mascot by the flock and didn't seem to be subject to the same pecking order rules as the other chickens.


About 4 days ago I went out to the chicken yard to find Italy on his side, unable to get up. When I stood him up, his left wing drooped and was dragging the ground. My thought at the time was that perhaps the adult roosters had finally decided to beat Italy up and wrenched his wing.

Over the next few days, it became evident that the whole left side of Italy's body was not functioning properly. He held his neck at an odd angle, couldn't walk well and would miss the bowl completely when he was trying to eat. His eyelid drooped and his tail was even more cockeyed. All signs of a stroke.

He spent his last days in the house where he received lots of love and attention. He wasn't in pain, seemed happy enough and even seemed to be recovering and slowly regaining use of his body. His wing didn't drag the ground any more, though it still drooped significalntly. Each morning he would greet me excitedly when I walked into the room, clucking (like a hen) through the wire of his temporary cage.

But this morning there was no clucking... no chicken craning its crooked neck to see me... and I knew then and there that sometime over night, one last stroke had taken him.

Yes, this bird should have been culled as a youngster - as soon as I realized something wasn't right with him. But do know this - even though he wasn't like all the other birds, he was still a very happy bird. He was always sweet to the younger birds and he did all the things the other birds did during his 8 months on earth. If I had thought for a moment he was suffering or unhappy (or if he had gotten mean) I would have culled him. As it was, he was the happiest, most well-adjusted chicken I have ever had the pleasure to know.

So - was Italy a gyandromorph or just a chicken with a form of Cerebral Palsy? Like the "chicken and the egg" question, we will never know. It's possible he was a mosaic gyandromorph and that his differences caused some brain damage while he was developing in the egg. Or perhaps gyandromorphism caused his awkwardness, lopsidedness and ultimately caused a series of strokes. Maybe he was just a wonderful chicken with CP. What ever the case may be, and as deeply as I believe in culling weak chickens from my flock, in Italy's case I wouldn't have done anything differently.



  1. I just can't tell you how touched I am by your story. Lucky Italy to have such a loving and compassionate family. Thank you for sharing.


    1. Thank you, Leona. And we feel lucky to have had Italy while we did. We sure do miss him/it!

    2. What a lover,I lost my rooster on Saturday, I had him for only two years,I had him as a chick,he became so close,running to me,when we would take the dog for.a walk he would come with us and be in my jacket, he loved going for car rides,
      I didn't notice much wrong,sometimes he lost his balance,but he did that before ,but then thinking out he was always at my garden door on his own,wanting to come in,that day he just fell on his side,I ran to him,brought him,and true to walk him,he was still alive,I said ,wake up pls wake up,but he slowly closed his eyes ,he was so warm, and passed way in my arms ,greetingx

    3. Shiva - I"m so sorry for your loss!

  2. So did you bury him? ... new to this whole chicken thing. Not sure if you'd be able to eat him or not.

    1. Although we will eat chickens we put down due to injuries, we don't eat chickens that have been ill as without laboratory testing, one can't be 100% certain there was not another cause of death.

      So - eat injured chickens and don't eat sick chickens.

      Because he was so much of a pet, we actually might have considered burying him, but it was pouring down rain and we chose do simply dispose of the body elsewhere.

      And by the way, welcome to the chicken world. There is much more positive than negative, usually. :-)

    2. This is the closest thing I've read to what I'm experiencing with our Barnevelder. If her posted hatch-date was correct, she's now 8 months old. About 4 months ago, she developed a started sneezing and "gaping". And limping, left-sided. We treated her with pharmaceuticals and she passed a something that looked like a tubular structure with a developing egg inside. We figured she'd gotten egg-bound in the oviduct long enough for this shape to be maintained after elimination; her walk returned to normal. But she continued to sneeze and gape. She's the one bird in the flock (of 9) who doesn't dust bathe, so we introduced her to diatomaceous earth--a bit in her food and a lot in her feathers. She stopped sneezing and gaping. We got lax on keeping her dusted. Several weeks ago, we noticed she was hanging back away from the rest of the flock. She wasn't moving very well. She had quite the infestation of lice. We bathed her in salt water, followed by soap & vinegar water, rinsed her well and kept her inside. She looked good, but wasn't eating well. We started feeding her by hand. While her weight is coming back on, she's now got an overgrown beak and she's atrophying on the entire left side. Her coordination was just awful last week--I was sure she wouldn't live through the day last Friday--but now she's perking back up, eating more (from a dropper as we continue to hand feed her every hour or so during the day), she's moving around much better and faster, but the curve in her body is quite pronounced. Did the poor nutrition when we weren't paying close attention cause her to have a stroke? Severe anemia from the lice? Salpingitis several months back? Thanks for any input. Time to feed her again before I head off for work....

  3. I think I would have done a necropsy (home version) just to see if he had him or her pieces/parts, or if anything else was abnormal... curiosity thing I guess.

    Glad he had a good life and didn't suffer in the end.

  4. thanks as a matter a fact im sitting in a room with a chicken showing the same symptom and knowing shes is going to die made me sad but i am happy to know she had a good life.
    my chicken, Brownie is just like italy and soon she will die but as she has had a stroke but i am going to love her until the day she dies.

  5. I just lost my little friend Viceroy. He was a Old English Game chicken that was the sweetest most loving bird I've ever known. He suffered a stroke and had left sided weakness. He lived in an indoor pen since I got him from the state fair a year ago. I miss him terribly.

  6. HI first I would like to say sorry for the lost loved ones! I well my girlfriend has a game rooster that she saved in 2012 his name is Jack,he is a handfull but still very loving! anyway im writing to see if maybe you can help..lastnight we went out to his coop and we thought he was dead,he wasnt so we put him in a small kennel and brought him inside he is still with us thank god! its like he had a stroke..his color keeps coming and going he is still cohearent and is eating very little and drinking watter,mostly hes just standing in the corner.. Any idea?? thank you in advance,and please Jack Jack needs all the prayers he can get. thank yaw

    1. I'm sorry to hear about Jack. Unfortunately only time will tell. Some birds get better and some don't. Turmeric can have wonderful healing affects for neurological conditions. If he's still with you, try cooled turmeric tea. Fresh turmeric root is best, but you can use the dried, ground turmeric sold in the spice section at your grocery store. Boil it and run it through a coffee filter. Give the cooled tea to Jack to drink.
      Best wishes!

  7. We too have a sad cockeral ,Napolean, he,s been unable to stand for several days but feeds well from my hand or I sit him on my lap and he eats from a bowl,today he moved his right leg on my lap but when I put down on grass eats but his legs collapse under him,we,r waiting to speak to vet,we dont want to lose him even if he a atrophy little toad sometimes. Not sure of his age possibly 7 or8 according to a neighbour,putting vermx in his water

  8. My tiniest white rooster,is dying 2,much like we shared here a stroke,this fully 8 months grown rooster is beautiful and crows too,and at a size of bout 1 egg and half made him the smallest rooster,I prayed with him,and cried a happy tear he be home,this lol guy flies up and sit by my lap,great friend and pet.

  9. Cookie lost her mate henrieta a few months ago. And I became her kin. Following me around the yard with my dog. She has had what I beleive , maybe a stroke. She doesnt move much and eats little. But talks to me when I am around with a little cackle. Shes comfortable. But when she finally goes, she will be buried with her own special tree for her efforts.


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