How an Injured Chick Became My Pet Chicken

Chickens as Pets? How We Ended Up With ILean.


Several years ago, when we were fairly new to owning backyard chickens, we had a small flock of six, but we were ready to expand. While at our feed store, we saw some pullets out front. The kids each picked one out. The feed store owner put them in our carrier while we paid. Before we left, he told me, “I put an extra chicken in there for you. I can’t sell her because she has a broken leg. She was injured as a small chick somehow, but I think you will give her a good home.” He smiled, and that was how I got my pet chicken.

I looked inside the carrier and saw such a sad sight. This poor chicken was hobbling around with one leg sticking straight out to the side. The feathers on her back had been plucked, and she looked pitiful. My heart split in two. What a blessing to be able to give her a good home, but it felt like a curse, too.

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Since taking in chickens, I had tried to be a tough farmer gal. I knew I couldn’t get attached to my farm animals because farm animals aren’t pets. The drive home seemed long that day. I was nervous about taking care of an injured chicken. I knew I was going to have to treat this one differently, but I didn’t know what to do.

A Place of Her Own

When we got home, my husband took the carrier and set it inside the new chicken pen and run.

“What is wrong with that one?” he asked.

“She has a broken leg,”  I said. The man at the feed store just gave her to us because he couldn’t sell her. She really should be separated, but I have no idea what to do with her.” My husband suggested putting her in one of the rooms in our barn in the carrier. It wasn’t a perfect solution, but it would work until we found something better.

I filled a feeder and a small waterer and set them in the room. I opened the little door and carefully removed her. She was so calm and didn’t even flinch. She started eating like she was starved. I guess the other chickens wouldn’t let her eat when she was with them. Then I put a thick layer of pine shavings in her carrier and made a little nest for her.

At that point, I was struggling. It broke my heart to see her hobbling around. There had to be a way to fix her leg. I ended up calling the vet’s office and got her an appointment for the following day, and I made her a protective cape to cover the bald place on her back.

That evening, the only thought on my mind was that chicken. Her nature was so sweet, and she was very attentive when I was handling her. She was going to have to be my pet chicken. I know. I know. Chickens as pets? No way. Well, this one was different, to me anyway. I just couldn’t see putting her down because she was alert, happy and obviously a survivor.


Getting a Name for My Pet Chicken

At the dinner table, we all talked about her, and I suggested we come up with a name for my pet chicken. My husband said, “Here’s one. How about Ilene?”

I guess I looked really confused to him.

“You know, ‘I Lean’. She leans because her leg is broken. ILean!”

We all just howled! That was way too cute! ILean it is!

After dinner, I went out to the barn to check on ILean, and when I opened the door, I saw that she had hobbled back into her carrier and cuddled up in her pile of shavings. I closed the door on the carrier and shut the barn door.

A Trip to the Vet

The trip to the vet’s office was interesting, to say the least. I know they all thought I was crazy bringing in a chicken with a broken leg. The ladies at the front desk thought her name was cute, and they chuckled when I explained it. And the doctor got a kick out of it, too. She said that, unfortunately, there wasn’t anything they could do with her leg at that point. She suggested keeping her in her own little pen with soft bedding. So for $35 I was pretty much told to do what I was already doing. Yep, I felt like a crazy chicken lady at that moment, and I took ILean back home and put her back in her room.


Life at Home

We had ILean for two-and-a-half years, but unfortunately, we had to put her down when her leg became enlarged and she was obviously suffering. We loved ILean. She was unlike any other chicken I have ever had. She knew she needed us, and she was so sweet. She never pecked anyone or threw a fit when we’d pick her up. I’d go out to the barn every morning to let her out, and I’d call her name, “ILeeeean.”

She’d answer back, “Bwaaaaahhhhh …”

I loved it. When the kids were out playing in the yard, they’d pick her up and take her with them. They’d set her off to the side so she could eat some  “yard munchies” while they played. When they were done playing, they’d put her back in her room. In the winter when it would get really cold outside, we’d bring her carrier in the house. No, she wasn’t a house cat, but there were times when she was close to being one.

Well, so much for the whole tough farm girl idea. That surely didn’t work. What can I say? I’m a softie when it comes to animals, especially the needy ones, and somehow the owner of the feed store knew this. I am glad that he gave her to us. She sure was a lot of fun and I love my pet chicken ILean.

Do you have similar experiences? Share your stories! I’d love to hear from you!

  • My bent is towards the rejects, the despised, disabled, mistreated and tortured, whether they are human or nonhuman creatures.
    Your injured chicken story is great, thanks!
    I am thrilled every time I come across a human person who does not view our fellow creatures as only existing for human [ab]use.

    To my chicken story :
    Three years ago a chicken appeared at my living room window in a snowstorm on a bitter cold day. No idea where he came from.
    Yet, he somehow knew what he was doing and was asking for help.
    All his primary feathers were missing and most breast feathers too, plus there was a large, bleeding wound on his back, the blood frozen.
    I took him inside to care for him and he became very tame in just a few days. He cooped inside with me in a large cage and spent the daytime outside in a safe enclosure I built attached to the house after he got well. But nights he always stayed inside with me.
    I so enjoyed his exuberant crowing and his many other vocalizations, including a flute like tone and a low growl.
    Close to sundown he would stand right by his enclosure gate, where He waited to be picked up for the night. He loved to be touched and held and taught me a lot about the awesomeness of Creator.
    A few months ago he unexpectedly crossed over [died], I miss him very much!
    His little body is buried close by but I know the precious little guy is not in it. He is flying free in Creator`s presence and we will meet again….
    Just recently I was able to give a home to three new chicken companions, another small rooster with two non-laying hens.
    Am excited about these new companions who started eating out of my hands after just a few days and letting me carefully touch them.

  • Here is how I came to own chickens:
    Two years ago, in the month of may someone posted an ad on Kijiji, they had a rooster to give away. The poor guy looked like he had been plucked and they did not have the heart to put him down, so on mother’s day I got my little Mango-roo. I fell in love the moment I saw him, I kept him separated from the other hens my husband had and at night I would go and sit in his coop with him in my arms. Then the day came that he moved in with his ladies, what a proud little roo he was, being a bantam he was standing 10 feet tall around his ladies. Then came winter and Mango did not have a lot of feathers and somehow he got respiratory problems, my hubby agreed to let me bring a crate in the house to keep Mango for the winter. Well let me tell you, that boy loved to crow at 4:00am. But we let him spend the winter in, then on a beautiful spring day, it was warm, I let him join his girls back, because it was windy, Mango got problems breathing again. So we brought him back in the house until the summer, he went and joined his girls again, then a couple days after that, I found him in his coop with breathing problems, he felt very cold even though it was hot outside. I then brought him back in, put him in a box full of straw, I covered him with a blanket and he quietly slipped away. I cried a lot of tears for my little Mango, I came to find out in the end that he was a frizzle that had been crossed with a frizzle and was told that it is a no-no, that you should never cross 2 frizzles because they have genetic issues. He was my first little chicken, and he will always have a very big place in my heart.
    RIP Mango-roo

  • Thank you so much for your article! We just got six silkies from a private seller and one of them has exactly the same problem as your sweet bird. She’s named Happy and she hops around on her one good leg, only putting weight on her other leg occasionally. So far the other chicks are nice to her and let her lean on them for support. It’s pretty adorable!

    It’s good to hear from your experience that the vet couldn’t really do anything. I was struggling with whether we should take her or not. Here’s hoping she is able to live with her sisters without them picking on her. I’ll keep a close watch on them! Thanks again

  • We have little partridge rock bantams. But I secretly have a favourite hen and this is how it came to be. One day, our neighbour’s girl brought us an egg, because both of our hens from the original flock were both broody, therefore no eggs so she felt bad for my daughter bringing her an egg to eat. We had eggs under each hen, and three more in the incubator. My daughter put it in the incubator too just to see what would happen. 23 days later..okay she was late… That egg boogied every time we softly clucked to it. Hence her name became boogie. We had no idea first of all that it had been fertilized, second what kind of chicken, third boy or girl. Well obviously fertilized, she ended up being a little hen, and we found out she is a golden Wyandotte crossed with a ? Rooster. She comes when we call, our best flyer, and follows us anywhere. She is bigger than the rest, but she considers herself as just one of the girls. I’m sure glad we didn’t eat that egg. She was a lovely little suprise!!!!! So we will have two lines of chicks, partridge rock bantams and barnyard boogie birds. LOL

  • I also have a hen with a leg that was broken when she was very young, but her leg hangs down. She is able to use it like a paddle and she hops about on the other leg. She is as active as the others, lays eggs every day and gets up the ramp into the coop every day to lay her eggs and every night to sleep. I call her Cassie – short for Hopalong Cassidy. She is a little sweetheart and crouches down for me to pick her up and carry her, which I do sometimes so she doesn’t get left too far behind the others when they are free-ranging.

  • I have 4 chickens. Lois and Clarke, and Chicken and Little. They are all pets. Lois is sick. She has sat at my back door for 2 days mooching. Her bum is bright red. I washed her bott this morning and put some cream on it. I think she has something really wrong with her. Clarke stodd on the metal drinking bowl i had picked up to clean and it landed on top of her. She cut her foot. I had to wrap her in a towel, and bandage up the foot so the others wouldn’t peck at it. The morning was spent doctoring chickens. I get so attached to all of my pets, including my chooks. It’s sad when they are sick or die. Love hearing other chicken stories. 🙂

  • Loved reading of your iLean. My story is about my hen Rosie. Hubby and I saw an ad chickens for sale so we got directions and drove 100 miles only to see a pen of what we termed sorry looking Tyson rejects… the chickens who escape and don’t make it to the processing plants. After the long drive, hubby opted to get six of these sorry white leghorns and as I turned to go I saw this one in the corner of the wire pen, and she looked me in the eye and I said I wanted her too. Hubby shook his head but she ended up in one of the pet taxis on our truck’s back seat. She sang all the way home…. and I named her Rosie. Rosie had more personality than most people I know. When I went to feed our horses and other chickens, she walked with me, singing all the way and would follow me back to the house and sit on the back step until I went out of an evening to tuck everyone in. She would politely peck your leg to let you know she was there and she would scoot the horses’ noses out of their pans so she could eat first. She loved to be talked to and would stand and listen intently. She loved being patted on the back and would sit next to me like a dog when I was in the yard. She grew as big as a small turkey, never crowed, never laid an egg. My son watched my critters one weekend and when I returned, he said ‘Mom do you know you have the strangest chicken out there. She’s…. got personality.’ I smiled and said ‘oh you met Rosie then.’ She never failed to greet me or walk with me, and when the old girl passed away I buried her and cried for two days afterward. She was my sweet Rosie. I might add, my son had worked at Tyson processing plant but after meeting Rosie, he found another non-chicken related job. I’d like to think it my Rosie who altered his attitude. I was so glad I bought her that day…. there will never be another one like her.

  • love the chicken stories. Now I don’t feel weird. At this time I have had 3 chickens I had to nurse back to health. Which in turn ended up being pets. Penquin, which got caught in a fence and tore his thigh up really bad. couldn’t walk. got him back up walking, but he stood up like a penquin at that time. He now is ok. Then there is gimpy, he has a deformed leg. at one time he couldn’t walk either. He now can but limps. then there is Susie, she got caught between some boards and the rooster pecked her hine quarters to the bone by the time I found her. she now is healing nicely and doing ok. Ever single one of the injuried ones which I kept in the house till healed, now think they still need to come in the house. I love my pet chickens. Lots of company, I also have 2 more that nothing is wrong with them but they are really my special girls. Eagle and Hawk. Because one looks like an Eagle and the other one like a Hawk. Eagle flies up and lands on my head or shoulder, Hawk will jump up on my lap, and talks to me. they are my special babies. I love my babies, and so glad that others have a heart to care enough about their chickens to consider them pets. Chickens are very smart birds, believe it or not.

  • I have a 7 week old chick that has a similar problem. We brought her in and tried taping her leg to the other one, but the joint had frozen and couldn’t be fixed. She lost most of her feathers due to the stress. The others don’t harass her. She lives with the others. For the first few days I had to help her get in and out of the coop. She would meet me at the gate. Now she does it on her own. She hunkers down in the same spot during the day. Her feathers are coming back and I look forward to her looking like a barnvelder should. I named her Maise. You can read about her on my blog.


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