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Other Names: Four-legged Chicken

Polymelia is a genetic birth defect and type of congenital malformation of the limbs that can sometimes occur in chickens, and is defined as the growth of additional limb(s) attached to various body regions. The additional limb or limbs are often shrunken in size and/or deformed. The exact cause of this congenital anomaly is unknown, however it is thought to be associated with genetic factors involving transgenes, chromosomes, and/or possible exposure to environmental toxins.

Cases of chickens with polymelia

In 2005, a four-legged chicken named Henrietta was hatched at a small farm in Somerset, Pennsylvania and raised by the farm owner's 13-year-old daughter. The bird readily adapted to its condition, and was found to peacefully coexist with other chickens on the farm.

In 2011, a 9-week old broiler was brought to the University of Abuja's Veterinary Teaching Hospital in Nigeria, where it was diagnosed with polymelia, confirmed macroscopically and radiographically. The chicken had one undeveloped extra-limb that was attached to the caudal region of the pelvic bone, which was surrounded by a mass of muscular tissue. Radiographic imagery revealed that the right half of the chicken's pelvis had an extra femur, which was attached to the acetabulum in addition to the normal femur.

Clinical Signs

Chick has extra limbs


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam
  • Radiography


No treatment necessaryMost of the time, these birds can live normal healthy lives without negative implications resulting from the defect.
SurgeryWhen performed by a veterinarian, amputation of the extra limbs has been shown to be successful.



Postive, birds are found to live normal healthy lives.

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Exposure to environmental toxins such as Polychlorinated Biphenyl Compounds (PCB) and mercury