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10 day old chick leg problem

post #1 of 6
Thread Starter 

I have a ten day old RIR chick that had no issues with legs or feet prior to yesterday.

This morning I noticed him limping and favoring the right leg.  Toes are not curled but on examination I found what I would call knee?? is slightly red and slightly swollen. 

The others don't seem to be picking on him but I will watch more closely.

Any advice?  I cannot get him in to the vet until Thursday and that is not good.

I do not know how to post a picture.  I only have my Iphone.  If someone could direct me on how I will post but otherwise would love any thoughts or advice.

I am worried. 

post #2 of 6
Thread Starter 

post #3 of 6

A vet may not be of help if it is a slipped tendon or other leg bone deformity which are common in chicks. Some have had success in treating a slipped tendon by putting the tendon back into place and splinting it daily. I would start the chick on poultry vitamins with trace minerals. Poultry vitamins are easily found at most feed stores but few contain minerals. Poultry Nuri-Drench and Poultry Cell  both contain trace minerals, vitamins, and electrolytes. Here is some reading about slipped tendon and other bone deformities:



Chick Leg Hobbles with stiff center for chick leg problems

Fix Slipped Achilles Tendon in Hock Joint from PoultryPedia

Click here to read one little chick's success story of recovery from a Slipped Tendon & Perosis.
Click here to see a video of movement patterns of one chick with Perosis. Editor's note: The video says Perosis can't be treated after 24 hours, but I have not seen any other source say this, so I don't know that is true.
Editor's note: My limited personal experiences with trying to treat Slipped Achilles Tendon have not been successful. Some other people report they have had several successes. However, from my research, it sounds as though the majority of people find that if a few manipulation attempts don't correct the problem, additional attempts only cause significant unnecessary suffering and don't help the chick. Information listed below may not be sufficiently informed. Please do additional research to ensure best treatments. [If you have a success story, photos, or treatment tips, it would be very helpful if you would Contact PoultryPedia so they can be shared to help others!]
  • Slipped Achilles Tendon is a condition that results when tendon that runs down through the groove on the back of a bird's hock has slipped out of place off to the side.
  • This problem causes a serious form of Splayed Leg that cannot be corrected until the Achilles Tendon is put back in place. It may also lead to Twisted Leg and other problems if not treated soon enough.
  • This problem frequently occurs in conjunction with Chondrodystrophy / Achondroplasia & Perosis, conditions in which nutritional deficiencies in parent bird's diet keep chick's bones from developing properly to hold tendon.
    • See "Ensure adequate nutrition to prevent Perosis" section on this page to be sure that your chick feed has appropriate amounts of essential nutrients, and try supplementing in extra if your chick is showing a problem.
  • Symptoms:
    • The back of the hock will look flat (Compare to other legs to double-check).
    • The bird won't be able to fully straighten its leg by itself.
    • The bird will likely exhibit pain at least the first few days after injury. Birds may peep or cry repeatedly.
    • The joint will become swollen after a while.
    • Hold the joint between your thumb & finger and roll it back and forth. If the tendon has slipped, you will feel it snap back into place (and back out again, if the bone is not sufficiently developed). If you don't feel the tendon pop in, your bird may instead have a rotated femur, which requires surgery.
    • One leg may rotate out to the side or twist underneath the bird (showing Splayed Leg), depending on whether the tendon has slipped to the outside or inside of the leg.
    • If the tendons are slipped in both legs, the bird will stand & walk hunched down / squatting on its hocks ("elbows"), and may use its wings for balance. 
  • Treat this problem as soon as possible, so the joint doesn't swell as much (making healing more difficult) and the tendon does not end up shortened or deformed.
    • If the tendon has been out of place more than a few days, it may be unbearably painful to the bird to try to fix it or may cause damage. You could try gradually stretching the leg the leg a number of times a few days to lengthen the tendon, & then try correcting the placement.
      • This is especially true of young chicks because their legs are growing so quickly. Various bones, tendons & muscles will have done a lot of growing in just a couple of days and may have become too short, long or twisted so they can't allow the Achilles tendon to be back in the correct location.
  • To reposition the tendon into the correct place: Gently pull the upper part of bird's leg a bit behind normal position and then carefully straighten the leg as though bird were stretching its leg back in a pretty normal stretching motion. Press gently against the side of the tendon if needed, and it should pop back into place pretty easily and cause little if any pain. Gently release the leg and it should return to a normal bent position.
    • Some sources recommend pushing the tendon back in place just by pressing with your finger. However, stretching the leg back is a much less painful method.
  • Sometimes a tendon has a hard time staying in place. It may have been out of place for too long or a chick's hock groove may not yet have developed enough to hold the tendon well (Be sure to provide very good nutrition to support optimal bone growth at this time. Do NOT give Calcium or other nutrients in excessive amounts, however--that could cause other problems.).
    • You can repeat the repositioning of the tendon additional times. This may help the tendon gradually lengthen & shape correctly, while the bone is also growing enough to hold the tendon better.
    • You can put the tendon in place & then ***wrap the joint area with sports tape*** or other tape to help hold it there. Use a thin strip of tape wrapped several times around the joint. Change the tape after a few days to ensure it doesn't restrict circulation too much.
    • It will also help if you put the bird in a Chick / Chicken Sling or Chair and/or put its leg in a cast (such as one made from a bendable drinking straw) for a few days (~5) while re-alignment stabilizes.
      • (Note: There is some debate on whether it is better for feet to not touch the ground--as recommended below-- or to touch the ground a little. Please research further when making the choice.)
      • It is important for the legs not be able to reach the ground. The bird needs to be suspended with its legs just hanging freely or in not-too-tight casts shaped in normal bent angle. In this position, the chick won't try to use its legs as much. Its legs need relaxed rest in their normal position until the tendon(s) have stretched and adjusted back to the right place and shape.
  • Even after the tendon is back in place, the bird may continue to have some problems walking for a few days. If so, use a Hock Cushion(s) to protect its hock(s) from chafing & bruising during recovery. Limber the leg by gently stretching the leg several times a day, as you did when repositioning the tendon (Check to make sure the tendon stays in place.). If the chick struggles to figure out correct movements, Physical Therapy or short sessions in a Chick Cup (More info to be added.) may help.
  • You can try taking the bird to a veterinarian for Surgery for a tendon that won't go into place or won't stay in place, along with other treatments. Click here to read one little chick's success story.
  • If there is swelling on hock:
  • If infection is part of what is causing joint to swell, there will be pus in the area, though it may be hard to definitely identify beneath the skin. In this case, recovery is usually not possible, and would be EXTREMELY difficult. In almost all cases the bird should be put down to avoid additional suffering.
  • If swelling was just caused by displacement that has now been fixed, swelling will go down in 2-4 days.
  • If there is non-infected swelling & initial attempts to put the tendon back in place aren't successful, you may try putting the bird in a Chick Chair for a day or two while giving nutritional supplements. This can allow swelling to go down before trying again, and possibly allow the groove to more fully develop correctly. Be sure to regularly stretch/extend the leg during this time to help the tendon lengthen.
    • *Be aware that Chick Chair treatment requires a lot of work, and it may not be successful and may only prolong suffering.

Edited by Eggcessive - 3/12/16 at 12:21pm
post #4 of 6
Thread Starter 

I sure do appreciate this response.  I have read the articles you so kindly posted and this one posted below as well. 


I got the chick out and did exactly as it said but it did not feel like a tendon out of place. There was nothing to move from the side.  It seems to be a hard ball at the bend of the leg. I pushed the leg back further than usual and straightened the leg then I applied firm pressure from each side but afraid any more would snap his little leg.

I am freaking out as he is definitely having the foot turn outward and limping. 

This makes me so sad.  He just started doing it yesterday so you would think I could snap the tendon back if that were the problem. Or maybe he has had it for a long while and just showed symptoms yesterday?  The backs of each legs feel the same.  It does not have a flat spot as this explained.  It may be infection but feels like a round ball of bone at that joint area. 

They were hatched in incubator with rubber lining and have always been on thick cotton blankets changed daily to prevent splayed leg. 

My avian vet won't see me until Thursday so I am going to call Monday morning and just beg to fit me in. He doesn't cry or peep a lot so I just feel helpless. 

I missed the feed store so will get suggested vitamins electrolytes tomorrow started.  Meanwhile he is in with two siblings and they are nice to him.. He is eating and drinking very well. 

post #5 of 6

It is heartbreaking with these chicks, since it can be so common.  The chick in the first link is still alive I believe, grown up living in a run with one other chicken. It still has the handicap but is able to lead a food life with extra care. Just keep reading about other's experience and maybe something will work. The search box at the top of the page will get you lots of other threads by entering slipped tendon.

post #6 of 6
Thread Starter 

I have just read the article on Intertarsal joint problems and I am confident it is more that problem than the tendon. 

I am leaning toward joint deformity. 

We will see.  Such amazing information.  Again thanks so much.

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