So here's the scoop on Monday's vet visit.
First, just getting a two week-old peachick safely to the vet (this particular vet happens to be 45+ minutes away from the house) was challenging. These chicks are still brooding with a heat lamp, and are not ready to be running around in cool-ish room temperatures, and definitely not ready for a couple of hours (round trip + wait time + exam time) away from a heat source. Plus it's a peachick, so #5 can already fly a bit.
I rigged up a travel box out of a big plastic box with a lid, a heating pad, a thermometer and a thick, folded towel (to keep the heating pad from burning the chick). I ran the heating pad in the box for an hour or two, trying different settings to see what was warm enough but not too warm, before adding the chick. (You have to give the heating pad a little while to work and steady out before you can really tell what it is going to do!)
Despite all that prep, still had to watch the little guy kinda closely -- the car was hot when we got in, and I didn't want to freeze him out with too much air conditioning, because I couldn't plug the heating pad in and heat him back up in the car (forgot the fancy AC adapter thingy). But he started panting from getting too hot, so we popped up the lid and watched the thermometer to get him to a more comfortable range.
Here he is in his box (this was actually on the way home) -- he was pretty okay with it.
This vet was unclear on surgery for slipped tendon -- she had never heard of it, and wasn't looking to experiment. I think this may have been her first peafowl, and I don't think she has attempted to treat slipped tendons much, if ever. With that said, she obviously has splinted many bird legs in the past, so she was able to improvise something that worked.
I'm sorry that I wasn't able to videotape or take pictures as she was building up the splint with layers of tape, but I had to wait to take photos until I got #5 back home. I'll try to describe her technique after the photos.
This first photo is taken from the side of the chick, looking at the leg from the outside:
Here is a closeup of the tape "splint" from approximately the same angle:
Here is the splint from the front showing the thin edge:
The first thing she did was to tape the tendon back into place. Her technique was better than mine and she used a softer tape than I had had on hand. Using a fairly narrow (not too skinny) piece of soft, flexible cloth tape, she applied the tape below the hock joint, and then around the joint itself, holding the tendon in the groove on the back of the hock. She did not attempt to tape up above the hock joint, and she did put tape directly ON the hock joint, both of which I had avoided doing. But her way worked better than what I had tried. I do think she was careful to avoid overtightening the tape and avoid cutting off circulation -- it's a little tricky to get it tight enough but not too tight, and some experience obviously helps. Also, having very good tape is a plus.
She then created a "splint" out of cloth tape. She started with a wider cloth tape -- perhaps 1" or 1 1/2" wide, woven cloth bandage tape. It was flexible, but perhaps not as flexible as the thin stuff. That's the wide stuff you see in the photos. She cut two pieces and placed them like the sides of an envelope on the outside and inside of the leg. Imagine that the knife edge of the envelope is facing forwards (aligned with the center toe). That allowed her to put a small flex in the joint and hold the tendon in place at the same time, but did not allow the joint to bend or flex. (But see update info farther down.) I am not certain if she added another piece or two in that layer -- I kinda think she may just have used one on each side, but she mentioned that sometimes she builds up layers.
After she had the two sides of the envelope stuck together, with the leg gently bent forward at the hock joint, she took bandage scissors and trimmed away part of the excess tape so the "envelope" was no longer a fat rectangle. Working first on the front, knife edge of the envelope, she placed smaller bits of the tape across the knife edge, covering it, and lapping the tape onto (but not completely around) the two sides of the envelope. As she did that on the front, she very neatly managed to incorporate a slight inward bend, matching the natural position of a chick's lower leg. (If you look carefully at a normal leg, it flexes in two directions at the hock -- part of why that is such a vulnerable joint -- the leg swings forward from the hock, but also inwards so the feet are a bit closer together than the hocks.) She managed to get that slight twist just right, and somehow the little strips lapping the knife edge helped her shape it. Likewise, she put little tape strips lapping the back knife edge as well. These little tape strips not only added the twist shaping, but also strengthened the envelope and helped hold the two sides of the envelope from coming apart.
The chick was definitely not crazy about it, and didn't know how to use the leg. He tried all sorts of things, and even had some little leg spasms to the rear. I thought he was going to splay himself again. He was happiest in the car going home when he could support himself on the cradled up towel. The vet and I discussed putting a hobble on it -- she thought that might help. However, later I discovered that wasn't going to work.
When I got him home, I tried another round of chick chair. I made a height extension for it and got the chick all installed and back into the brooder. He seemed like he was doing okay.
I got home and discovered -- disaster! -- he had somehow flipped the chick chair, struggled out of his glove and his wing wrap, and dragged himself to the other end of the brooder, where he looked pretty darned exhausted. (I have this great mental image of his buddies mounting a rescue to flip the chair, but I kinda doubt it ). That was pretty worrisome, and definitely not safe, so I thought I better just let him rest and see how he did. I was also worried about his toes drawing up, because it seemed as though he was ending up using the tops of his foot to walk on. Notice that the splint has the leg mostly extended, so it does not fit well underneath the chick. When he was tired, the good leg was pretty worn out from all the "day" he had had. He obviously needed to rest. I syringe fed him some pedialyte to make sure he wasn't dehydrating, and let him be.
At some point, he seems to have "sprung" his splint a bit, and he is now much more mobile on it. He has the lower part of the splint pushed apart enough that he has more use of the leg. In particularly good news, he has the toes working properly, foot in the correct orientation, and either the tendon is still in place or the splint is providing enough support that he is able to bear weight on the leg to hobble around. I kinda think that the tendon must still be in place, otherwise I think it would collapse.
So at this point, I am hoping that the groove is growing and that he is staying supported where it needs to be. I'm leaving the bandage alone (the foot looks healthy and a good color), and I'm just watching to make sure he stays hydrated and fed and is getting around okay. In a few more days, I'll have to take the bandage off (if he doesn't completely bust it first!) and then assess where he is. It's probably still too soon to become optimistic -- it's just one day at a time and seeing how he does.
The tape "splint" is definitely worth trying though -- much better than anything I have seen so far.