Leg, Foot and Toe Issues
In Poultry Of All Ages


Table of Contents:

1.1 Preventing Leg and Toe Defects in Chicks
1.2 Splay/Spraddle Leg
1.3 Curled Toes
1.4 Slipped Achilles Tendon in Hocks
1.5 Hock Abnormalities
1.6 Weak Bones
1.7 Stargazing Leading to Weak Legs

Adult Birds:
2.1 Bumblefoot
2.2 Mycoplasma Synoviae
2.3 Scaley Leg Mites
2.4 Trimming Toe Nails
2.5 Trimming Rooster Spurs
2.6 Gout
2.7 Sprains, Strains and Breaks
2.8 Giving Pain Killers
2.9 Frost Bite
2.10 Mareks
2.11 Closing Statement


1.1 PREVENTING LEG AND TOE DEFECTS IN CHICKS....Some important facts to know so you can help prevent issues:
Lets start with the chicks first. We all know how cute, cuddly, innocently adorable they are and it hurts when they are having issues!

Chicks can develop leg and toe problems for any number of reasons. These issues can stem from genetics, poor breeder nutrition, incubation temps being too high or too low, low humidity during the incubation cycle, slippery surfaces at hatch, poor chick diet and more. This article will cover the most common of these ailments and how to treat them.

This is very important for hatching healthy chicks. Many health defects can be avoided if the breeder birds are fed properly. It is imperative that all breeder birds are fed a formulated diet made just for chickens. Home made feeds are difficult to formulate with all the proper nutrients unless you do a huge amount of research before hand and a lot of trial and error. So I will suggest that you purchase a commercial feed from your feed store. These feeds have all the nutrients needed for complete health of adult and growing birds. Certain vitamins and minerals lacking in a breeder's diet can have devastating effects on the growth of a tiny chick. So feed them right.

These are things that can greatly effect chicks legs, toes and over all weakness. If the temperature in your incubator is too high or too low all throughout the cycle, the legs and feet are going to suffer. An improper temperature will cause birth defects in these areas of the body and others as well. So monitor your temps carefully during incubation. I like to use two thermometers...the one on the machine and also use an accurate thermometer inside the machine. This way I can always cross check them. I have found the gauge on the machine can come out of calibration. One degree in either direction of 99.5 to 99.7 can cause all kinds of issues. Same with humidity levels. Too low of a humidity level can cause leg and toe issues in chicks. I like to keep another humidity gauge in the machine as well along with the one built into the incubator. So keep tabs on your temps and humidity levels during the cycle.

Improperly set eggs can cause all sorts of growth problems and leg issues. Eggs need to always be set large end up. If the eggs are set with the small pointy end up, the chicks will want to hatch from the wrong end of the egg. If the chick can't develop in the space of the egg designed by nature to provide for maximum growth, this will cause all kinds of leg and toe problems along with a host of others issues. This article is only going to deal with leg and toe issues, so I won't go further with incubation of eggs. Just make sure to store and set your eggs in the proper fashion and follow all guidelines for the incubation of eggs.


splay legg.jpg
Chicks are very weak at hatch and need firm footing on all surfaces at all times to help prevent injuries. Make sure at lock down you lay something down under the eggs that will give them a sticky surface on which to hatch and walk on. A plastic flooring in your incubator will be very slippery when wet. I like to use that rubber shelf liner with the tiny holes in it. At lock down, I lay the rubber shelf liner down over the turners or remove the turners completely. Then lay the eggs on top. When the chicks hatch and are drying off in the incubator, they have a nice tacky surface in which to flop around on. If they hatch on the slippery plastic surface, they are going to slip and pull their delicate weak muscles and tendons and end up with splay leg or a slipped tendon. And this also goes for the brooder as well. Use a bedding that allows for good traction. No slippery surfaces like plastic or newspaper. Wood shavings, grass hay or even wire make for good non-skid surfaces in the brooder.

If you have done all of the above and you are still dealing with Spraddle Leg, it is possible the breeder birds from where these eggs came from were malnourished. Along with the following treatment, you will want to add extra Vitamins B, E and Selenium to their diets. A lack of the vitamin B will definitely aid in the chicks overall weakness and supplementing the diet with extra B will help them develop more strength and to heal. Vitamin B is very important for leg health in all poultry. Adding a good Vitamin B complex to the diet will cure up many leg issues.


Spraddle leg is a condition in which a young chick can't stand because of injury or a genetic issue, hence the legs are splayed out at the sides as the chick sits on it's butt. This is a very serious condition and needs to be treated immediately. The chick will die if it cannot stand, eat or drink. If the surface of the incubator or brooder is slippery and the chick continues to slip, eventually they will be unable to stand. It is very important a newly hatched chick learns to walk properly. These first days of walking train it's brain how to stand properly and move correctly to get it's body to where it needs to go. The younger the chick is, the quicker the muscles and brain will respond to treatment.

Leg hobbles can help strengthen the young chicks muscles and if used for a week following hatch on a chick that has spraddle leg. The hobbles will prevent the legs from splaying outward. You can use several different methods of hobbling the chick from a band-aid, vet wrap, sports wrap, cotton cloth or even zip ties.

The chick is then wrapped as so:

Make sure the hobbles stay in place where you need them to be and not riding up the hocks. Give the chick just enough room to hobble around and not so tight he can't walk. Make sure there is nothing in the brooder that these hobbles can catch on and harm the chick in any way. One thing you will really need to watch is, hobbled chicks have a hard time with balance and standing up. They can EASILY stumble and fall into waters and drown. So while chicks are hobbled, only keep a very tiny bit of water in the water font or use marbles in the base so the chicks can't dunk their entire faces.

You will need to keep constant tabs on the chick and it's wraps on a daily basis. The chick is growing and the wrap may need to be adjusted every day for tightness and effectiveness. After one week, test the chick and his strength. Remove the hobbles and see if he can stand and function on his own. If not, you can continue on for a few more days with the hobbles. If the chick never seems to be able to stand, you might consider putting the chick down in a human way. Never leave the hobbles on longer than needed.

Other options for therapy are while in hobbles is having the chick stand in a short, small glass for 15 minutes, a couple of times a day. You can help to excercise the legs with holding the chick in one hand with it's legs extended and lowering him onto your finger for resistance training. Just 10 minutes a day on young chicks can do wonders. Stop by this thread for more help with your chicks with Spraddle Leg... https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/41693/spraddle-leg-splay-leg-treatment-instructions


Curled or twisted toes on chicks stem from a Riboflavin (Vitamin B) deficiency. The chick will walk on top of curled toes or even hocks to relieve the pain in the toes and may even be unable to stand. If this stems from poor breeder nutrition, the toes will begin to curl within a couple of days from hatch. If the curled toes stem from a poor chick diet, the toes can start to curl within 1 to 2 weeks.

Immediate treatment is needed to increase Riboflavin in the diet. You can offer up hard boiled eggs, crushed almonds, sesame seeds, spinach, even a small bit of cooked beef or fish. All these are high in Riboflavin. (Always offer up grit when feeding something other than chick starter. Grit aids in the grinding of foods in the gizzard that are not water soluble. You can use sand or Parakeet grit. Sprinkle it on the food as if you were salting it.

You can also try using chick shoes to help straighten the toes as you use the above suggestions as well. An outline form of the chicks entire foot is drawn on a piece of thin cardboard or a piece of thin plastic like from a cottage cheese lid.


This sole is then taped onto the toes to keep the toes in the proper position. Every few days you may need to make adjustments or loosen the bands as the chicks toes grow. After several weeks, the chicks toes should be in better alignment. Stop by this link/thread for more information on using these shoes.



A slipped Achilles Tendon in the hock occurs when the tendon that runs down through the groove of the back of the leg comes out of place. This condition causes a severe form of Spraddle Leg that cannot be corrected until the tendon is put back into place. Many times this is not possible to do and if not done quick or early enough, the bird is crippled for life. Many times this occurs with malnutrition of the breeder birds where the chick was unable to grow strong enough bones to hold the tendon in place.

*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.

If the bird has been like this for any extended amount of time, it may be too painful for you to fix and may cause other damage while trying to get it back into place. At this point, you might want to take the bird to the vet. However if you feel you want to give it a try, the easiest and least painful method on the bird is to 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.

If the tendon continues to pop back out, you can put the tendon back into place and wrap the joint and area with vet wrap to hold it in place. You will need to go a few times around the joint to hold it all together. Every few days you may need to loosen and rewrap as the chick grows. You will leave it taped for a few weeks until the chick grows stronger and larger. After the tape is removed the bird may be stiff. You can help the bird by stretching it's leg just as you did when getting the tendon back into place. The chick may have troubles walking properly for a while or it may never walk completely normal. Use your discretion in knowing when to put a bird down. Stop by this thread for more information on Slipped Tendons... https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/...chick-anyone-ever-try-to-fix-this-experiences

Enlarged flattened hocks, bowleggedness along with slow growth can be an indication of a Niacin deficiency. Adding good poultry vitamins to the chicks diet will help greatly.


Symptoms: Weak legs in chicks, Rickets. Chicks stop to rest a lot. They squat on their hocks and sway while standing. Slow growth and poor feathering. Generally this is not a problem with chicks on a good poultry diet. However adding extra Vitamin D3 will correct much of these symptoms.



This is from a Thiamine deficiency either passed down from the breeder parent birds or the diet of the chick. This type of paralysis progresses from toes to legs to wings and to the neck. An affected bird will end up in a "stargazing" stance with its neck bent back and beak pointed skyward. Give the bird a Vitamin B (Thiamine) supplement on a daily basis and may require this supplement in smaller doses for the rest of it's life.

A word on separation of chicks....If a young chick is having a hard time in the brooder with health issues, do not be afraid to separate them out from the others. Weak chicks many times respond to a few degrees of higher heat. They cannot compete at the feeders and waterers with the other chicks and can become trampled to death. So give these weak or sick chicks a place of their own during this healing period. I find that putting in a buddy chick with the weaker chick helps with companionship for the weaker bird and allows them to heal without being alone. If all your chicks are less than 3 weeks of age, generally they mix right back into the brooder flock without any complications of reintroducing them all when the weaker birds have healed.


I will cover the most common of ailments and issues that afflict adult chickens legs and feet here. Keep in mind that some of the topics in the "Chicks" section above may be helpful to you as well.



Bumblefoot is basically a laymen's term for an infection that occurs in the pad or toes of the birds foot. It can be very serious if not properly tended to and if not healed can cause permanent lameness and even death if the infection goes systemic.
How does a chicken get Bumblefoot anyway? Any time the skin gets broken through, worn off, punctured or even bruised on the birds pads or toes, leaves the internal tissue open to infection. The outer skin is a defense mechanism and protects the internal parts of the body from bacteria or virus's to enter. Once the skin is breached, the bird can contract infection.
There are a few things you can do to help prevent Bumblefoot from occurring and if nothing else catch it quick before it turns into an infection you can no longer treat.

1. Keep your roost bars low to the floor: Chickens like to get off the floor to sleep, however they do not need to sleep in the rafters. A a roost bar a foot off the ground is good enough for a bird and they will feel safe to roost. Jumping down from high places will bruise the bottom of the pads and toes and could lead to Bumblefoot over time. (Not to mention sprains and tendon tears which I will cover later).
2. Too small of roosting bar or one with rough edges: If your bar is too small, there will be great pressure on all of the foot as the bird rests it heavy body. These points of contact will cut into the foot and cause damage to the skin in these areas. So use the proper sized roosting bar for your bird's breed and round off all edges. Keep it smooth. No nail heads sticking up or chips of wood hanging out. You may think they are smart enough not to sleep on these areas, but they may not know any different or not have a choice if the bar is crowded.
3. Birds kept on wire are highly susceptible to Bumblefoot, especially the heavier breeds. The pressure points on such small areas of the pads and toes are too much for the delicate skin, eventually wearing it thin enough to allow bacteria to enter. Also, hard surfaces such as concrete will wear the pads down enough to cause Bumblefoot. As would sharp small gravel, puncturing holes in the delicate pads.
4. A good diet and healthy birds: A diet lacking in certain vitamins will leave the bird prone to thin skin and the inability to heal properly. So don't over do the goodies, make sure free rangers have plenty of time to eat their poultry feed and always offer up fresh clean water daily. It never hurts to add probiotics to a birds water or food a couple of times a week to keep the immune system pumped up.
5. And finally check your birds feet occasionally. A simple feel of the pad, webbing and toes as you pick them up will tell you a lot. Once or twice a month give everybody a quick foot soaking to clean off the crud and check the feet. The quicker you catch these things, the easier it will be on you and the bird.

Symptoms and treatment of Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot is characterized by swelling, heat, redness, the bird may be limping and usually a black dot or wound with pus on the pad or toe of the bird. Not all black dots on the bottom of the pad or toe are serious enough to need treatment. If you check your birds feet over the lifetime of your flock, you will see lots of black dots and scabs that have healed over. It is the ones that are infected that need treatment.
First thing to do if you suspect Bumblefoot is to compare this foot with the other foot. Both pads and toes should look the same for the most part. So if one pad is very swollen, hard, hot and you can see where a puncture wound has been or is, then you indeed have Bumblefoot in this pad or toe. If all you see is a black dot with no swelling or heat, then chances are the bird has already healed over from this injury. If there is only a very slight bit of swelling, no redness or much heat, you can clean off the foot in warm water, wipe the pad with an alcohol wipe and apply some Neosporin (without the painkiller) to the pad. I like to do this at night so the bird will be on the roost bar all night and the Neosporin has time to soak in. Do this each night for a week and generally it heals over completely. You can also wrap the foot for a week or so if it is a mild case and this will give the foot time to heal and stay dry. (I am about to cover wrapping the foot in the next paragraph)


Just leaving this infection alone will not cure anything. Oral antibiotics will not clear it up either. It will require you remove the infection with surgery. I realize this may seem daunting at first, however it is not that hard to do. The bird is no doubt in a great deal of pain at this point and the infection could possibly have spread throughout the body. You will not cause much if any pain doing this surgery as you are only going to be cleaning out the dead rotten gunk. You are not going to be removing any live tissue. There will be little if any blood as well. Once you have done this successfully, you will see just how simple this is the do. We all hope we never have to do a surgery on our chickens feet, however over the course of keeping poultry, you may have to at some point.

Here is a list of supplies you will need:

A large towel (for wrapping the bird up in to work on them)
Tiny instruments like dental pics, tweezers, small scalpel, small scissors
Several rolls of Vet Wrap (slice the entire tubes into 1 inch rolls. Like you are slicing a loaf of bread.)
Gauze doubled over and cut into 1 inch squares
Alcohol wipes
Neosporin (without the painkiller)
Preparation H
Hydrogen Peroxide
An empty syringe with no needle

Have everything ready before you begin. Always boil all your instruments for 5 mins before using however it is best to sterilize them right after using them. You do not want to contaminate them for the next use should you need to go back in at a later date. I like to soak everything in bleach for several minutes after they have been boiled. Store them in a clean sanitized container.
Pick a place to do this whether it be on a bench outside or at a table in the house, and make sure you have good light. Get everything laid out next to you so you have easy access during the entire process.

First you will want to soak the birds foot in a warm bath with Epsom Salts to clean off the foot and help to draw the infection to the surface. Scrub the foot off well and then carry the bird to your work space.While the bird is standing, wrap the towel around the bird's wings and breast area all the way around tight enough to restrain the bird. Then grab them and flip them over and lay them on your lap, head at your belly, head and feet sticking out. Wipe the pad and infection area with an alcohol wipe and you are ready to begin. (If you have any open wounds on your hands or fingers, you will want to wear some thin latex gloves as well to keep any bacteria from entering your own body.)

With a dental pic, gently remove the scab or pussy area of the hole. You are not going to cut into any flesh, just remove the cap to this infection. Imagine this infection like a zit. Basically it is a pocket of pus. Generally the infection is in this hole beneath the scab you have just removed, not to the sides or anything. With your scalpel begin to dig this gunk out of there. It may not be all that deep, however sometimes there is a pus ball at the bottom. Keep squeezing, digging, and picking until you are left with a hole. If you are digging deeply and start to bring up blood, you have reached bottom and probably got most of the infection out. This entire process can take 45 mins to an hour, depending on how bad the infection is. So just take your time and get as much of it out as you can. You should be left with a gaping hole in the pad.

On this first time only, you will want to take your empty syringe and suck up some hydrogen peroxide and flush the hole out. Stick the tip of the syringe in the hole iin the pad and squeeze in 2 or 3 cc/ml's into the hole. (this tip is now contaminated and will need to be sterilized before you ever use it again.) Let this peroxide set in the hole for a couple of minutes and then squeeze the pad to get much of it out. Next you are going to pack the hole with neosporin. NEVER insert the tip of the tube into the hole. This WILL contaminate the entire tube with bacteria. So squeeze a good load onto your finger and scrape your finger across the wound hole so that it packs the wound hole. Then take some Preparation H and squeeze some on your finger. Rub this all over the pad. This will help reduce swelling.

Next, put one of your small cut gauze pads over the hole. Take one of your vet wrap roll slices and begin to wrap the foot. You are going to start up on the leg and inch or so above the foot joint. Start to wrap down the leg, around the pad and up through the webbing a couple of times until all of the foot is covered and then go back up the leg to where you started. Cut the vet wrap and squeeze everything together. Vet Wrap sticks to itself. You do not need to wrap tightly but not too loose it won't stay on. A light pressure as you are wrapping will surfice. A good indication is to check the birds foot 5 mins after wrapping. (during this process the birds foot will probably turn cold) 5 mins after surgery the birds foot should have returned to being very warm. If the toes are cold, you have wrapped too tightly.

After surgery and for the next 30 days, you will need to keep the bird on clean, dry surfaces. No mud, water, dirty pens. Very clean and dry. This is the key to healing. First week you will need to unwrap the foot each day and check to see if the infection is returning. If the scab is red or dark in color, it is healing nicely. If the scab turns pussy yellow, you will need to go back in to the hole and repeat the above process. However each day for that first week, you will need to reapply the Neosporin, a small gauze pad and re wrap the foot with clean vet wrap.

At the 2nd week or so, you can check the foot every 2 or 3 days. Continue applying the Neosprin and keep it wrapped. It generally takes 30 days for the scab to fall off. Do not pick or work on it. Let it fall off by itself. You must keep the hole wrapped until the entire healing process is done or more bacteria can enter the hole. One last thing, NEVER use any sticky tape for wrapping such as Duct Tape. These sorts of tape will damage the scales of the leg and cause injury to the bird. Oral antibiotics should only be used if the infection has spread throughout the body and the bird is very sick. The only other case Antibiotics should be used in conjunction with Bumblefoot surgery is if the bird has MS (Mycoplasma Synoviae) I will cover this next. Stop by this article for more help with Bumblefoot... https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/bumblefoot-in-your-flock

This bacterial disease is a highly infectious condition which mainly infects chickens and turkeys. It can be contracted from infected poultry, wild birds, it also goes airborne and even passed down in the egg from parent birds. It exhibits itself in several ways from respiratory infections, liver infections, circulation and egg laying issues, however it's target is the tendons and synovial fluid in the legs, most commonly the left leg. (All my birds were affected in the left leg only. Never in the right.) Birds infected with this bacteria show signs of chronic lameness, walking on hocks, extremely swollen foot joints and hocks. The legs and foot joints will be incredibly hot and the scales all turned opaque. Fluid will pool in the foot joint leaking down through the webbing between the toes and this thin webbing will blow up like a balloon ready to pop. NEVER pop this skin! The infection needs to be treated from the inside out. All you will be doing is opening up more areas for more infection. Possibly a staff infection.


The problem with this bacteria is that it has a way of hiding in the healthy cells of bird going completely undetected by the immune system. It can lay dormant for many years, only to rear it's ugly head years later when the bird or birds are at their weakest. Most commonly this bacteria can be treated, however much of the time the bird or birds remain carriers for the rest of their days. HOWEVER...if you treat this disease properly and move all birds to new grounds that have never seen these birds in the past, sometimes you can rid your birds of this devastating disease. Many flock keepers choose to cull an entire flock with MS because the meds to use are expensive and the work on the birds required is time consuming.

My flock contracted MS about 4 years ago. I had my county extension agent come out and do blood work to confirm MS in the flock. I had two choices....I could cull my entire flock of 8 month old birds, or try and treat them. I chose the later and am grateful I did. The learning journey this took me on was well worth the stress, anxiety, the knowledge gained along the way in healing these birds. And in the end, I did bring each and everybird through it. There were iffy times when I was sure I was going to loose a bird as sick as these birds got. But they all did make it and are now nearing 5 years of age, healthy and strong. With the help of a vet and immediate removal of these birds from their coop and grounds after treatment to a new coop and area, I believe I have removed all signs of this bacteria from my flock. I have since added birds to my flock and not a single bird has ever contracted or shown any signs of MS. However, another test would have to be done to confirm a flock MS free, which I have not done.

"Denagard" is the antibiotic of choice now a days. They say it will help to wipe out MS and MG quicker than other antibacterial drugs. I didn't have this available to me at the time and my birds were on Baytril and Cephalexin combined for 3 full months. (Baytril pills only. We found the injections were not as potent.) Doxycycline replaced the Cephalexin near the end. Daily Bumblefoot surgeries were needed to drain the fluid from the legs and tendon sheaths of each bird. If I missed a day, the birds were too lame to walk. The infection will work it's way down to the pad and cause what looks like a simple puncture wound and Bumblefoot, which is what I originally thought was going on. However after a couple of months of this Bumblefoot not healing with Penicillin injections and daily surgeries on the pads, I got suspicious and later learned I had MS in the flock. It took another 6 months to a year for all of them to repair the damage this bacteria had done to their bodies, regain their strength and return to laying. They are all still laying at nearly 5 years of age.


These tiny, invisible to the naked eye mites crawl up under the scales on the legs of poultry, live, breed and gnaw away at the skin under the scales. And while they generally don't kill your birds, they can cause great pain, lameness and cause permanent leg deformities. Birds will be very irritable, egg laying can cease and these mites can even cause bone infections. You will know you have Scaley Leg Mites when you see the scales on your birds feet start to lift up. In bad cases, the birds feet will be all crusty, swollen and the bird can be lame. These mites move slowly from bird to bird eventually effecting the entire flock.

There are a couple of things you can do to treat these mites. You can use Ivermectin Pour on (for Cattle), applied to the back of the neck with a medicine dropper. Ivermectin applied in this fashion causes the skin to become toxic to all mites living on the skin, killing off the mites.
Use as follows:
For the pour on (5% oil) Ivermectin
1 drop - OEGB sized small bantam female
2 drops - OEGB sized small bantam male
3 drops - average bantams
4 drops - large bantams, small commercial fowl
5 drops - most commercial fowl, small giant hens
6 drops - giant breeds of chicken

These drops must hit the skin. Getting on the feathers will not be at all effective. I have accidentally given an extra drop or two while dosing on the back of the neck with no ill effects. However try to stick to these amounts when applying. The life cycle of these mites is 1 to 2 weeks. So another dosage will be necessary after 10 days.

However you might also want to use the "suffocation" method on these mites. Especially if your bird has a severe case of Scaley Leg Mites. With very severe cases you will see a lot of crusts all over the legs and toes. These crusts are the waste put out by the mites. Never pick or try to remove these crusts as you can damage the scales on the legs and cause the bird more pain than it may already have.

What you will need to do is first, soak the birds feet in some warm water to clean them off. Put some Dog Flea and Tick shampoo in the water on this first soaking. This will help kill off some of the mites as well. After you have cleaned off the feet, pat them well to dry. When the legs are completely dry, gently but fairly liberally rub in some Vaseline. Gently rub up into the scales and all over the legs and toes. The Vaseline is not only going to smother the mites, but soften and loosen the crusts on the scales. You will need to apply the Vaseline daily for several weeks to several months depending on the severity of the condition. You do not need to bathe the legs daily unless they are dirty. After a few months, the crusts should be gone and the scales should all lay back down.

As for the rest of your flock, even if you do not see this present in the other birds, it wouldn't hurt to rub Vaseline on their legs as well once a week or so during the treatment of this one bird. Many times when one has an ailment, so do the others.

Most birds that have access to dirt, sand or other natural soils, will wear their claws down enough through scratching and dust bathing that they will never need to have their claws trimmed. However many times there is always one in your bunch that for some reason needs to have her claws trimmed occasionally. You can compare claws of other birds and if one birds has considerably longer claws than the others, she will need to have them trimmed. Long claws can eventually grow so long that it impairs walking and can cause undue pain.
Get yourself some of those Guillotine dog claw trimmers. They have less tendency to split the claw as you are trimming. Also have on hand some corn starch to stop any bleeding and an alcohol wipe. Also, a big towel to wrap up said bird.

Wrap up the bird and lay them in your lap, their head at your belly, feet hanging out. In some birds you can see the blood line in the claw and other claws are too dark to see anything. If the claws are really long, it is safe to say the blood line is very close to the end of the claw. So you are not going to trim off much on the first couple of trimmings. So this first time only trim off about 1/16 of an inch. If you trim off more you risk hitting this blood line and the claw bleeding. If you do hit blood, wipe the tip of the claw and bleed with the alcohol wipe and pack the tip of the claw with Cornstarch or some sort of Blood Stop powder. As long as you haven't trimmed off too much, the bleeding will stop in a minute or so. Keep trimming the rest of the claws and using the Cornstarch as needed. If you haven't hit any blood, (and rarely with long claws don't you) you can let her loose right afterwards. If you have drawn any blood, I like to keep them somewhere clean for 30 minutes or so to help prevent any possible infection. I have never encountered any infections over the years of trimming claws.

You will want to repeat this procedure each week until the claws are at the desired length. Over time the blood line will recede up the claw and eventually will no longer be a factor when trimming. Continue to monitor this birds claws as she may always need an occasional trimming over her life span.

For small chicks you can use a nail file to file down claws that might be catching on something. A human toe nail clipper works well on tiny chick claws.


Those roosters spurs sure can be sharp and dangerous! There may come a time when you want to remove your boy's spurs for the safety of the hens and or yourself as well.

There are a few ways you can remove or dull down roosters spurs:
1. Trimming Spurs: Have some cornstarch handy incase there is any blood and also some neosporin and or blue coat to help with any possible infections. You can either hold your rooster for this procedure or towel him and lay him in your lap. I like to towel my birds while I am working on them. Gives me more control. With a pair of needle nosed pliers, grab at about the middle of the spur or a tad closer to the leg. Don't clamp hard enough to split the spur, just enough to hold on. Wiggle the pliers back and forth. Don't pull, just wiggle. After about 45 seconds, the spur should break off. Be ready with your blood stop just in case and ointments to apply as there is now exposed flesh. Once you have applied the ointments to the spur, your rooster is good to go. Always monitor trimmed spurs for a few days for any infection.
2. The Hot Potato Method: You will need two whole potatoes, one for each spur. Microwave your potatoes until cooked and hot. Towel up your rooster and lay him in your lap. Stick the hot potato right onto the spur and hold there for 5 mins. You can do both spurs at the same time if you have help. After 5 minutes, remove potatoes and quickly with a pair of pliers, twist off spurs. Sometimes no pliers are needed and the spurs fall right off. There won't be any pain with this procedure as long as the hot potato doesn't contact any other parts of his skin or leg. He is now good to go.
3. Trimming with Guillotine clippers or a Dremel tool: You can trim off small portions of the spur with your Guillotine dog claw trimmers or even a Dremel tool. Always work slowly in case you hit blood, trimming off small portions of spur at a time. And always have your blood stop powder ready just in case.

2.6 GOUT
Gout can be hard to diagnose because it can mimic regular Arthritis, which Gout is a form of to begin with. Gout will usually be seen in both feet instead of just one. There will be swellings and bulges on the toes. The toes can curl and the bird will become lame.

Generally Gout is caused from a diet too high in protein. Continual dehydration can also cause Gout. With both of these, Urates deposit themselves in the tissues and joints causing swelling, heat and great pain.

Decreasing the protein in the diet will help greatly. Offering Cherries, especially Tart Cherries will also do wonders. Cherries help to remove these deposits in the tissues. Apple Cider Vinegar does wonders for helping with pain and inflammation. 1 tablespoon ACV per gallon of water or 3/4 teaspoon ACV to a quart of water. Use plastic containers only and change and make a new batch each day.


Occasionally a bird may sprain or strain a tendon while jumping or flying down from some high place. You will notice the bird limping however the bird has no open wounds anywhere along the leg up to the hip. Feel the foot and leg for heat and minor swelling. Generally just limping and heat are the only indication of a sprain or strain.

The best treatment is to keep the bird in a small cage for a couple of weeks or until they have healed. Those large wire dog crates work really well set up as hospital cages and separation units. Keep food and water close at hand so they do not have to go far. The less they are on their feet and legs, the faster they can heal.

If by chance the bird has broken their leg, (the leg is dangling off the bird) I would suggest taking the bird to a qualified Avian Vet first before trying to attempt fixing yourself. A vet can do an x-ray and know exactly the full extent of the break. However if taking the bird to a vet is not an option, you can either put the bird down or try and fix it yourself. I do suggest you never keep a bird alive that is not able to be treated or is in extreme pain. Always put them down in a humane manner.

You will need to make a split out of some stiff material like Popsicle sticks or a fly swatter. The leg will need to be set in the right position for proper healing. The leg will be wrapped up with vet wrap or some sort of sports type wrap around these splints. If there is open flesh and wounds, these will also need to be treated.

I have never done this, so I am going to leave you with a link here on BYC to a thread where someone has successfully done this.

If you need offer your bird some pain relief after a sprain or strain, you can give her some baby aspirin. Never use Ibuprophen (Advil) or Acetominophin (Tylenol). These drugs are harmful to poultry. Buffered aspirin only. Aspirin can help to relieve inflammation, swelling and pain.

Large fowl of 5 to 7 pounds would be given 1/2 of a baby aspirin once a day or a 1/4 of an adult aspirin. You can break up the aspirin into small pieces and stuff them in raisins. The birds will never know they are being medicated.


Frost bite can occur from a few reasons from poor ventilation in the coop on cold winter nights, improper roost bars, cold wet birds and even old age in birds with poor circulation. Make sure your roost bars are large enough that the bird can get their entire foot and toes underneath their breast feathers. Toes that hang out can become frost bitten on those cold winter nights. If your birds are out free ranging in the winter, make sure they have places to get up off the snow. Standing too long on the snow can lead to frost bitten feet. Make sure you have proper ventilation in your coop so that all the humid air from the pooping and the breathing goes up and out the roof instead of falling back down on your birds. Keep the bedding dry so they are not standing in wet spots and have wet feet.

Symptoms of frost bite on the feet: The feet will be a dark bluish color almost black, along with their combs and wattles. The bird will limp in great pain, the feet could be hot or cold depending on the severity.

The first thing you will need to do is get the bird warm. If there are blisters on the feet, they will need to be treated. A hospital cage will need to be set up either in the coop or inside the house until the bird is healed. Here is a couple of great articles written from our members on their experiences with frost bite...


Mareks Disease is a devastating virus can afflicts mainly Chickens, however occasionally Quail, Turkeys and Pheasants are affected. Mareks is a very significant cause of lameness and paralysis. It is highly contagious and most often fatal.

This disease starts with some paralysis in the legs, wings and neck. It can start in one limb and continuing to move throughout the body. You might first notice your bird walking as if drunk, stumbling all over the yard. Possibly dragging their wings to stablize themselves. Eventually this weakness leads to complete paralysis. Many times you can look at the birds eye and iris and detect out-of-roundness or a grey colored iris. The bird will further grow weaker with labored breathing, the comb will turn purplish black and eventually the bird dies.

The best prevention of this disease is to vaccinate or have your chicks vaccinated at day old. There is a short window of time in which to vaccinate. The vaccination does not prevent this virus however it does help with the symptoms and can save their lives. There is no cure for Mareks Disease. Please stop by this article for more help.... https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/the-great-big-giant-mareks-disease-faq


While we hate to see our birds become sick or ill, they will succumb to disease at some point in their lives. When it does happen, always consider the life quality of the bird at this time. If at all possible, take the bird to a qualified Avian Vet. If this is not an option and the bird can no longer keep up with the flock, eat, drink or live to their fullest extent, please consider putting the bird down in a humane way. Know that you tried every avenue to save them, they lived a good life at your farm and it is now time to release them from any suffering they may have to endure at the end of their lives. You owe it to them as a good flock steward to keep them proper to the very end.

A big thanks to all that contributed pictures and articles here on BYC for this particular article!
Please stop by the following articles and sections of BYC for more help with Leg, Foot and Toe issues: