3 day old chick with splayed leg?


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8 Years
Jun 24, 2012
Poultry Podiatry
Treatments for Leg Problems in Chickens & other Poultry
Below are measures that can be helpful in treating Splayed Leg and other problems relating to poultry podiatry, orthopedics and foot and leg conditions & injuries.
Many of the methods are useful for a duckling, duck, gosling, goose, peachick, peacock, or turkey, in addition to chickens.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is gathered from many sources and presented by lay individuals. It may not be accurate or complete. It should not necessarily be considered expert advice, & research through additional sources is also recommended. Some medicine uses listed are off-label & not USDA-approved, and a veterinarian's advice may be needed.

*** Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes ***
Use baby oil to gently and easily remove sticky tape. Then use waterless instant antibacterial hand cleaner/sanitizer to amazingly easily clean off baby oil. Note: You SHOULD NOT USE DUCT TAPE, but if you do, try using a cleaning spray such as 'Goo Gone' to remove the tape. Then wash the legs with dish soap & rinse off.

If you are not careful how you remove tape, you can cause a chicken pain and damage. The bird likely will also become reluctant to put pressure on places where the skin has become sore. It may then develop more problems with distorted standing and walking patterns, and troubles with deformed bones.

Good Flooring

  • Do not put any young chicks or chickens with leg problems on any kind of slick, painful or hard surface! This includes newspaper, cardboard, linoleum, concrete, flooring with sharp points, etc.
    • Small wire mesh can provide traction as a floor, but gives chicks a higher risk of getting chick leg problems from getting bruised and hurt when stumbling around trying to walk.
    • Don't use hay or other materials the bird is likely to trip on.
  • Good Flooring is needed to provide adequate traction and cushioning, and decent sanitation.
  • It is critical for ALL newly hatched baby chicks, so they do not slip while learning to stand, and develop leg problems. Appropriate flooring keeps a chick from slipping and developing Splayed Leg (where the chick turns one or both legs out crookedly to the side & has a hard time walking), and helps prevent bruises, scrapes & bone injuries.
    • For very young chicks: 1 to 2 inches of pine shavings with paper towels laid over the top (Paper towels keep chicks from eating shavings while they're trying to figure out what they should and should not eat the first few days). Bumpy, rubbery kitchen shelf liner is also good. A soft washcloth is ideal for a lonely chick to snuggle next to.
      • For healthy sanitation, frequently change out paper towels or clean (& thoroughly dry) washable flooring.
    • For older chicks: 1 1/2 to 2 inches of pine shavings. Clean dirt also works. Wood floor is alright if it isn't too slick, and there are places with bedding for resting.
      • For sanitation: Change out shavings as they become dirty, or sprinkle a layer of fresh shavings over top.
    • For chickens with leg problems: 1 1/2 to 2 inches of pine shavings. Sand or dirt that is deep, fairly clean & loose dirt may also work.
      • For a chick that has a sprain or a painful sore on foot, putting one layer of paper towel on top of bedding will keep it from needing to raise legs as high when walking.
      • For setting a bird down temporarily outside its normal home: A smooth-texture folded-over towel is good, or a grassy lawn, as long as you are there to help catch the bird when it stumbles.

Toenail Trimming

  • Useful if a chick's or chicken's toes are getting caught in flooring and causing the bird to stumble, excessively long nails are causing the bird's toes to turn sideways, or people are getting scratched when holding the bird.
  • For chicks: Use a nail file to gently smooth the ends of chick's toenails so they don't snag as easily .
  • For chickens: Trim toenails using fingernail or toenail clippers, or small wire cutter pliers. Use a nail file or metal file to file off any too-wide flares on the toenails and to smooth edges.
  • If you accidentally cut too close to the vein in the center of the toenail, you can press your finger against the end of toenail to stop bleeding. Other helpful methods are putting cornstarch, white flour or Blood-Stop powder on the cut nail.

Correct Feed and Supplements

  • It is IMPORTANT to give chickens poultry feed that has been formulated with essential nutrients for their stage of development.
  • There are some 'homemade' Feed recipes that can give you ideas of poultry nutritional needs at:
    http://www.birdfarm.bravepages.com/starterx.html and
  • Commercial Feeds: Each brand's feeds differ--check the feed bag to see for what age a particular feed is designed.
    • Chick Starter: Usually 0 trough 6-8 weeks (Check feed sack label)
      • Scientific formulation helps prevent Perosis (leading to Slipped Achilles Tendon) and other problems.
      • Has appropriate amount of Calcium for chicks. Very high levels of Calcium in some adult feeds (esp. Layer feed) can cause problems.
    • Starter / Grower: Usually birth through laying age
    • Grower / Finisher: Usually 10 through 18 weeks of age
    • Layer Feed: For hens of laying age (4-6 months and older)
    • Breeder Feed: For roosters and hens of breeding age (6 months and older)
      • Helps prevent birth defects in resulting offspring.
    • Scratch Feed: As a partial feed for mature birds (6 months and older)
      • Scratch Feed is NOT supplemented and is NOT suitabas a complete feed. It should NOT be fed free-choice, and should only make up about 10% of chickens' diet.
  • Essential nutrients include:
    • Calcium (in appropriate amount--Adult feeds can have too much calcium for chicks), Vitamin E, Selenium.
    • VITAMIN B IS VERY IMPORTANT for leg health. Just adding a Vitamin B Complex to a chicken's food will cure some leg problems.
  • Supplements
    • Supplements of vitamins, electrolytes and small amounts of sugar can help a struggling chick have the energy and nutrition to grow well, have energy, and better deal with the stresses of receiving treatment.
    • BE CAREFUL about giving supplements with minerals to chicks. Some minerals (especially calcium) in excess can cause serious problems in chicks.
    • Supplements at a feed store:
      • Small pouch of vitamins and electrolytes supplement powder for poultry (~$4).
        • Caution: Some supplements don't taste good and a chicken won't eat as much if you sprinkle on food. Instead, stir into drinking water and chicken will usually drink fine. Only a tiny pinch is needed for about 3 cups of water.
      • Bottle of liquid Poultry Nutri-Drench for nutrition and energy. Excellent! (~$8)
    • Supplements at a grocery store:
      • Bottle of children's PolyVisol vitamin supplement without added Iron (~$4). Give 2-3 drops per day to a chick.
    • Supplements at a pet store:
      • Calcivet. Give 1-2 drops per day to a chick.
      • Baby parrot food. Powder to be mixed with water (Be sure to allow water to be absorbed before feeding to chicken). (~$10).

Separate from Others

  • Keep weak or injured birds away from others that may pick on them.
    • Be extra careful! Putting a divider to keep a chick separate in the same brooder with other chicks can be risky. The chick may not have enough room left to regulate its temperature enough by getting close to or moving away from brooder lamp as needed. Chick may also get snagged or pinned by the divider. However, if you can set up safe way for chick to stay visible in same brooder, this will prevent other chicks from picking on it as much when reintegrating it fully with the others later.
  • It is best if an injured bird can have 1 or 2 buddies as companions so it doesn't get so lonely. Choose ones that are not aggressive.
    • Choose female companions, if the birds are old enough to tell gender. As it matured, a male companion would likely try to breed an injured female or pick fights with an injured male.
    • Choose smaller or same-size chickens. Larger chickens may unintentionally tromp on or knock over an injured chicken.
    • It may be good to only put companions with an injured bird part-time. If so, make sure visits are frequent so they don't feel the need to re-establish the pecking order.
Prevent Drowning in Water Dish

  • A bird is at particular risk for drowning if it:
    • Drops its head forward into a water dish when going to sleep.
      • This is a particular risk with a Chick Chair, and for very young chicks.
    • Stumbles or tips into a water dish, and poor coordination or weakness or restraints / braces the bird has on make it difficult for the bird to get out of the dish.
      • This is a particular risk with Leg Hobbles, Chick Shoes, and a Foam Leg Brace.
    • Has a water dish that is too low to the ground, or too deep, or difficult to get out of.
  • Choose a method to help keep the bird safe:
    • Offer water only when you are supervising. 5-6 times/day for chicks (This is the safest option until a chick is a few days old). 3-4 times/day for older chickens.
    • Fill the bottom of a shallow dish with marbles. Add water up to the top of the marbles. The chick can push up against the marbles if it falls in. Check regularly to make sure water isn't all gone. (Note: This method can still be risky for very young or weak birds.)
    • Position the dish so the rim is raised high enough that the bird can still drink easily but can't possibly fall in such a way that its head or body will end up resting in the dish. A good height is usually just a little lower than the bird's back
      • Ways to raise a dish higher: You can use a non-empty food can as a steady base to put a water dish on to raise it higher (tuna can for older chicks, soup can for small birds, etc.).
      • Hard-to-tip dishes that have a high rim: An empty mushrooms can is useful for watering older chicks. A ceramic mug is good for some small birds. (Place the dish in a corner where it is less likely to get knocked over.)
  • Always make sure a bird can easily reach food and water on a regular basis, without having to put too much strain on its injuries.

Leg Hobbles to treat Splayed Leg

** Splayed Leg needs to be treated ASAP and consistently!

CAUTION: A young chick wearing Leg Hobbles can't get up easily or stand easily. It can fall & drown if it stumbles near a water container. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish" section.
KEEP IN MIND: You need to help a chick daily by gently scratching itchy spots that the Leg Hobbles prevent it from reaching with its feet. If you don't scratch places like the back of its neck for the chick where it cannot, it will be pretty miserable and can develop a terribly itchy, swollen welt from lack of normal skin stimulation.

Splayed Leg (also called "Splay Leg", "Spraddle Leg", and "Straddle Leg") occurs when a newborn chick younger than a week old starts rotating one or both legs outwards at an incorrect angle while trying to stand or walk. The chick rotates the leg so that foot points mostly to the side instead of forwards, and the chick often becomes sort of "knock-kneed" because the hock on the rotated leg almost touches the other hock. This leg problem may look like a birth defect or deformity, but it is not to begin with.
Photos of a chick with one form of Splayed Leg
The foot slips a lot when the chick tries to use it that way, so the chick will shift most of its weight onto the other straighter leg & mostly use that to support itself while standing, hopping along, or pushing itself along the ground. The chick may also push a wing out against the ground to help balance itself.
The chick usually shows problems in only one leg at first (the most rotated leg), but the straighter leg will also become deformed over time.

  • VERY, VERY IMPORTANT: Check your bird to see if it also is suffering from Perosis (which can relate to nutritional deficiencies) and a Slipped Achilles Tendon.
Spraddle Leg is usually started by slippery flooring, but can be caused by hatching problems, a painful leg or foot injury, or too many baby chicks being crowded in the brooder while learning to walk.
In a large number of cases, Spraddle Leg is created through incorrect mental processing, rather than physical abnormalities--even perfectly normal chicks can develop it.
  • THE BRAIN MUST LEARN ONLY CORRECT MOVEMENTS. You MUST prevent the chick from getting much experience at moving wrong or it will cement that movement in its brain and you won't be able to fix it.
    • When a chick is first figuring out how to move & walk, if normal movement efforts are unsuccessful or painful, the chick will experiment with alternate ways of moving. If it finds movements that are temporarily less painful or more effective, the chick will program its brain to move in the alternate ways, which quickly become habits which then cause muscles, ligaments and bones to become deformed by the unnatural positioning & pressures.
Leg Hobbles (also called "Hobble Braces") help keep a young chick from trying to incorrectly twist a hip and leg out sideways, by keeping a chicks' legs from spreading too far apart. These leg braces are made of material wrapped comfortably around each leg & connecting across the gap between the legs.
  • Hobbles should be put on lower legs (below hocks) and allow enough room for the chick to stand with its legs just a little farther apart than normal standing position so chick can balance and practice walking.
  • Hobbles can be made from white cloth-type sports tape, Band-Aids, Velcro (make sure only soft side touches legs), Scotch tape, masking tape that has strong stickiness, etc. Can also use small elastic hair-band in figure-8 around legs with tape wrapped around section between legs, though there is greater chance of the hobbles slipping up on the legs, plus the band might stretch too much to be helpful enough.
  • Make sure wraps around the legs are secure enough that they won't come untaped on their own nor slip up or down the leg.
  • Be sure to change Hobbles at least every 2 days since a chick is growing fast and tape will quickly become too tight to allow growth & circulation.
Once the chick has Hobbles on, it will usually experiment with turning its legs forwards (like it should) instead of twisting one leg or both legs out to the side. The little chick will gradually wobble less and not use its wing for support as much, and will try stepping ahead. Once the chick learns that correct walking is the most effective motion and the chick reprograms its brain, you can begin leaving the Hobbles off.
  • Leg Hobbles have the best chance of being effective if put on within 1 to 3 days of hatch, and usually correct Splayed Leg within 4 to 6 days of treatment in a newly hatched chick. If the chick is 4 days old or older when you start treatment, the chances for reprogramming the chick's brain are much less and you may not be able to cure the problem.
  • Do not leave hobbles off AT ANY TIME before the problem is cured (unless you want to sometimes take hobbles off while doing Physical Therapy).
  • Continue to keep the Hobbles on most of the time for a minimum of 1/2 day after chick seems to be walking pretty correctly. Watch closely for a few days after & put Hobbles back on if chick needs help again.
  • If you want to really help ensure continued recovery when chick seems better, instead of completely removing hobbles, at first just cut across the middle connecting section so legs can move freely for 2-5 hours. Then tape the middle section back together for 1-4 hours. Then completely remove hobbles (See Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes) if chick walks correctly, or repeat this process another time or two if needed.
  • If you remove Hobbles too soon, the chick may revert to previous problem within a couple days. The older a chick is and the more time a chick spends using its legs wrong, the more difficult it is to fix this problem.
  • If the chick wriggles out of Hobbles, use a single vertical wrap of sports tape (or masking tape or sticky section of band-aids) around the section between the two legs to more firmly tape the center section together.
  • If chick keeps standing with its hocks too close together, you can experiment on added solutions. This may be especially needed for chicks 4 days old or older.
    • A technique that's proven some success: Add a second hobble on upper legs above hocks.
      • See "For feathered legs" below to deal with fluff on thighs.
    • A technique you may test out: Reinforce center section of brace to add extra stiffness to help keep legs apart. Use extra sports tape wrapped vertically, pipe cleaners, thin piece of taped-on cardboard, etc.
    • Physical Therapy might also help.
  • For sensitive or feathered legs, put a little piece of paper towel (to cover the tape's stickiness) on just the section of the tape that wraps around the chick's legs. Yarn might be another good material to try--It helps minimize catching on fluff. Watch out for hobbles slipping too much
    • You need to be extra careful on tightness for these. Keep watch that it isn't so loose that it slips where it isn't supposed to be (such as slipping over hocks) nor so tight that it cuts into muscle.
    • You SHOULD NOT try to correct long-time twisted legs or severely twisted feet in ADULT BIRDS. (Although, kinks in toes can sometimes be gradually corrected if the foot hasn't become too twisted.) Adults' bones have finished developing & hardened--it would be unsuccessful & very painful to try making any significant changes. Changes would also throw off balance, and adults are extremely likely to persist in trying to walk in habitual distorted way which will re-create and worsen the deformities.
Fix Slipped Achilles Tendon in Hock Joint

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.

Note from Editor: I have had no personal experience with a Slipped Achilles Tendon being treated successfully, though a number of people have. Information below is from what I have read & tried to analyze myself, but 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 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. May also lead to Twisted Leg.
    • See "Ensure adequate nutrition to prevent Perosis" section 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: If a leg has a slipped Achilles Tendon, the joint will look swollen and the back of the hock will look flat (Compare to other leg to double-check). The bird can't fully straighten its leg by itself if this is what's wrong with it. One leg will turn sideways, and may stick straight out to the side
  • Treat this problem as soon as possible, so 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 couple 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, if needed.
    • 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.
  • You can try 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, you will find pus. In this case, recovery is almost always impossible, 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.
Ensure adequate nutrition to prevent Perosis leading to Slipped Achilles Tendon &/or Twisted Leg

  • Perosis occurs in chicks that are at least one week old and usually in only one leg.
  • It starts as Chondrodystrophy / Achondroplasia (cartilage & bone development problems) and can involve slipping of Achilles Tendon and twisting of long bones (condition called Twisted Leg)
  • Symptoms: Enlarged, flattened hocks and short, bowed legs, along with slow growth. Chick may look dwarfish. Often one leg will stick out to the side.
  • Treatment: Deformities will not necessarily be completely eradicated but may be lessened by adding appropriate balanced supplementation and/or switching to Chick Starter or Grower Feed that has been commercially formulated.
  • Choline, biotin, manganese, &/or zinc can be factors in Perosis & may need to be increased. Pyridoxine, folic acid & niacin deficiencies may also affect, and need to be corrected.
Physical Therapy for Trouble Standing and Walking

  • Use to treat Splayed Leg or other problems with chick holding legs incorrectly.
    • Can be done even while chick is wearing Leg Hobbles.
  • Helps the chick "practice" walking correctly. The main purpose is to reprogram its brain patterns, but therapy also helps develop needed muscles.
    • It is better for a chick to spend time sitting or lying down than using its legs wrong.
  • Support chick's body a little while gently pointing its legs forward and extended the way they should be while standing. Try to lessen your support of its body for a moment or two and hopefully the chick will push up with its legs and find out that leg angle and position is a good one for balancing.
    • If it's 5+ days old, you can also hold up a treat above its head to encourage it to increasingly push up with its legs to grab the treat. It's okay the chick's legs and balance will be wobbly at first and that it falls over sometimes--just catch and steady it with your hands.
      • Good treats: Very small piece of bread, tomato, strawberry, banana, lettuce, spinach, grass, etc.
        • Be sure to add a bit of chick-sized grit (tiny stones or coarse sand) to chick's diet if offering treats.
  • Within a day or so of starting therapy, add in some walking therapy. Hold its legs with your fingers and move/step them forward one at a time so the chick learns to take steps and walk correctly. Try the best you can to arrange your thumb & fingers so you can push the rotated hock out to the side so that leg points forward pretty straight like it should as you're doing . This is tricky!
  • Number of sessions for newly hatched chick:
    • Days 1-3: Minimum of six 30-second to 2 minute sessions per day.
    • Days 4-5: Minimum of nine 1 to 3 minute sessions per day.
    • Days 6-7: As needed.
Ensure adequate Manganese to prevent Chondrodystrophy

  • Developed while chick is in embryo are noticeable as soon as chick hatches. Caused by insufficient Manganese in parents' diet.
  • Symptoms: Short, thick legs & short wings. Rounded head. Slow feathering. Stomach bulges out. May cause "Star-gazing" posture.
  • Prevention: Feed adequate Manganese to birds that are used for breeding.

Increase Niacin to treat Hock Abnormality

  • Symptoms in Chicks: Enlarged, flattened hocks and bowed legs, along with slow growth.
    • This abnormality usually does NOT result in a slipped Achilles tendon.
  • Treatment: Add Niacin supplementation and/or switch to Chick Starter that has been commercially formulated.
Increase Vitamin D3 or adjust Calcium:phosphorus balance to treat weak bones

  • Symptoms in Chicks: Rickets and weak legs. Chicks stop to rest every few steps, and squat on their hocks & often sway from side to side. Beaks & claws are overly pliable. Chicks develop slowly & have poor feathering.
  • Symptoms in Laying Hens: Osteoporosis, bones soft & easily broken. Lameness, swollen hocks. Produce thinner eggshells & fewer eggs.
  • Treatment: Increase Vitamin D3 in diet. Recovery in chicks varies.
Give Painkiller

  • CAUTION: Do NOT give Ibuprofin (Advil, etc.) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) to birds! Those are harmful to them.
  • Buffered aspirin (such as Bayer, etc.) can be used for a chicken to help reduce:
    • Stress, listlessness, discomfort, pain
    • Fever
    • Swelling / inflammation.
      Aspirin thins blood and keeps it from clotting as quickly as normal.
      • You should wait until internal and external injuries have begun to heal before using aspirin.
      • Birds bruise more easily when on aspirin.
    • Note: A standard baby Aspirin is 80 mg, and a standard adult Aspirin pill is 325 mg.
    • Dose for chickens: Approx. 25 mg per pound of chicken's body weight each day.
      • Examples: For a 6-lb. Large Fowl Leghorn rooster, 2 times per day give 1/2 of a regular aspirin ( = ~300 mg total per day).
        For a Bantam 1.6-lb. Bantam Leghorn rooster, 2 times per day give 1/2 of a baby aspirin (= ~75 mg total per day).
    • To administer:
      • To give immediately or in individual administrations: Crush up and split dose up into 2 or 3 administrations per day. Sprinkle the powder on a small tasty treat such as fruit or yogurt and give to the chicken.
      • To have the chicken self-administer throughout the day: Crush up the total daily dose and dissolve in the approximate amount of water that the chicken drinks each day. Pour into chicken's drinking container.
  • Never give a chicken any kind of painkiller with 'caine' in the name. These are EXTREMELY toxic to chickens.
    • Do NOT use a Triple Antibiotic Ointment with Painkiller because almost all include '-caine' ingredients.
      • Exception: Neosporin with Painkiller products usually only use Pramoxine HCl as the painkiller ingredient, and that is alright for chickens.

Avoid Problems from Too-Rapid Growth

If a young chicken's size grows too fast, its body may be too heavy for its still-developing bones to support well. Leg bones can become deformed, which can lead to mobility problems. Meat bird breeds are genetically programmed for over-rapid growth and over-high appetite.
    • Limit availabie feed to reasonable amount and feed lower protein levels to help reduce problems.

Increase Thiamine for Progressive Paralysis & Stargazing

  • This Progressive Paralysis progresses from toes to legs to wings to the neck. An affected bird will end up in a "stargazing" stance with its neck bent back and beak pointed skyward.
  • Give Vitamin B (Thiamine) supplements immediately to help promote recovery, as well as a lesser amount on an ongoing basis.
Increase Riboflavin for Curled Toes

  • In Curled Toe Paralysis (also called Curly Toes), chick walks on tops of curled toes & toenails (vs. Twisted Toes, in which young or old bird walks on sides of twisted toes). Chick will become unable to stand, and often rest or try to walk on hocks to relieve pain of toes.
  • Caused by Riboflavin (Vitamin B12) deficiency.
    • If caused by chick diet (feed that is out-of-date, formulated poorly, or not formulated specifically for chicks), toes start curling within 1-2 weeks.
    • If caused by diet of mother hen (such as solely Layer Feed--without access to Riboflavin-rich foods such as certain greens, etc.), toes start curling within a couple days of birth.
  • IMMEDIATELY increase Riboflavin in chick's diet. Give supplement or multi-vitamin drink with high Riboflavin (Vitamin B12), or Riboflavin-rich foods such as paprika, dried coriander, spearmint, parsley, ground almonds or sesame seeds (you can grind these with a hammer), dry roasted soy (NOT fresh soy), Romano or Swiss cheese, some types of fish (Mackerel, Atlantic Salmon, Trout), etc.
    • If treatment started within couple days of chick being unable to stand, toes will straighten within a few days usually.
    • If treatment started later, toes may not recover & bird may need to be put down or die within 3-4 weeks.
    • Chick Shoes (see below) might also help.
Chick Shoes for Twisted or Curled Toes

  • CAUTION: A chick wearing Chick Shoes can easily drown if it stumbles near a water container. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish"section.
  • Use for splinting and correcting Twisted Toes, or sometimes to help with Curled Toes. (With Twisted Toes, an adult or chick walks on sides of twisted toes. With Curled Toes, a chick walks on tops of curled toes.)
  • Cut out a small, flat triangle a little larger than the size that the chick's foot should be when toes are spread. Position each toe correctly and then use a small piece of sports tape to tape the toe to the cardboard.
    • Triangle be cut from sponge, thin cardboard/paperboard or a piece of a plastic lid from something like a sour cream container.
  • A different type of chick shoe splint can be made from pipe cleaners (or flower arranging wire and thin padding, for older chickens).
    • Instructions for this kind of chick shoe and also a half chick shoe at www.peafowl.org/ARTICLES/1/
      • Recommendation: Use sports tape instead of duct tape.
  • If treating young chick: Important to put on new shoe at least every 1-3 days while feet growing fast.The chick will likely need to wear the shoes a total of 4 days to 2 weeks, depending on the severity of the problem
    • Make sure shoe size increased regularly so foot doesn't outgrow shoe. Toe Taping (See below) may be better for treating some problems.
    • Notice and correct sooner if chick wiggles toe into wrong position, before deformities are caused.
  • If treating older bird: You may want to treat moderately twisted toes if causing problems. Do not try to correct long-term, severely twisted toes. Bones, muscles & ligaments are mature & may not be able to be reshaped, or will change more slowly.
    • Aim for gradual reshaping.
    • Check regularly that there isn't too much debris sticking to shoe, & that toes haven't slipped loose.
    • Change the shoe at least every 4-7 days.The bird may need to wear the shoes and/or have its toes taped (See below) for 2-5 weeks.
  • *Be extra sure to follow Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes instructions.
Toe Taping

  • Can be done on any age chicken to help fix individual Broken or Deformed Toes or improperly rotated back toe ("Duck Foot").
  • Sports tape works well.
  • When repositioning toes, make gradual changes. Be careful that tension from tape doesn't cause excessive pain or damage skin.
  • Change tape regularly to monitor for infection and chafing, and so that tape does not inhibit healthy growth or restrict circulation.
    • At least every other day for young chicks.
    • Every 4-5 days for older chickens.
  • *Be extra sure to follow Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes instructions.
Hock Cushion

  • Use when a chicken has a leg problem that causes it to fall on its hocks, especially if the chicken is older and heavier or will be on poorly cushioned flooring. Can be particularly useful for heavy "broiler" chickens that often develop leg problems.
  • Prevents injury when bird falls back or scuffles along floor.
  • Should be taped only to the lower leg and should cover only the back of the leg. This permits continued free movement of the hock joint.
  • For young chicks, use soft padding such as gauze or disposable all-cotton round (face cleansing pad for removing make-up) that is secured by sports tape.
  • For older birds, make from thicker, sturdier cushioning such as a thin square piece cut from foam-type cushion that is secured by sports tape.
  • *See Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes.

Chick Doughnut

  • Used for injured chicks and chickens that are having problems staying upright.
  • Twist a soft washcloth or similar cloth into a coil and place it in the brooder in the shape of a doughnut. Place the injured chick in the "doughnut" hole and adjust the doughnut so its body is supported.
  • Remove the chick and "fluff up" and reshape the cloth once or twice a day to help prevent the chick from developing "bedsores."
    • Sprinkling a little baby powder on the places where the chick's body rubs might also help??
Chick Playpen

  • Used for chicks that are having leg problems or other problems tipping over.
  • The Playpen helps in treating Splayed Leg by restricting sideways travel, and encouraging chick to push up with legs and develop correct muscles. It also helps keep the chick from getting picked on or trampled by others, while allowing it to still interact some.
  • A chick being put in a Playpen to treat Splayed Leg needs to also wear Leg Hobbles.
  • Place a 16-oz. plastic container (such as the smaller ones used for cottage cheese) in the brooder a couple inches further from the heat lamp than the other chicks are staying. There the chick won't be too hot or too cold.
    • Caution: If the temperature in the room will vary more than a little during the day, you should NOT leave the chick in the Playpen unless you will be there to move the Playpen nearer or further from heat lamp to adapt.
  • Place a soft cloth in the container. Crumple it so that there are high spaces and low spaces, where the chick can prop itself up.
  • Remove the chick and "fluff up" and reshape the cloth once or twice a day to help prevent the chick from developing "bedsores."
    • Sprinkling a little baby powder on the places where the chick's body rubs might also help.
  • Another chick may occasionally climb in, too, and that is alright. When the recovering chick has built up enough leg strength, it will climb out of the playpen, also.
Chick Chair or Sling

* KEEP IN MIND: You need to daily gently scratch potentially itchy spots that the Sling prevents the bird from reaching with its feet. If you don't, the bird will be pretty miserable and can develop terribly itchy, swollen welts from lack of normal skin stimulation.
* CAUTION: A bird in a Sling can drown if it drops its head forward into a water dish when going to sleep. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish"section.
  • Used for injured chicks and chickens. Especially helpful during healing time after you put a slipped hock tendon back into place.
  • A variety of designs can be used.
  • Depending on design, Sling keeps chick either from bearing much weight with legs and walking, or (usually) even being able to touch the ground with its legs or feet.
    • If your chicken is recovering from Slipped Hock Tendon, it may be important for the legs not be able to reach the ground (There is some debate on this). The bird may be suspended with its legs just hanging freely or in not-too-tight casts shaped in gently 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.
  • A plastic container or Kleenex box can be used for the suspending frame. Cut holes in the sides to allow you to see the legs to check that they haven't gotten caught in "seat" part of Sling.
  • "Seat" part of the Sling is like a hammock. It should be hung in a hole cut in the center of the top of the frame. Seat should be lined with something soft-ish. Cut out a hole for each leg and a poop hole. Seat should be simple enough that the bird's legs don't get twisted around a lot when putting the bird into the chair.
  • You may want to add a flap that fastens across the chick's back to help keep it from squirming out of the Sling.
  • Reposition the chicken slightly every so often to help prevent discomfort, chafing and "bedsores." Check chicken periodically for sores.
Foam Leg Brace

  • CAUTION: Use a foam leg brace only if you are just trying to provide comfort and mobility for a chicken whose leg conditions can't be corrected--such as a chicken that is old enough that it no longer has a chance of learning correct movement, or whose bones have developed enough to be hardened and are in a deformed shape that doesn't allow the bird to function well enough, or whose deformities are extremely severe.
    • A chicken will become dependent on this brace. The legs will also continue to become more deformed.
  • CAUTION: A chicken wearing a Foam Leg Brace may drown if it stumbles near a water container. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish"section.
  • The brace is put on upper thighs and keeps upper legs separated to help the bird maintain useful position and balance.
  • The chicken needs to also be wearing Leg Hobbles (and Hock Cushion, if needed).
  • It is made from cut-out piece of large square piece of foam cushion sold at a general or fabric store as a pad/cushion for furniture (~$7), wrapped with sports tape (sold in pharmacy section of stores) close to the ends. Trim off any part of the back of the brace that gets poop dropped on it.

Treat Bumblefoot Infection

Note: People who care for raptors (birds of prey) often call thick foot callouses "bumblefoot." Poultry keepers usually only call a foot problem "bumblefoot" if there is infection inside.
Possible Symptoms:
  • Foot pain, swelling, lameness, hard callous lumps, and sometimes red or darkened area, scabbing or crack in skin on feet.
  • Usually caused by cut or bruise, often from landing too hard because of a too-high perch or rough or hard ground.
  • It can also be caused by chafing from perches that are too smooth and/or too narrow for the bird's feet.
    • Note: Chickens are designed to mostly 'stand' on their feet rather than 'perch'--unlike lighter weight birds (such as sparrows) or long-winged birds (such as hawks) that more tightly grip and curl their feet around perches.
  • If there is also infection involved, it will likely be a staph (staphylococcus aureus) infection. This infection can spread into other areas of the bird's body and may cause death.
  • Provide perches that are reasonably wide (minimum of 1 3/4" for bantams, 3 1/4" for large fowl), and have texture (such as natural branches, or boards you roughen up) where possible. Don't provide wood dowels or ladders for perches. If you use 2"x4" boards for perches for large chickens, turn so the 4" side is the top side.
  • To prevent large birds from bruising their feet, make sure there are no perches higher than ~3 1/2 feet from the ground and that landing area has soft, thick layer of bedding (pine shavings, play sand, etc.).
  • Keep coop and perches sanitary and dry. Scraping poop off of perches regularly. It may help to sprinkle them with Food-Grade Diatomaceous Earth or spray them with disinfectant such as Oxine (but NOT bleach mixture--Bleach only disinfects on surface, but water mixed in with it penetrates to interior and may foster germs.)
  • Trim any excessively long toenails so your bird can use its feet correctly when landing, etc.
  • Every few months, check feet for callouses that may become problematic.
  • Trim any excess dead skin from the area. The safest method is generally using small wire cutter pliers &/or toenail scissors and working in from the edges of the callous. There is greater risk of accidentally cutting into live skin if you start trimming on the top surface of the callous and working your way down. It is helpful to have a pair of tweezers to help maneuver things while you cut, but be careful to not pull too hard on other attached skin.
    • Soaking feet in warm water before trimming can be helpful. Mixing some Betadine in water may help clear infection.
    • Apply a Triple Antibiotic Ointment (such as Neosporin-- without added pain relief ingredients, which may be harmful to birds) before and/or after trimming to help soften skin and alleviate infection.
    • Check feet after a couple days to be sure healing is going well & nothing is lodged in hole.
    • Re-examine feet again after 2-5 weeks. If excess skin has grown back, repeat trimming and check for cause of problem (such as too high or smooth of a perch, etc.)
      • If you do a second follow-up trim, be very cautious & conservative when re-trimming! On the surface, callous regrowth may look about as serious as the original callous, but upon examination is likely to be much less deep.
  • If there is much infection involved, consider giving Penicillin (or perhaps Amoxicillin?). Putting a powdered form in food or water is least difficult (though there is some question as to whether this is as effective as injections), or you can give by injection (See "Treating with Penicillin" section). Penicillin is much better than almost any other antibiotic for this kind of infection.
The above methods provide quick, reasonably inexpensive, do-it-yourself treatment. They may clear out infection without your having to also use other methods (though applying Triple Antibiotic Ointment might also be helpful).
  • However, if there is a hard plug inside the infection inside the foot, you may likely need to also remove it using an additional method.
  • Additional recommendations vary, and can include antibiotics, soaks, poultices, bandages (*Change frequently), lancing (*May not helpful in some cases. You might not want to lance minor infections. If you do lance, do your best to get the hard "bumble" lump out and scrape out all pus.), restriction of movement, lowering or removal of perches, and clean environment.
  • You can buy neoprene Chicken or Duck Shoes at www.etsy.com/shop/PartyFowl?section_id=12239516 to keep your bird's feet clean and cushioned while healing.
  • There is additional helpful information at http://fowlfacts.proboards.com/index.cgi?board=afflictiondiseaseff&action=display&thread=1202
  • Prognosis:
    • Problem may not be noticed until has been present for an extended time. Even with treatment, Bumblefoot can sometimes develop to be chronic. Unfortunately, if it includes infection, it can lead to death in prolonged or extreme cases. However, some treatment methods (especially Penicillin) have good success rates.

    Prevent Frostbite on Feet

    Similar to frostbite in humans. May heal if not too severe. Places on toes & feet will turn dark if gangrene sets in.
    • When chickens hunker down to perch at night in winter, if perch is so narrow that toes are curled downward below bottom of bird's feathering, the tips of toes may freeze. To prevent this, ALWAYS PROVIDE BROAD PERCHES so the feathers will cover all the of chicken's comparatively flat feet well.
    • Coops without enough ventilation increase risk of frostbite, because of the increased risk from humid conditions. 'Wet' cold causes more frostbite vulnerability than 'dry' cold, and chickens' breathing & droppings can build up quite a lot of dampness in the air. To prevent problems, provide enough air circulation for the number of chickens, via small openings in the coop even during the cold of winter. The openings should be in locations sheltered from breezes (such as underneath roof eaves), and covered with wire to keep predators out.
    • Treatment: [More info needed]
    • Special shoes may help birds that lose parts of their feet to frostbite. You can buy neoprene Chicken or Duck Shoes at http://www.etsy.com/shop/PartyFowl?section_id=12239516. When you place your order, describe your bird's condition, to help select the most appropriate shoes.
    Give Injection

    Note: If you are giving Penicillin, also read special notes on Treating with Penicillin.


5 Years
Jun 27, 2014
Hello.............I just succesfully treated my baby chick who was born with splay leg.....I took 2 bandaids......I clipped off an end to a bandiad and placed it on the sticky part.....thus the bandaid pad and extention were not sticky..I did it to 2 bandaid....making the area around the ankle to be smooth and not STUCKY to the chicks legs.....I placed it real lose aorund the ankle.....then took another bandaid for the center to stick both together....

I have feathered footed chicks....if you have a NON feathered footed chick...one bandaid leaving the pad in the middle will do.....it took 9 days for mine.......but she is now all corrected.....if you need any further explaination....email


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