Duckling with dislocated leg at hock

James Ward

May 31, 2017
Hi everyone,
First, a little bit of background: I have a little mallard duckling that is the youngest out of 9 ducklings we currently have. The rest of the ducklings are mixed Pekins and we hatched them ourselves. The mallard was several days late for hatching and got stuck in the egg so eventually we broke and helped them out as they had managed to unzip the egg but they were completely stuck. After helping him out he had that relatively common club foot problem on both legs but we got it straightened out in the first day and he has been quite happily running about for the week or so since. The only problem seemed to be that he was growing A LOT slower than the other ducklings and much slower than other mallards we have had before but the other ducks seemed to be taking care of him, always putting him on the inside of the huddle etc.

However, this morning when i came downstairs the ducks had emptied their water into the bottom of their enclosure and we found that while the other ducklings were a bit cold but overall fine, the little mallard was on it's back shivering totally saturated with water. We cleaned up the enclosure and put the others back in but kept the mallard out to dry off and eventually put him back in the incubator on low humidity to dry off. However, at this point we noticed that the duckling's right leg was laid behind him at an odd angle and when he tried standing it was turned in and in the wrong position. After a close examination and feel, it feels like he has dislocated his leg at the hock, probably by being stepped on by another one of the ducks. No vets in the area seem likely to help us as it's hard to justify racking up a vet bill on a little duckling that may not make it anyway. Is there anything that we can do to fix the joint ourselves ?



  • To reposition the tendon into the correct place: Gently pull the upper part of bird's leg a bit behind normal position and then carefully straighten the leg as though bird were stretching its leg back in a pretty normal stretching motion. Press gently against the side of the tendon if needed, and it should pop back into place pretty easily and cause little if any pain. Gently release the leg and it should return to a normal bent position.
    • Some sources recommend pushing the tendon back in place just by pressing with your finger. However, stretching the leg back is a much less painful method.
  • Sometimes a tendon has a hard time staying in place. It may have been out of place for too long or a chick's hock groove may not yet have developed enough to hold the tendon well (Be sure to provide very good nutrition to support optimal bone growth at this time. Do NOT give Calcium or other nutrients in excessive amounts, however--that could cause other problems.).
    • You can repeat the repositioning of the tendon additional times. This may help the tendon gradually lengthen & shape correctly, while the bone is also growing enough to hold the tendon better.
    • You can put the tendon in place & then ***wrap the joint area with sports tape*** or other tape to help hold it there. Use a thin strip of tape wrapped several times around the joint. Change the tape after a few days to ensure it doesn't restrict circulation too much.
    • It will also help if you put the bird in a Chick / Chicken Sling or Chair and/or put its leg in a cast (such as one made from a bendable drinking straw) for a few days (~5) while re-alignment stabilizes.
      • (Note: There is some debate on whether it is better for feet to not touch the ground--as recommended below-- or to touch the ground a little. Please research further when making the choice.)
      • It is important for the legs not be able to reach the ground. The bird needs to be suspended with its legs just hanging freely or in not-too-tight casts shaped in normal bent angle. In this position, the chick won't try to use its legs as much. Its legs need relaxed rest in their normal position until the tendon(s) have stretched and adjusted back to the right place and shape.
  • Even after the tendon is back in place, the bird may continue to have some problems walking for a few days. If so, use a Hock Cushion(s) to protect its hock(s) from chafing & bruising during recovery. Limber the leg by gently stretching the leg several times a day, as you did when repositioning the tendon (Check to make sure the tendon stays in place.). If the chick struggles to figure out correct movements, Physical Therapy or short sessions in a Chick Cup (More info to be added.) may help.
  • You can try taking the bird to a veterinarian for a tendon that won't go into place or won't stay in place. The veterinarian may try surgery or other treatments. Click here to read one little chick's success story.
  • However, costs can be expensive with various vets, results are not guaranteed, and the effort involved is significant. It may be appropriate to put the chick down instead.
  • ...I copied this out of the link Miss Lydia provided, DK if this is the problem? there is more that may apply. Good Luck!
Thanks so much everyone for your help, i think i have narrowed the causes down, so i am speculating that the duckling hasn't actually been eating very well and we haven't noticed because it tends to get masked by the noise of the pekins. I think this has lead to it getting Perosis due to a lack of nutrition as it seems that this would explain its slow growth rate and the apparent ease with which it's tendon seems to have slipped. I have tried relocating the tendon as described in Miss Lydia's post but i can't seem to even find the tendon cause he's so small using any of the methods i can see online. So my current course for action seems to be segregating him off from his siblings and making sure he's eating a lot to fix the vitamin and manganese deficiencies and hoping his leg fixes itself if i stretch it out a few times a day. One thing, for a slipped Achilles tendon that I can't put back in, would people recommend that the leg be strapped up so that he can't move it or shall i leave it unencumbered so he can retain full movement. He seems to have developed a kind of tumble walk that is actually surprisingly fast.
:thumbsup Sounds good and you seem very competent to handle this whatever the outcome. On the wrap or not question perhaps just a brief phone consult with a vet since you are able to describe the issue clearly:D? Otherwise my WAG:lol: is to leave it unwrapped if he is mobile and not in obvious pain rather than immobilize it in the undesirable position. Just a guess.
Hopefully a little extra TLC will bring him along:D
From what I read, as he matures it may be possible to get the tendon to stay.

Maybe check daily. I find if I'm trying to do something I've never done it takes a few tries just to get familiar with 'the parts' I'm working with.
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