My 5 toed chicks all have weird feet, is it normal?

Discussion in 'General breed discussions & FAQ' started by chameleon, Jan 30, 2017.

  1. chameleon

    chameleon Chirping

    Forgive me if this is the wrong place for this thread, I wasn't sure where to put it. Also, it's a bit of a long story, sorry.

    My neighbour has a hen and a rooster that free range and I recently started helping them out because they don't have time for the chickens anymore. They live completely free range, day and night, and are doing just fine (they are the only ones who survived out on their own though out of a flock of about 30). The hen is a chronic broody, almost always trying to hatch and raise chicks. We've been living here for about a year now and I noticed her chicks never make it past a day or two, but I have very little experience with chickens and my neighbours kept dismissing her as just being dumb. One week while they were away, 4 or her eggs she was setting hatch and I decided to try and help her out. She hatched them in a small courtyard, so I sealed up and big entrances for predators and put out food and water for her. The next day, the first chick had disappeared and I felt terrible, so I started thinking of adopting the chicks. I sent the owner a message to ask them what they want me to do with her, but they didn't care too much. I checked in on them regularly during the day, but later the gardener let them out of the courtyard and I couldn't find them anywhere. A little later I saw a hawk catching chicks near the pond where they usually hang out, so I decided it was time to take them in. I grabbed a small box and went out to find them. I found them in the garden, and fortunately it wasn't her chicks that were taken, all 3 were still ok. I wasn't set up for keeping chickens at all so I could only take the chicks, they would be living in our bedroom till I could make a better plan. Anyway, that's how I ended up with chickens.

    I had never payed very close attention to their feet before, and one day I was just watching the hen and rooster foraging and noticed the hen had really weird feet. I looked it up and found out she had 5 toes. I checked the chicks and saw one of them had what seemed to be the beginning of 5 toes. I asked my neighbour what breed his chickens are, he said he couldn't remember and would try to find out. He never got back to me. After observing them closely and plenty of research I'm pretty sure they're mutts. The hen has a naked neck, so she obviously is a naked neck cross, but she also has 5 toes and lays white eggs and she's very small. The rooster apears to be some kind of game bantam cross.

    After I took the chicks the hen made a new nest and went broody again. This time out in a field. We had a few days of very heavy rainfall and she was getting wet. In the mean time I had already built a coop and covered run for the other chicks, so I closed off a section of the run for her and moved her one night when there was a big storm starting up. She was setting 11 eggs! The move went well and she stuck with her eggs, she really is a very fierce broody. But with all the rain and stress I was sure I'd be lucky if half the eggs made it. I tried to candle the eggs to see which were still viable a couple of nights later, but I wasn't sure enough of myself to throw any out and so I left them.

    A week and a half later all 11 hatched. Two were too slow and she left the nest with the other 9 before they finished hatching. They had already pipped, but they were getting colder and weaker and stopped progressing. I didn't have the heart to leave them like that so I removed them from the nest, kept them warm and helped them out. Within a few hours both were dry and gaining strength rapidly so I put them back with their siblings and kept an eye on them. Soon I couldn't even tell which were the late ones. Two weeks later they're all still doing very well.

    Now we finally get to the toes question [​IMG] This time I was aware of the 5 toe gene so I started looking for it. Their mom is quite protective and they move very fast, so it was hard to tell right away, but after watching them for a while I've noticed that some have 5 toes that appear quite normal, but some have more weird things happening with their toes. One has an under developed fourth toe on one foot but normal fourth toe on the other, another I noticed had just a fifth nail growing out of both of it's 4th toes. I haven't been able to observe all their feet closely, but they all seem to have varying degrees of toe developement. I also noticed for the first time on the two older chicks that the one has realy long 4th toes that seem to have a bit of a kink in the middle and the other has really stumpy little 4th toes. Is this normal when you cross a 5 toed chicken or is there something wrong with them? In spite of the funky toes they're all thriving for now, the older ones are around 15 weeks already.

    I'm mostly posting this out of curiosity, they do seem to be doing fine.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017

  2. chameleon

    chameleon Chirping

    These are two of them, the first has a sort of double toe on one foot and a normalish toe on the other. The other has normal 5 toes.

    I couldn't get more pics because this keeps happening and mom bites
  3. chameleon

    chameleon Chirping

    I tried again but I can't get better pics. But they're all somewhere in between those two and a few seem to have the extra long toes with just a bit of a kink or lump in it. Could it be an hereditary defect?
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017
  4. 3riverschick

    3riverschick Poultry Lit Chaser

    May 19, 2009
    Oh that is really interesting! I have never seen this before. You might ask the Dorking people. Their breed is known for 5 toes. To me it just looks like a gene this pair carries. Pretty little birds tho. Their colors are built on the e+ allele. It's called the wildtype or Black-Breasted Red allele. See the little "arrow" of darker down coming up over the head of the chicks? That's an indentifier of the e+ allele. An allele is the basic canva upon which the other colors of the chicken are painted. There are a bunch of different alleles. Wildtype is one of my favorites. These birds also are carrying a melanizing gene which makes for black showing. That is why their brown feathers look like they are burned black on the ends.
    That was so nice of you to help out this hen. She will pass those broody traits onto her daughters. Maybe you can sell some of the girls to people who want chickens.
    Last edited: Jan 31, 2017

  5. chameleon

    chameleon Chirping

    Thanks Karen, I can't wait to see how they turn out, no two are exactly the same and two of them are feathering in much lighter than the others, almost a blonde colour with white breast feathers. I do love the wild type chicks, they're really cute. This is my first time raising chicks and it is very exciting [​IMG]

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