Sideways leg


In the Brooder
8 Years
Sep 1, 2011
Newton Aycliffe
One of my new chicks has a problem with one of its legs. At the hock its left leg sticks out sideways and its toes seem to just hang. It hobbles around on its hock leaning to that side and is already smaller than the rest of the brood. What is the diagnosis and best and most humane solution?
Ok, I want to write this quick before anyone has regrets.

I hatched 9 on Sun-Mon, of which 2 had leg/foot issues.

I'm rehabbing them.

I did my own impromptu diagnosis with the chicks on their backs, examining their hips, legs, etc. on each side, comparing them. Then I figured that both had rotated their legbones in the hip joint. One badly -- the other a little. The one with a little hip rotation was walking on the stump of her femur -- with her whole foot curled under. I'll talk about her first, because rehab was a success!

I checked out the foot to see if it had atrophied. I spread the toes, wiggled them gently, rotating the hip to the correct position, I pumped her leg up & down in the correct position. I got response from muscles in the foot, so I figured it was all fixable, so I started doing exercises with her a couple times an hour, a few times a day.

One exercise was perching her on a finger on a flat hand, with her toes in the correct position. Any time the toes went wrong, I patiently put them back. All the while, my other hand is making sure the hip is in the correct position (you have to gently press both hips under the wings, just until the thigh bones are parallel). Then we do "ups and downs" If you tilt your hand gently forward and backward, the chick moves their body to keep balance.

Then eventually I put them back in the brooder, and assist them in standing correctly in the brooder. For a minute or two. Then leave them alone.

Well, this morning, the "club foot" chick is walking properly, and starting to run around and play with the other chicks. It's a matter of strengthening the weak muscles, and "teaching" them -- just like physical therapy.

The other was shuffling around on one leg with the other completely splayed out. Toes are fine. This is what some people call a "split" problem. We're still working on her, but she's made progress. She's now able to stand for about 30 seconds, and walk a few steps. Then she flops down unless I assist her in standing up. She needs more strength, more time to learn to rebalance herself. But she is trying. With her, when I hold her in my hand it's all about holding her hip in the correct position, and trying to get her to line her feet together -- she has no trust in her "off" leg. Can't blame her... so she tends to put it out front and still rely on the "good" leg more. So I nudge her to use them both equally, assist her in standing correctly (works best when holding her near the food/drink stations :) ) in the brooder, and letting her wobble around on her own some before she gets tired.

At this age, they exhaust easily, so I give them a nap and I'm at it again before I'm even leaving the cage....sometimes 2-3 sessions in the half hour or 40 mins I'm sitting and playing with the chicks. I expect the 2nd chick will be on her feet in another day or two. It does take patience. It also may help that I am a holistic healer and I'm doing Reiki the whole time I'm holding the chick. At the very least, it makes my hands warmer :)
The splay-legged chick is standing on her "good" leg longer & longer (& taller) each day, but she can't get her other leg under control. It seems her thigh bone is out of joint with her pelvis on that side... I put a roost into the brooder, and she looks longingly at it, and is envious of her siblings, but she can't use the roost.... unless she figures something out she won't be able to get in/out of the chicken tractor, so that will probably be the clincher, unless she can get flying well enough to get in/out of the coop, I guess (never underestimate a critter's determination to survive...)... But in the winter, that splayed leg is going to be vulnerable to cold, too... Her siblings are fluttering around, even flying to the 2nd and 3rd rail of the roost at under 2 weeks old (!). I figure it's a little soon to underestimate her determination. I'm still doing physical therapy with her daily, but she really needs to figure this out on her own.

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