Tuesday, 28 June 2011

Chick Leg Problems

There are many types of leg problems with chicks but the most common potential causes of leg problems are usually primarily down to one of four possibilities :

1. Incorrect settings at the incubation stage (or an unreliable incubator)
2. Slippery floor surface in the brooder once hatched
3. Nutritional deficiency when growing.
4. Hereditary

Two of the most common chick leg problems with newly hatched chicks are splayed legs and crooked toes. In both cases the issue may have been caused at the incubation stage. Chicks that hatched with splayed legs may have had insufficient moisture when incubating or too high an incubation temperature. Crooked toes can be hereditary but often is due to the incubation temperature and/or humidity being too low.

Another cause of crooked looking toes is a riboflavin deficiency (vitamin B2) and that may be a deficiency in the chick itself or because the breeding stock had that deficiency. The toes may curl inward or underneath and a partial paralysis of the legs can also force the chick to walk and rest on the hock joints (in a squatting position). Curled toe paralysis may be helped if it is the starter ration that has insufficient riboflavin. In those cases symptoms can start to appear at around 10 days old and when a multivitamin supplement is supplied promptly before too much damage has been done the chicks can recover.

One thing that seems to help with splayed legs is to support the legs in a natural position. A common way to do this is to use a bandaid and attach horizontally between the chicks legs at a comfortable distance so that the gauze part of the bandaid is in the middle (the bandaid across the legs results in an 'H'). The support combined with a well balanced chick feed should help the legs grow the right way and allow your chick to walk whilst the legs are still getting stronger. Eventually the legs will hopefully be strong enough to support the chick without the need of the bandaid (they usually come off naturally after a few days but you may need to reapply). Here is a video of a chick that previously could not walk properly now getting around much better with the help of a bandaid.

The main cause of a development in chicks after hatching of splayed legs (also known as spraddle legs) is a slippery floor surface, particularly in their first few days of hatching. It may be that a chick with slightly crooked toes cannot stay balanced properly and so splayed legs can develop but more commonly splayed legs will be caused by a smooth slippery surface such as cardboard, plastic or newspaper and so those should not be used in the brooder. 1-2 inches of pine shavings with paper towels over the top would be a better flooring for very young chicks (when they are a little older just the shavings should be fine). If you have a chick with a twisted leg (like spraddle leg but only affecting one leg) it may potentially be due to a vitamin deficiency (specifically Choline - another vitamin from the 'B' family).


In another post there are some photos and commentary from Keeping Chickens Newsletter subscriber Christina Raving performing surgery on a Maran chick with fused toes (a chick leg problem which can lead to other leg and balance issues if not corrected).


Anonymous said...

I have used a rubber band or hair tie with success!

Emily said...

Funny that I follow your blog through facebook and the other day I was watching a video on how to deal with bumblefoot. I'm slow, but I just realized it's the same blog! :)

Thank you for the advice on wrapping chicken's feet. We seem to have an epidemic of bumblefoot right now. :(

Didde said...

I did not think you could cure that, I have never had any chicks with that problem, but it is worth a try if I get some! Thanks for the tip!


Anonymous said...

thanks so much for the help. I have a chick,broiler, that has one splayed leg (the right one) & one has already died due to this. Now i dont know wats the real cause since i used to have them on newspapers.but after googling and reading i have since replaced newspprs wth material that offers friction.so if its a lack of vitamin B where can i find it?whats the source of vitamin B?

Unknown said...

There are poultry vitamin / nutrient supplements sold at feed stores etc.

Anonymous said...

I have a newborn chick with crooked toes. What can i do to try and help it. Thank you.

Unknown said...

Vitamin b can help in some cases so that may be worth a try.

Kathy said...

Thank you! I had my very first chick hatch out of my incubator with splayed legs and I used the band aid and she is walking great. I thought she was going to die until I found your remedy.I am a happy mom. :)

Unknown said...

Glad it helped :-)