How to fix splayed legs

Spraddle leg, also referred to as splay leg, is a condition where a chick’s legs “splay” out to the sides. One or both legs may be affected. Often it occurs from brooding chicks on a slippery surface such as newspaper. Other causes include incubator temperature issues (if a large number of chicks are affected at hatch, this is most likely the cause), vitamin deficiency, or being in a poor position in the egg. All poultry are at risk for spraddle leg.

How to fix splayed legs

Common DIY Methods for Spraddle Leg

If you search for solutions to spraddle leg on poultry forums, you will see suggestions for securing the legs in place using bandaids, medical tape, or string. The Chicken Chick likes to use VetRap for easy application and removal. The idea is to allow the legs to strengthen in the proper position. Spraddle leg can usually be fixed with no long term effects as long as it’s dealt with early.

But what if the bird is too tiny?

We just wrapped up a hatch of quail. These little dudes are about the size of a half dollar when they break free of their eggs. The hatch occurred over the course of three days, with the last one coming almost a full 24 hours after everyone else. This last one was having a lot of trouble finding its feet and frequently tipped over onto it’s back or side. It had most likely outgrown the egg shell since quail grow at such an astounding rate. Since it was so tiny, using traditional methods for spraddle leg weren’t going to work. Trying to attach anything to legs the size of tooth picks would have resulted in more harm than good.

Instead, I pulled out a pint glass from the dry bar. This trick I’m about to tell you about will work with all young poultry, but you will have to tailor your drinking glass to the size of your bird. First, stuff some paper towels in the very bottom of the glass so it looks like a nest. Then, place your spraddle legged chick inside the glass. Enjoy an hour-long TV show (I watched Arrow) while your chick does its Physical Therapy. The chick is nestled into a standing position by the sides of the glass and the paper towel. Obviously, the chick will want to pop out of the glass, so it will push and push with it’s legs to get over the edge. This strengthens the legs while they are in the proper position.

In severe cases, it may take a few sessions of drinking glass physical therapy to repair the damage. For our little quail chick, one session was all it took. The chick was separated from the other quail for the night because she was smaller and still balancing on her hocks. The next day she was ready to join the group. The only indicator now as to which quail chick it was is that the affected chick is smaller than the others (due to hatching late).

Additional Care for Spraddle Legged Chicks

Make sure you are paying close attention to any chicks affected with spraddle leg. It may be neccessary to keep them separate from other chicks so they do not get trampled or picked on. It also helps in monitoring their food and water intake. Chicks with spraddle leg often cannot access water and food independently and are at risk of drowning in waterers. Although chicks can survive without food for the first few days of life, water is essential in their recovery and overall health. Save-a-Chick should be added to the water of any chick that is having a rough time after hatch. If you incubate your own chicks or order day old chicks online, it’s wise to have Save-a-Chick in your arsenal just in case.

How to fix splayed legs

Unfortunately, when raising chicks sometimes things go wrong. Some problems in chicks are very easy to fix and such is the case with spraddle leg, also called splay leg. Spraddle leg is when one or both of the chicks legs slip out to the sides making the chick unable to stand or walk correctly. wiki It's not difficult to get the chick walking right again, if you start while a chick is still small, but it must be done immediately! The longer you wait, the harder it is to fix!

How to fix splayed legs

This is one of the most common problems in chick hatching. Spraddle leg chicks can happen for a few reasons. Sometimes the chick just hatched like that, often with one leg sticking out to the side.

Other times it occurs when the new chick cant get a good grip in the incubator and both legs splay out in opposite directions. Spraddle leg can even occur the first few days in the brooder if the bedding gets kicked away and the chicks feet slip on a slick brooder floor.

Either's easy to fix spraddle leg in chicks if you get to it right away. This is super important! The longer the chick stays splay legged the harder it is to fix.

You'll need to hobble the legs together and 're-train' them to stay that way. The tools you need are simple: one band aid and a pair of scissors. 

First, cut the band aid lengthwise. I do this while it's still in the package. Pull out the split band aid and peel the tab off one end.Wrap the band-aid around one leg, fastening it to itself. Do this again for the other leg. It will look like the picture below.

When both legs are banded, the chick (or in these pictures, keet) can now stand. The band-aid should have just enough give that the chick can get around for a day or two while it heals. If the band-aid is too stiff, you can rub the middle pad between your fingers a bit to soften it and make it easier for the chick to get around.

this hobble on for at least 24 hours. You can take the hobble off by gently cutting the band-aid with small scissors.  The chick should be able to stand on its own. If it still cannot stand, put another band-aid hobble on and check again the next day.

How to fix splayed legs

It is SUPER important that you do this as soon as possible! If you wait, it will take longer to fix. Then you will have to leave the hobble on for a few days. If you wait too long, the leg will twist and just won't got back no matter what you do. I've had about a 95% success rate using this method

How to fix splayed legs

To prevent spraddle leg, use a piece of rubber shelf liner in the incubator in the chick hatching area. This will give their little feet something to grip on to when they stand. Do not use slick surfaces like newspaper in the brooder.

I usually put down shelf liner and put wood shavings on top of it to absorb the poop. This way if they kick the shavings out of the way, they still have the shelf liner to keep them from slipping. I've also used puppy pee pads in the brooder to prevent slipping. You can pick both of those up both of those and other chick supplies at the dollar store.

Update: Since I wrote this post, I have been asked about using a hair elastic and a piece of drinking straw to fashion a hobble. While it is quite clever, I've seen picture of chicks with bloody legs from the drinking straw ripping into the it's tiny legs as it tries to walk. For this reason I do not recommend using that method. 


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I am not a veterinarian or other animal care professional nor do I claim to be. I am simply passing on information that has worked for me and my flock. This information is for entertainment purposes only and is not meant to treat or diagnose any medical condition. Please see a vet if your chicken is ill. Click for my full disclaimer. 

How to fix splayed legs

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