Crooked Toes in Chickens: Causes and Treatment

Crooked or bent toes in chicks can be an unsightly condition, but in the majority of cases, having bent toes does not affect the chicken’s ability to live a completely normal life. Crooked or bent toes (bending sideways) is different from a condition called curled toes paralysis (toes curl under causing the bird to walk on the top of the foot). Here are a few reasons when and why your chicks may develop curled or bent toes and how to treat them.

Crooked toes can sometimes be evident at hatch or within a few hours after hatch. When crooked toes appear early in life (less than a week of age) it may be caused from a genetic issue, from a fluctuation in incubator temperature, or from a difficult hatch attempt because the chick is poorly positioned within the egg or the humidity is too low during the hatch. If the bent toes show up after the chick is more than a week or so old, management and nutrition are the primary suspected causes.

In the brooder, crooked toes can happen if chicks have a slick surface on the brooder floor, such as newspaper or plastic. Too much activity while the chick is very young may lead to bent toes later on. Make sure that your brooder is properly sized for the number of chicks you are brooding and that the surface is not slick.

Bent toes may also be caused from nutritional deficiencies, specifically a lack of riboflavin. If you are feeding a high quality, age-appropriate feed that is fresh, nutritional issues should not be a factor. But if your feed is not fresh (milled more than a month ago) or your chicks are supplemented with too many treats, a nutritional imbalance can occur.bent toes 1 (1)

If treated early, bent toes may be corrected in some cases. To correct bent toes, you can use Vet Wrap to gently wrap a single toe to hold it straight. If the chick has more than one toe bent, you may create little “sandals” from a piece of thin cardboard and tape. To make a sandal, trace the chick’s foot onto the cardboard and cut out. Then, with the chick standing on the cardboard, gently tape the toes to the cardboard “toes” of the sandal, gently aligning the chick’s toes as you apply the tape. Leave the sandal on for 24 to 48 hours, then remove and check the progress of the toes. In most cases, 3 days is all that is needed to treat bent toes if caught and treated at the first sign of an issue.

Let us know if you’ve successfully treated your chick’s crooked toes. What method did you use? How were the results? Leave us a comment below.

4 comments

  • My hen had a chick with a curled foot. I think it was because she kept the chick tightly snuggled against her. I gave the chick “chicken foot therapy” by gently pressing the foot flat several times a day for a week. It worked. Now Tidbit gets around the yard on both feet!
    Thanks for sharing your chicken health updates. I appreciate them.

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  • I’ve corrected crooked toes on pheasants, peafowl, chicks, and just about every other bird you can imagine. The sooner after they hatch, the better.
    I take a 3″ or 4 ” piece of masking tape and lay it flat, with the sticky side up, on a table or bench top. I then place the birds foot flat on the sticky tape and arrange the toes so they are perfectly straight. Next step is to place another piece of masking tap , sticky side done, on top of the rearranged toes. Make sure to press the toe down firmly on the tape, and between each toe so they will stay straight . Carefully trim the excess tape so the bird is able walk on it. The trimmed tape should make a little “ducky foot” . In 2-3 days, carefully peel apart the tape, and the birds foot will be perfect, and it should stay that way.

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