Spraddle Leg: Causes and Treatment
If you are new to raising chicks, Spraddle (or Splay) Leg can sound like a scary term. What can be even scarier is when you experience it for the first time. The chick’s legs will be to the side, unable to stand and walk. This can happen to chicks that you have hatched in an incubator or those that you have purchased and brought home as day-old chicks. Don’t fret too much, as this can be treated, and the chicks tend to bounce back quickly.
What is it?
Spraddle leg is a condition that is caused by muscle weakness of the legs and feet. This weakness stems from the chicks having inconsistency in the incubator or brooder flooring that is too slippery. Inside of the incubator when the temperature is too high or has varied too much during incubation, this is one cause of spraddle leg. When the floor material is too slippery, they cannot grip the surface and their muscles do not develop correctly. Newspaper is not recommended for floor bedding because it is too slippery which is why we recommend pine shavings or paper towel.
To treat spraddle leg, the best thing to do is to apply a “hobble”; or a tiny tie strap that goes around the legs. The hobble will prevent the chick’s legs from splaying and correct the musculature. A good material for a hobble is Vet Wrap, which will not stick or harm the bird as it heals, even though it does stick to itself. If you do not have Vet Wrap, a small band-aid will work as well. An important aspect to remember, when attaching the hobble on the chicks, do not stretch the wrap. This may cause the hobble to be too tight and may cause more harm by cutting off circulation to the chick’s feet. This damage would be irreversible.
The hobble should only stay on the chick for 24 hours at a time and no longer. Remove it after the first 24 hours and see how the chick is doing. If the chick still appears weak you can use your best judgment to apply a second hobble if needed. Chicks grow rapidly so if a hobble is left on more than 24 hours it could cause the same irreversible damage as making it too tight. This process could continue for about 3-4 days in all.
Spraddle leg may seem scary, but it is entirely treatable. If caught quickly you can give the chicken a great chance at a long and happy life!
Our Help Desk Article Spraddle Leg Causes and Treatment offers additional information that may be of additional help to you.
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Thank you so much for all this help!!
You are very welcome! Thank you for reading!
One of our chicks has a case of spraddle leg. We didn’t notice it right away. Not as severe as some cases I’ve seen online. She’s 3 days old now. We have her legs hobbled with a band-aid. However, I see now that her feet are also pointed out some. Enough that her back toe doesn’t point backward, rather sideways and inward. She has trouble standing, balancing and walking. How would we go about straightening her feet or back toe?
Thanks for reading our blog, Chris. It’s hard to know exactly where the alignment issue may be on your chick. From what you describe, it sounds like her legs may be more twisted out of alignment, which could certainly be caused by weak tendons or like we see in spraddle leg injuries. For a 3-day old chick, splinting into proper alignment would be the only way to help her. I recommend using VetWrap cut into strips approximately 1/2 inch wide to wrap her feet, toes and the “ankle” joint into proper alignment. For a chick this young, change the wraps daily or every other day because she’ll grow fast and not changing the bandage often enough may cause the toes or foot to become strangulated and result in far greater injury than crooked toes.
Hi, I am very new to owning chickens and have a small flock. One of my 10 week old chicks I have noticed is limping and started having trouble as a toe on each foot seems to be growing in an odd way. She can’t help but step on her own toes. They seem to be rolling over slightly. Any suggestions for a new B? Is it advised to separate her and splint each toe one foot at a time, or both toes at the same time? Thanks I’m advance
Hi Gretchen. In a 10-week old bird, it will be trickier to splint the toes to get them to straighten since the bones and tendons are much stronger than in a younger chick. Examine the feet for any signs of bumblefoot or injuries that could be causing the limping. A mild case of crooked toes doesn’t usually cause lameness unless it’s quite severe. I would also add a poultry mulit-vitamin to all of the birds’ drinking water to help ensure that the lameness isn’t caused by a vitamin deficiency.