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.

Treatment

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!

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