While baby chickens are quite resilient, there are a few conditions of the foot and leg that, if not treated promptly, can cause death or the need to be put down. Spraddle-legs (sometimes called splayed-legs) occurs when one or both of a chick's legs goes out to the side. This can be caused by overcrowding in the brooder. Chicks can also have curled toes, with or without spraddle-legs. Both instances require immediate intervention before the chick's bones harden. Most experts do not hold out much hope for a chick with bad legs.
- Skill level:
Things you need
- Pipe cleaners
- Cellophane tape
- Lightweight cardboard
Cut a pipe cleaner in half. Cut one of the halves in half again so that you have two small pieces of equal length and one larger piece. You will not need all of the pieces immediately.
Lay the baby chicken on his back in your hand. He will probably fall asleep immediately. With the other hand (and perhaps a helper), fold one of the small pieces of pipe cleaner in half.
Push the chick's legs together so they extend straight down from the hips. Place the pipe cleaner around the chick's legs to hold them in place, twist the pipe cleaner closed and fold the outer edges in so the chick doesn't injure itself. The legs can be banded above or below the knees.
Watch the chick for signs of distress and to make sure he's eating and drinking. It is not unusual for other chicks to bully the hobbled chick by knocking him around or keeping him from the food and water.
Replace the band if it slips or falls off. Consistency is crucial. Remove the band after three or four days and check the legs. Replace it as needed.
Lay the chick on his back in your hand. Uncurl the toes and measure the foot. Since tiny chicks are fairly docile, you probably won't have any problems with this step.
Cut a piece of lightweight cardboard slightly larger than the chick's foot.
Straighten out the chick's toes and tape the whole foot to the piece of cardboard. If necessary, do the same thing to the other foot at the same time. In a few days, the toes should straighten out on their own.
Splinting Curled Toes: Method 1
Splint the chick's toes individually. Begin on the outside edge of the chick's foot and wrap a pipe cleaner up the outside of the toe, over it and down to the centre of the foot.
Secure the pipe cleaner by wrapping a piece of cellophane tape around it.
Follow the same procedure with the other two toes. When finished, trim the excess pipe cleaner. Try to keep the splints in place for several days.
Take the splints off and check the toes after two or three days. Repeat the procedure if necessary.
Splinting Curled Toes: Method 2
Tips and warnings
- Do not attempt to fix a chick's toes or legs after the first week of life. At that point, the bones begin to harden and these procedures cause excruciating pain. Also, after completing any of these procedures, stay with the chick. When you return it to the brooder, it will panic. Stand it up when it falls down until it understands what to do. Isolate it only if it is in danger.
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