Written By Lisa Steele, Fresh Eggs Daily
Hopefully you will never have to worry about a chick with spraddle leg ( also called splayed leg), but as is the case with everything else chicken-related, it’s always best to be prepared …just in case.
Spraddle Leg is a condition that a chick is either born with or develops within the first few hours of life whereby one or both legs slip out to the sides making them unable to stand or walk.
Spraddle leg can occur during incubation or the hatching process if the temperature is too high or varies too much during the incubation period or if the hatch is difficult for the chick. A less common cause can be a vitamin deficiency. The more common cause is an incubator or brooder floor that is too slippery for the chick to grip, which causes the legs to slide to one side. As a result the chick’s legs muscles don’t develop properly because of the lack of traction.
To try and prevent this condition, a sheet of paper towel or rubber shelf liner should always be put in the incubator just before the lockdown.
This will give the newly hatched chicks something to grip onto.
In the brooder box, newspaper should NEVER be used as the only floor covering. Especially when it gets wet, it is too slippery and the main cause of spraddled leg. Instead, I cover a few layers of newspaper with a sheet of shelf liner. The rubber surface, just as in the incubator, provides a nice textured surface for little feet.
I change the newspapers and shelf liner out as needed, rinsing the shelf liner off and reusing it, and after a few days, add a layer of pine shavings on top.
Spraddle leg is easily correctable, but if not addressed quickly, the chick will not be able to get to feed and water and can die.
What you need to do is hobble the chick’s legs. The easiest way is to cut a thin piece of vet wrap (approximately 1/4″ wide and 5″ long) and loosely wrap it around each leg, connecting the ends in the middle, about an inch apart, in sort of a figure eight.
The chick’s legs should be about normal width apart when extended. If the chick can’t stand up, you can make them a bit wider apart for better balance, but then bring them a bit closer together each day.
You can wrap some First Aid Tape around the middle to keep it secured.
Then be sure the chick has something it can easily walk on like paper towel, a bath towel or shelf liner. At first the chick will have trouble standing up, but soon will be able to get around. Ensure the chick has easy access to feed and water, but a shallow water dish with marbles or small stones in it is required so the chick doesn’t fall in and drown. Also it’s best to keep the chick separate from other chicks at least until she learns to stand so she won’t be trampled.
At first it is helpful to support the chick and just let her try to stand and get used to having her legs underneath her. Helping her get her balance will be beneficial and hasten her recovery.
Unwrap the legs and check the chick’s progress once or twice a day. Leave the hobble on until the chick can stand and walk on its own. This could take from a few days to up to a week. You should see results fairly quickly and soon your chick will be up and about.
Then make a solemn vow – no more chicks on newspaper!