We just hatched our most recent batch of baby chicks. Spring is in the air and baby chicks are always so exciting. Not to mention that they are super adorable. This time, however, we had a baby chick that had spraddle legs, plus curled feet. A double whammy. Here I’m going to address how to correct spraddle leg in baby chicks.
To find out how to fix curled feet in baby chicks, click here.
I’ll admit, when I discovered my baby chick had these issues, I had a minor panic attack. I had never encountered this before. After scouring YouTube, Instagram, Google, and Pinterest for videos and pictures, I found a method that worked for me. So, if this sounds like you, calm down and breathe. I can’t guarantee that this method to fix spraddle leg will work 100% of the time. However, it’s been found to be a great solution.
What is spraddle leg?
Spraddle legs are a deformity in baby chick’s legs that causes the legs to point sideways instead of forwards. Usually, the chick cannot even walk, much less move around. You may notice the chick using its’ wings to propel it forward with one leg sticking out to the side.
Just in case you are still panicking, I’m going to tell you how to fix spraddle leg first and then why it occurs. Solution before explanation. Furthermore, I should mention that if your chick has curly toes, you need to take care of this at the same time as spraddle leg.
How to Correct Spraddle Leg in Baby Chicks
This is my favorite method to fix spraddle leg and it’s what worked for my little one. First you will need vetrap. I bought mine from Walgreens. Next, cut a piece off about 6″ long. Then, cut that piece in half. We are going to use vetrap to create hobbles for the baby chick that are connected. This will bring the legs in to normal width and create a soft “cast”. I used vetrap because it sticks to itself, not to the chick’s legs. The hobbles help the baby chick to strengthen its’ legs and can be used to help the chick to stand.
Next, using the first half of the strip of vetrap, wrap the vetwrap around the bottom part of the chick’s leg right above the foot. It should look thick like a hobble. After that, using the other half of the vetrap, wrap it around the other leg. Lastly, leave a little bit of room on the second half, using the extra to connect to the other leg and stick together. The end result should look like a little cast. There should be about one finger’s width of space between each leg.
When you put the chick down after being hobbled, she may not be able to stand. Mine had been balancing her weight forward for so long that she didn’t know how to stand up correctly. Place the hobbled chick in a separate area of the brooder away from the other chicks. I put mine in an empty kleenex box with the top cut off.
I also placed a tiny box of food and water in the box for the injured chick. If the chick cannot reach the water, you may have to help her drink.
Make sure the chick has access to heat. Place the chick close to the heat lamp, but not directly under. If the hobbled chick gets too hot, it won’t be able to move away from the heat.
Therapy to Correct Spraddle Leg
Once the chick has been hobbled and had time to rest, it’s time for therapy. Isn’t that just adorable? Therapy for baby chicks!
The chick needs to learn how to re-stand correctly. I did this two ways. The first was to help the chick stand by gently holding her chest up. This shows the chick that she is able to move around and helps her muscles to learn the right way to stand. This needs to be done about 5-6 times per day for about a minute each.
The second way is to use a clear glass during the second day of treatment. I put paper towel in the bottom of the glass to give the chick traction and put the glass in the middle of the brooder with the rest of the chicks. The glass helps the chick to stabilize itself. It also encourages the chick because she is able to see everyone else walking around and makes her want to join them. I did this a few times for about half an hour each.
The result is that after two days and nights of fixing curly toes and spraddle legs, my little chick was able to join the rest of the chicks. In fact, when I woke up on the second day, the chick had broke her hobbles, jumped out of her box, and had already joined the other chicks. It made my mother’s heart feel so good that the chick was able to be saved. Now she looks just like the other chicks running around.
Method two is using small rubber bands and a piece of a drinking straw. Take a drinking straw and cut off a tiny piece, probably about 1/2″ long. Thread the straw onto the rubber band and keep it in the middle. Place each end of the rubber band on the chick’s legs, making sure that the straw stays in the middle to keep the feet separate. After about 24-48 hours, the chick’s legs should be fixed.
Honesty time: I tried this method. I didn’t care for it because the straw can rub the chick’s legs and cause it to bleed. Plus, the chick moves around so much that when I came back to check on her, she had gotten her leg out of one of the ends of the rubber band.
To be honest, I despise this method, so I am only placing it here so you can read my experience and not do the same thing. Method three is using a band-aid. Cut a band-aid in half. Wrap each end of the band-aid around the chick’s legs, using the sticky part to meet in the middle and connect, bringing the chick’s legs closer together.
Honesty time: The band-aid did not help the chick to stand. In fact, it was bulky and had rough sharp edges. The ends of the band-aid actually stuck to the chick’s leg caused her legs to bleed. I had to remove the band-aid with olive oil. This was just a waste of time for me. I will only use Method One from now on.
How quickly do I need to correct spraddle leg in baby chicks?
It’s imperative to fix spraddle leg as quickly as possible. If left unchecked, spraddle leg could be permanent. This can cause the chick to die from lack of food or water.
Due to baby chick’s extraordinary growth rate in the first few weeks of hatch, it’s best to fix the issue with the chick as young as possible. My chick was only a day old when I put the hobbles on. After treatment of one 1/2 days, she was cured and ready to go.
What causes spraddle leg in baby chicks?
There are several factors that can cause spraddle leg in baby chicks. The first are the factors that occur while hatching in an incubator:
- There was either too much or too little humidity
- Temperature fluctuations
- Too much room in the incubator after hatching
- Brooder overcrowding
- A difficult hatch making a chick’s legs weak
- Vitamin deficiency
For my little chick, she was the last one hatched and was all alone in the incubator.
To solve this, ensure that you regulate humidity and temperature closely. If there is too much room in the incubator, partition off parts of the incubator to create less room for the chick to move around in.
Factor two is that when the chick was placed into the brooder, the chick was not able to gain traction. This can occur if using wood chips or newspaper as a bottom to the brooder. A chick needs to be able to have traction to stand. If it doesn’t have this, its’ little legs slide to the side, creating spraddle leg. To solve this, put down paper towels or a rubber shelf liner.
When I placed my chick back into the brooder, I began to notice that she couldn’t stand correctly on top of wood chips and her leg began to splay out again. Immediately, I put down paper towels for the floor of the brooder. After that, she was able to run and walk around just fine. Because of this, I leave paper towel down now as the floor of the brooder.
I hope that this helps bring clarity on how to correct spraddle leg in baby chicks. I pray that you have a good success rate in helping these little chicks to get healthy and whole again. While it is scary to encounter this illness in your baby chicks, it is possible to correct the situation with the proper care and attention early on.