Spraddle Leg | Causes, Prevention & Treatment

Posted by Gypsy Shoals Farm on

spraddle leg causes prevention and treatment poultry health

What is Spraddle Leg?

Spraddle leg (also known as splay leg) is a deformity in the leg muscle development that a baby chick is either born with or develops in the brooder. It’s very easy to identify because the newly hatched chick with spraddle leg will not be able to stand up or walk properly. The chick’s legs will be splayed apart at the hip and your baby chick will look like it’s doing a version of the cheerleader split.

If left untreated, spraddle leg will have a fatal ending every time because the chick’s leg muscles will not correct themselves. The good news is that spraddle leg is very easy to correct and you probably already have the things needed in your home. The key to correcting spraddle leg is immediate treatment and I’ll explain the reason I cannot stress this enough further in this article.

ayam cemani baby chick three days old gypsy shoals farm

Causes and Prevention of Splay Leg Chicks

The most common cause of spraddle leg is a slick surface in the incubator and/or in the brooder box within a few hours after hatch. We use puppy pads in the brooder boxes on Gypsy Shoals Farm, but paper towels are perfectly fine. The takeaway here is that you want your chicks to have a surface that they can’t easily slip and slide on, causing their underdeveloped leg muscles fatigue. Think of it as if you were walking on ice and your legs slipped out from under you into a split. Note: Never use cedar shavings as a floor covering in a chick brooder. Cedar (and its’ dust) can irritate a baby chick’s lungs and skin and cause death.

Poor nutrition in the mother hen that laid the egg can result in underdeveloped hatching chicks which show much higher rates of spraddle leg. If you are planning to hatch strong and healthy chicks you must feed your laying hens good quality and balanced poultry layer feed.

ayam cemani baby chicks gypsy shoals farm

Temperature fluctuations during incubation can cause spraddle leg as well as the eggs not being turned according to schedule. We cannot stress enough the importance of investing in a high quality and reliable incubator. On Gypsy Shoals Farm, we’ve only had two cases of splayed leg and we hatch a lot of chicks!

Difficulties during the hatching process for the chick can also cause spraddle leg (also known as splay leg). If the chick has kicked and worked for hours, it’s exhausted after it finally unzips and does not have the leg strength to support itself, legs sliding out to each side. There is a definite correlation between the number of spraddle leg chicks and the number of them that were difficult hatches. Health and proper development start in the egg.

Overcrowded brooder boxes can also be the cause of splay leg in baby chicks. Newly hatched ayam cemani chicks need room to move, exercise and build their muscle strength as they rapidly grow. An overcrowded brooder can create the conditions for leg injuries simply from being on top of and bumping into one another. Brooder boxes should have 6 square inches per chick to ensure adequate room and good health. Vitamin deficiencies sometimes can cause splayed leg. Although spraddle leg caused by a vitamin deficiency is usually a rare occurrence. Vitamin deficiencies can also cause crooked toes in baby chicks.

how to cure spraddle splay leg in baby chicks

Treatment of Spraddle Leg in Baby Chicks

The good news is that correcting the splayed leg condition in a baby chick is fairly easy and you probably already have the supplies in your home. The key to correcting spraddle leg is that it must be done immediately. Baby chicks develop at a mind-blowing rate, so every hour counts in the first few days. The baby chick must be able to get to food and water at this critical time as well as exercise his new muscles to strengthen them and bear weight on his legs.

how to fix splayed spraddle leg

To treat spraddle leg, you must bind the legs together in the correct position and support them for the baby chick. Cut a thin piece of self-adhesive bandage, set the legs under the hips (approximately 1 inch depending on the breed) and bind the legs together for support. Place the chick on a non-slick surface and see if he can stand. Most will be able to stand immediately with the new leg braces. Leave the leg bracers on for 24 hours and then remove to check progress. If the chick is not able to stand and walk on his own, reapply the leg braces and repeat the process in another 24 hours.

You can also use a simple band-aid, tiny rubber band or pony tail holder to create the tension between the legs that the bracers provide to cure slayed leg.

poultry spraddle leg treatment

In extreme cases, you may be unable to set the legs to the perfect position on your first attempt. If the chick is unable to stand after you’ve applied the leg supports, adjust the binding to make it a little bit wider, allowing the chick to get balanced over his bound legs to start.  In 24 hours, bring them closer together and repeat this a little each day until the chick can stand on his own.

Make sure you have food and water “handicap accessible” during this time. It’s will be difficult for the weak chick to compete for space at the community feed and waterers as all the healthy (and mobile) baby chicks will be doing the same.

Remember fast treatment is key! If spraddle leg is not addressed within a couple hours after hatch, the chick’s legs with fuse in the deformed position and not be treatable.

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