How to Fix Splayed Leg or Spraddle Leg

One of the most common leg problems with newly hatched chicks legs is splayed leg (also called splay leg or spraddle leg). The chick will not be able to walk up right, most often will scoot around on it’s belly. It may appear sick since it’s uncomfortable and it takes great effort to move. Splayed leg is easily correctable, but if not addressed quickly, the chick will not be able to get to feed and water and can die.

splay leg 2-01

Chicks that hatched with splayed legs may have had insufficient moisture and/or humidity issues when incubating or too high an incubation temperature. The main cause of a development in chicks after hatching of splayed legs is a slippery floor surface, particularly in their first few days of hatching while trying to balance on slick floors.

This type of joint deformity could be of the leg, knee, ankle, curled toe, etc… it can be from circulation issues, vitamin b imbalances, difficult hatch or mineral or nutrition deficiencies. No matter WHY it happend, we can hopefully correct the situation!

It may be that a chick with slightly crooked toes cannot stay balanced properly causing the chick to hobble and so splayed legs can develop but more commonly splayed legs will be caused by a smooth slippery surface such as cardboard, plastic or newspaper and so those should not be used in the brooder. 1-2 inches of pine shavings with paper towels over the top would be a better flooring for very young chicks (when they are a little older just the shavings should be fine). If you have a chick with a twisted leg (like spraddle leg but only affecting one leg) it may potentially be due to a vitamin deficiency.

One thing that seems to help with splayed legs is to support the legs in a natural position using a homemade brace. Eventually the legs will be strong enough to support the chick without the need of the support from a brace.

How to fix Splayed leg

  1. Small elastic hair tie or rubber band, roughly 1 1/2 inches when pinched flat
  2. 1/2 inch piece of a plastic drinking straw
Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg

Fold the hair tie or rubber band in half and slide it into the plastic straw

Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg

Very carefully (it’s easiest with 2 people) place the loops of the hair tie/rubber band over the chick’s feet. It will not be tight on it’s ankles.

Obviously, the little chick will not be happy initially. It’s imperative to separate the chick from the others, provide it a warm and secure box with a towel or bedding in the bottom with food and water for at minimum of 24 hours with the brace on it’s legs.

Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg

When the chick has dramatically improved you can remove the brace and keep it separated for 12 more hours to ensure it’s strong enough before integrating it back into it’s chick-friends.

In most cases, when splayed leg is caught early, it takes 24-48 hours with the braces on to recover. In essence you are going to hobble the chicks so that their leg muscles are able to get strong while their legs are held in the correct position. This gives them stability in the inability for the chick’s feet to spread out too far.

Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg

You may find other ways to hold the chicks legs in the proper position such as the glass method or using band-aid, bandaids, vet wrap, vetrap, etc but trust me that this is the BEST Way!

When is it too late to fix a splayed leg?

Generally speaking home remedies for splayed or spraddle leg in a chick or other similar poultry has the best changes of working is early intervention in day-old chicks or in the first 24-48 hours after hatching.

Once we reach the 72 hour marks in most cases their legs have taken the healing process in the wrong direction and baby chicks will suffer permeant disability. I’m so sorry if you are coming here with older chicks with curled toes or permanetly deformed tendons.

That being said, I know of several occasions where this fix has worked in up to 3-4 days old chicks.. but for a better chance of healing the sooner the better for treatment and focus on ways to prevent splay leg in the future hatchings by being mindful of eliminating temperature flucuations and humidity.

When in doubt, consult a veterinarian (or wildlife rehabilitation specialist) to discuss if the bones in severe cases can be aided to heal correctly so that the hen or rooster can live a long and healthy life without disability.

How to prevent Spayed or Spraddle Leg in Chicks

On ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure! Preventing splayed and spraddle leg starts during brooding by creating the best possible environment to prevent the cause of spraddle leg. That includes using hatching eggs from healthy parent adult birds and breeders. And immediately after hatching creating a safe and non-slick brooder for the chicks. Using smooth surfaces like cardboard or even paper towels can cause the chicks legs to become injured; compared to using bedding material like wood shavings, sand or even rubber shelf liner on the brooder floor so that their little feet get traction. They need to get a good grip so that they can easily stay in a standing position without weakness that is caused by a slick surface.

Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg

How to Fix Splayed Leg or Spraddle Leg

A condition of splayed legs or spraddle legs in chickens is easily corrected. Learn how to fix it here.
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Prep Time: 5 minutes

Equipment

  • scissors

Ingredients

Instructions

  • Fold the hair tie or rubber band in half and slide it into the plastic straw.
    Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg
  • Very carefully (it's easiest with 2 people) place the loops of the hair tie/rubber band over the chick's feet. It will not be tight on it's ankles.
    Obviously, the little chick will not be happy initially. It's imperative to separate the chick from the others, provide it a warm and secure box with a towel or bedding in the bottom with food and water for at minimum of 24 hours with the brace on it's legs.
    Raising Chickens: How to fix Splayed Leg or Straddle Leg
Tried this recipe?Mention @hayley_inthekitchen or tag #hayley_inthekitchen!

54 Comments

  1. I tried doing it but the chick always scratches it down so it never stays on once it scratched it and fell into water I picked him up really quickly but I don’t know what I’m doing wrong and why he wouldn’t let it on

    1. If the chick’s legs are strong enough to remove the hair tie and straw then perhaps it’s not splayed leg.

  2. I have a 2 week old chick. It walked fine at first but only now has she not been able to walk, it is definitely a splayed leg. I have put the brace on at this stage, is there much chance of her walking normally?

  3. I have a chick thats 3 weeks old, is this too late to fix? She hobbles towater & food and she has been separate from the others since a week old.

  4. I have a turkey poult that when held, keeps one leg tucked up and when I set it down it stretches it back behind itself. Tries to crawl on its stomach. Not sure what the issue is or how to treat.

  5. Thank you so much for this article. My baby chick hatched and I saw that his legs were wonky so I did some research and found this article tried the technique with the rubber bands and straw and now my chick is thriving! Thank you so much.

  6. I have a gosling that has splayed legs. I put a (hair) rubberband witha 1/2″ straw in the middle on for a “harness”? It works and she gets around just fine now. It is up on her hips tho, not her ankles.

    Wondering how long it takes to be strong enough for me to take off the harness and have her be fine without it? It’s been about a week.

  7. Much better than my attempt with masking tape. Brilliant splint hope it works!! I have two with the issue. One is very crooked but is now able to drink on its own 🙂 with the splint. Will let you know.

    1. I have an older chicken that dissapeared for several weeks. We finally found her under a bush. After working with her for several days we got her to move and found 13 eggs under her. They were too far gone to use. When we were able to remove her from under the bush we found that one foot is all twisted. It is difficult for her to walk. Is there anything that can be done to help her?

  8. I had a chick about 1 week old. One day it was fine, the next I came home and it was suffering from spraddle leg. Bring it was my first batch of chicks my heart was broken. I made
    A brace and after a week he/she is able to get around and be supported by his/her legs. Happy tears!! ?thank you!!!

  9. I have a chick that about 4 days old. I am not sure what the problem is but her left leg seems fine but the right leg doesn’t. The chick won’t put weight on it and it seems like the leg is just there. Not functioning. Its hops about on one leg. Does this sound like splayed legL

    1. could be. I suggest you at least try this fix, each day that passes the chances of correcting the issue becomes less likely.

  10. I just want to say thank you!
    Our little Bub was born on the 7th of Jan and wasn’t looking great and couldn’t stand at all. I found this page and thank you so much. That afternoon I made a splint like you described as soon as I placed it on our baby was already up on it’s legs. I have taken it off today and as happy chick in bugs lol. Our baby is healthy thanks to your page so thank you ???

  11. Great advice. It’s so stressful & upsetting to see a newborn with splayed legs unable to walk. I cut a rubber band to the right length and placed the straw over the knot. Thank you so much for your help.

  12. Hi would this work for a baby budgie with spangled legs we have tried a couple of things but the father goes down and they help it and it always manages to get it off or have a foot out the babies are out of the nest and in a cage with the parents.

    is there anything that will work or i can do

      1. Even if the baby is out of the nest it was born on 15th of September or is it too late to do anything. Thank you

        1. So the chick about 6 weeks old – typically the bones are formed and solid, much harder to treat.

  13. thanks for your site and info. i bought 25 chicks from cackle hatchery, all was find for about 10 days .then i noticed 4 of them was having trouble walking would wobble fall over to one side, they are still eating /drinking, alert. move from heat to cool areae. havn’t change in 3 days. i isolated them . and no other chicks with trouble since , could it be that they got to hot?

    1. there are a multitude of reasons the chicks may be having trouble it’s hard to tell.

  14. Hi, I found a chick after Hurricane Irma. It was possibly 5 days old when I brought it home. He only tucked his left foot into his stomach and did everything with his right leg. I did the bandaid method and he now flattens his toes out and tries to walk but the left leg now is to the side back of the chick. He eats and drinks and is a good weight but I would really love to correct the position of his leg to the front. I tape it and it looks like it pops to the front. I can email pics.

  15. My baby is a month and week old can I still fix it? I saw something wasn’t right when he was born but I just that noticed that one of its leg is not functioning well, can it still be fixed? He’s still pretty small.

  16. Thanks so so much for this article and the great pictures. I was trying to come up with some kind of hobble that would work and this is perfect and so easy. Genius idea!

  17. My chicks two days old and having trouble standing . He is strating to stand on his own. He is not walking…is that normal I am worried he may have straddle legs

  18. How long should it take for the chick to stand with the brace. It is only 4 days old and we put the brace on yesterday but it still is not standing

    1. it depends on the chick and how badly the legs are splayed. Some cannot be fixed but with most this trick helps within 24-48 hours.

  19. I have a chick about four weeks old with a Splayed leg. Is it too late to try This? The vet said the only solution will be amputation or surgery when she gets older
    ????

    1. Splayed leg needs fixed early, you may have missed your opportunity but it’s worth a try.

  20. Hi! I am Brazilian and I am glad to found this web site! I found a pigeon cub and it has splayed leg- only one. It is 20 days old. Do you think fixing the legs will work in this case? Thank you so much!

    1. the older the chick is, the harder it is to fix. It’s worth trying, or else the little cutie won’t have a good quality of life if it does survive

  21. Really interesting article thanks. Unfortunately I have 2 Australorps with splayed legs. Bought them at around 9 weeks old and they seemed ok, but now one of them struggles to (but can) walk. Is this a condition that can appear after a few months?

    1. it needs treated immediately when just a few days old. ultimately they will not be able to walk 🙁 in most cases

  22. I found one of our chicks when it was just 3 days old. I have made a brace and separated it from the others but is still not getting to food and water without my help. Should I keep hand feeding and water longer. I’m not sure if it is getting better.

    1. How long has the brace been on? Does the chick eat/drink when you provide it water? Typically I put sick-chicks in a very small (think shoe box with high sides) so that their food/water is very reachable even if they scoot.

      There are a variety of reasons why chicks aren’t developing properly, spraddle leg is just one reason. Some chicks simply aren’t strong/healthy enough to survive, while it’s very sad it’s a fact of life.

      To help I’ll need more info, like what was the initial symptoms… not walking? lethargic?

  23. Hi Hayley, really nice blog! The chicks in this post are super cute – makes me want to get some. Hmmm early birthday present for the wife maybe..? Not sure what she’d think about that haha. We are also grain free – just experimenting with it at the moment. Seems to be really sorting on my IBS. All the best, Pete.

  24. What do I do with a chick that’s 2 weeks old, he can stand up and walk but you can tell he’s having a bit of a difficult time compared to the others. He gets up and gets water and food but I’m worried about him. What should I do?

    1. There are numerous things that could be going on. With just those symptoms it’s hard to say.

  25. This is a fantastic and simple way to fix this, just tried it on one of our chicks, its not happy but can already stand up, which it couldn’t before.

  26. is there a set amount of months that till the leg is too far gone to fix

    1. Yes fix it right away. I find it easier to cut a band aid length with. Tape legs together as size needed. Replace when needed. Couple days should be fine.
      Strang enough an not bulky an can move freely.

      Same thing with crooked feet.. put tape on bottom an top. Easy an perfect fit..

      1. Great idea to use a band-aid. The rubber band is hard to find exact size and it slips around on the leg. I used elastic band-aid to give it a little stretch. Thank you!

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