Spraddle Leg - Preventing and Treating Splayed Leg in Baby Chicks

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. If you suspect a vitamin deficiency, i.e. if some of the chicks have curled toes and/or head-tilting issues, try adding some Nutri-Drench to their diet asap.

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 Vetrap(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 !


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  1. *hand on heart* No more chicks on newspaper!
    Just bought some shelf liner today for my impending hatch. :)

    1. Good for you Kaylin. It works so much better than paper towel in my opinion and you can just rinse it out and reuse it.

  2. Great advice! Enjoyed it even though I dont have any chicks!

    1. Funny ! Well, I'm glad you enjoyed it ...at least there were a few cute chick pics !

  3. Oh my gosh, that is awesome! (Being able to correct it). You are a good Mama Hen!

  4. Thank you for this great information! I hatched eggs for the first time in my science lab with my third graders. It has become a school-wide fascination and the kids are loving it! We had a little one born with spraddle leg and I have been correcting with band-aids, but I will go today and get the vet wrap -- seems like a much better idea! Thank you for all of the details!! -Sherilyn Galeener

  5. i have a chick with this problem right now. she is hobbled. came out of her egg this way, clubbed feet too. doing pt.

  6. Hi! I have a chick and his little legs are pointing outwards and he can't walk right so i tried this but in a different way when i got him and he sorta wobbles, but when i take it off he is still the same! Its been about 2 weeks and now I'm trying your way, and I wanted to know how old is to old to correct them? I really don't want to give up on him :( Thank you and please respond.

  7. I have a leghorn 6 weeks old and seems to have developed spraddle leg. I thought they only got this as very young chicks. She has no other symptoms, except she shivers a lot like she is cold. I attribute that as either pain or exhaustion since its so hard for her to get around. She is eating and drinking, no diarrhea, no mucus. Can I try the hobble method on her or is she too old?

  8. I have a six week old Delaware who had one leg do this and then now both legs. I have tried the band-aide but she is very unhappy. I am starting to wonder if perhaps it would be kinder to put her out of her misery. I can find all kinds of helpful information on young chicks but not so much on older chicks.