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Q: Spraddle leg overview

A:

Spraddle leg Also called
Splay leg

Prevalence-
Common

Signs
General signs -

Cardinal or diagnostic signs -
In serious cases, the chick is unable to stand up; legs point to either side of the body rather than beneath the body to support the chick’s weight. Less serious cases may allow chicks to stand and walk in a too-wide stance with difficulty.

Cause/s -
Spraddle can be caused or exacerbated by brooding on a slick surface such as newspaper. It’s as if the chick is trying to stand upright wearing roller skates: her feet keep sliding out from beneath her. Some cases are caused by incubation temperatures, by the chick being poorly positioned in the egg, or by various vitamin deficiencies.

Communicability -
No. However, if the issue has been caused by brooding, nutritional or incubation issues, you may see more than one chick affected by the same cause.

Communicability to humans -
No.

Incubation period -
No real incubation period, as this is not caused by a virus or bacteria. However, it’s likely to be there initially, or develop within the first few days of being brooded on a slick surface or being fed a nutritionally deficient diet.

Latent
No.

Endemic
This is relatively common to all breeds.

Home treatment and/or prevention -
Prevention: Be sure not to brood on a slick surface. If you’re home incubating, take precautions to incubate at the correct temperatures, without wide fluctuation (don’t incubate in drafty areas, or near windows where sunlight may heat the incubator at times). Offer nutritionally balanced feed without too many treats.

Treatment: This is relatively easy to treat at home if you catch it right away. You’ll need to splint the chick’s legs in the proper position until her muscles develop enough that she can hold her legs in the proper position on her own. Usually this is just a matter of two or three days in a young chick. To splint the legs, most people find it easy to use a regular bandaid, because the gauze is just the right width for most chicks. Wrap one side of the bandaid around one leg, and the other side around the other leg with the gauze in between. At first, the chick may have some difficulty getting around, because she won’t be used to being upright. She may “stand” on her hocks. However, this normally passes quickly, within a few hours. Change the band aid every day. When you remove it, check to see if she can easily stand and walk on her own without it. When she can do that, there’s no need to reapply another band aid. Most chicks will recover fully with this treatment if the condition is caught early.

Veterinary care - This isn’t usually needed for spraddle, but you may feel more comfortable haveing a veterinarian apply a splint and check progress.

Recovery - The condition can be fatal if not treated, because the chick won’t be able to walk to food and water. Do make sure that your spraddle-legged chick can eat and drink. Even before treatment, you want to make sure to offer food and water, in case she hasn’t been able to get to it and she’s dehydrated and/or weak from hunger. After applying the splint, if she’s having any initial difficulty getting around, she can get knocked over by other, faster moving chicks, so keep a close eye on her to make sure she can eat and drink on her own without being accosted!

Other conditions, illnesses and/or diseases with similar signs:
Other disorders of the leg can be confused with spraddle leg (twisted tendon [perosis] or twisted leg [varus deformation] for example). When a chick is splay-legged, there is nothing wrong with the legs per se; the legs have a full range of motion and are not paralyzed or stuck in any one position. It’s just that the muscles are not strong enough to keep the legs in walking/standing position. If the chick’s legs are twisted, bent, swollen, or stuck in one position, it is likely to be something other than splay leg.

Also consider browsing through this list of other chicken illnesses with neurological symptoms.