Splayed Leg and Curled Toes: The Best Treatment I’ve Seen

I don’t hatch many new baby chicks in Chickenlandia. Since I focus primarily on rescuing adult chickens, fuzzy new babies just aren’t a yearly occurrence here. Yet, as a backyard chicken educator, I’m all too familiar with some of the issues that can occur with new hatchlings. Two very common and concerning problems are splayed leg (aka spraddle leg) and curled toes.

Splayed Leg. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

Splayed legs and/or curled toes can occur both when a mother hen hatches out babies or when eggs are hatched in an incubator. Sometimes, these conditions are caused by vitamin deficiencies present in the mother and/or father. Other times, something has gone wrong during incubation (which can also lead to developmental issues and/or vitamin deficiency). There are also instances where a chick may come out with no apparent issue but does not have enough traction in their environment to develop correctly. Regardless of the reason, it’s just so sad to see a baby chick suffer.

Curled Toes. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

Starting out Right

First off, I want you to be sure to offer your new chicks bedding with good traction. If you’ve watched my video Raising Baby Chicks the Chickenlandia Way, or taken any of my in-person classes, then you know that my recommendation for their first few days is good old fashioned paper towels. Not only do paper towels provide great traction for developing legs and feet, but it’s also easier for chicks to find their feed and grit when sprinkled about the brooder. For more, watch this video:

If you have a baby chick that arrives with splayed legs or curled toes, it’s safe to say that there was an issue long before they got to you. Your best course of action will be to focus on both physical therapy and a solid nutritional plan. Along with a good quality non-medicated feed (medicated feed can affect a chick’s absorption of Thiamin, which you don’t want), I recommend vitamin therapy with a product called Nutri-Drench. It’s not quite as natural as other products I use, but you just can’t beat its effectiveness. I recommend administering it undiluted at least three times a day. The other chicks can drink it diluted in their water (follow the directions on the bottle).

Your Action Plan

The most common physical therapy used for splayed legs and/or curled toes is to create a makeshift splint using a bandage or tape. The idea is, after a certain time of forcing the legs or toes into the correct position, the problem will correct itself.

Correcting Splayed Leg with a Splint. Photo Credit: Kelcie Faber Paulis

I know this method has worked for a lot of people and I’m certainly not against it, but when I’ve done it this way I’ve found the method cumbersome to the chick. That’s why I was so delighted when my friend Stacie from the YouTube Channel Chicken Hues posted this video about a “glass method”. With a small glass for physical therapy and Nutri-Drench for vitamin therapy, she got amazing results (and so did the chicks!).

Sometimes, no amount of treatment will correct a difficult case of splayed leg and/or curled toes. As chicken keepers, we learn quickly that from time to time our best efforts can’t defy nature. Chickens are so resilient, though, and It’s not unheard of for them to live a fine life with these abnormalities. For those times when their little life is not meant to be, it’s good to know they were loved while they were with us.

Have you ever dealt with splayed leg or curled toes in a baby chick? What was your experience like? Let me know in the comments!

26 comments on “Splayed Leg and Curled Toes: The Best Treatment I’ve Seen”

  1. Hello.
    My chick is four days old.
    It has both splayed leg along with curly foot.
    I tried many ways but it didn’t work.
    It is unable to walk and no access to food and water.

  2. I have a about 1 year old silkie. He seemed to be fine. We got her/him about 6 months ago. All of a sudden the feet seems to curl in and the chicken can’t stand whats wrong

    1. Oh no! I can’t say for sure what is wrong since I am not a licensed veterinarian. Would it be possible for you to take her to a vet? I know that’s not possible for everyone. You may want to look into different vitamin deficiencies and see if anything matches what you are dealing with.

  3. Valentina (who hatched the day after Valentine s Day) had been abandoned while under the care of a hen. The egg was not warm when I found it. Hoping for the best, I put it in my incubator right away, knowing it was close to hatch day. The chick had a difficult time freeing itself from the shell and required assistance hatching. The leg deformity was immediately obvious. Inconsistent temperatures during incubation combined with the difficulties hatching were clearly the cause of her spraddle legs. She couldn t move from this position.

  4. Hi thanks for the great post. I have an 8month old large hen who has developed one splayed leg (her left). She walks but often slips due to this one leg so the more she is walking on it the more pronounced the splay is becoming. I have started bandaging the leg and using the other leg for support (similar to the rubber band technique for baby chicks but with a little more support due to her size) however I’m wondering if a splint is best? Can you advise and if you agree could you share the best splint technique?
    Many thanks in advance!

    1. Hey there! Sounds like you are taking really good care of her. This is something that is best determined by a vet that can clearly assess what is going on. I imagine the best treatment would depend on what kind of injury it is, or if it is caused by some kind of deficiency. I’ve sent your question over to my team member Kelcie to see if she has anything to add.

    2. Here’s what Kelcie said, “This is a hard one. There could be many underlying issues for an adult size hen to have leg problems like this. True ‘splay leg’ doesn’t usually develop in older birds unless they are in slippery conditions, so an injury to the leg or other underlying health issue could be at play. A vet visit to determine the cause would be the best advice. [In the meantime] I would recommend isolating her to a smaller area if possible for a few days because the less running around on it she does the faster it can heal. A large dog crate or small run within the run may be beneficial for the healing process. I would also suggest a vitamin & electrolyte for her water to help boost her during this.”

      Sorry I can’t be of more help. I hope this at least gives you some direction while you continue to determine the best course of action for her!

  5. We have a baby quail that just hatched 2 days ago and it battles to stand upright like the rest of the babies. It’s leg is kind of stretched out to the back. Please help

  6. hi, my one-day-old silkie chick I pretty weak. I’ve noticed that he or she can’t walk because one leg is out to the side. I’m not sure if he will be able to access food and water so please help I’m really worried about him or her. PLEASE HELP!!

    1. Hi, Polina. This blog post is all about what your baby chick is experiencing. If you follow the guidelines, your chick will have a chance at survival. Sometimes, though, the splayed leg is very severe or accompanying other issues and they don’t make it. I hope you are able to see some progress with her!

  7. I have dealt with splayed leg syndrome. My black Ausrtrolorp was actually a few weeks old when she developed it. I used the bandage method with wonderful success! Now you cannot even tell that she had any kind of issue! She is now about a year old.

  8. So how long does it take to correct the chicks feet? And how do I place the bandage or tape? FYI: the chicks toes are laying it’s side it look like it’s Paralyzed but it’s not

    1. Sometimes it takes days and sometimes it takes weeks. I would just keep it on and keep changing it out and keeping it clean until you see that she doesn’t need it anymore. 🙂

  9. hi, I have a 2 1/2 old cornish cross and I found him and he would not get up a cornish x have such big feed I don’t know what to do because he is an adult?

    1. Just watch his feed intake. Make sure he is not eating too much and give him lots of exercise. If you give him any treats, I would just give him lettuce or other green veggies. 🙂

  10. Hi, I’m raising chicks for the very first time. I have 5 that are 2 weeks old now, and I noticed that one of them has a crooked toe. It’s just the toe on the outside of her left foot, it’s kind of bent outwards. She doesn’t seem to have any trouble walking right now, and she’s behaving just like the other chicks, but I’m worried. Should I try splinting it, or could it just be a benign defect?

    1. It’s hard to know without photos but having one crooked toe is fairly common with chickens. If she is walking fine and seems normal, I wouldn’t worry too much. But please take this with a grain of salt as I have not seen the bird. <3 Congrats on your new chicken adventure!

  11. We hatched a cream legbar here in the UK with spraddle leg last week. As first time incubators we had no idea about this condition but have managed to treat it (so far so good) with a vetwrap hobble and popping her into a Lego chicken zimmer for a few hours at a time. After just 36 hours she can now stand unaided which is amazing! Such a resilient little creature!

  12. i have a 3 day old baby chick looks to be having the problem the chick keeps sleeping wont wake up to try to eat i have tried feeding it through a syringe and seems not to be working i have done the tape binding. but they seem to be so bent any ideas i can use to try?

    1. Hello. I sorry to hear about your chick. Some of them simply don’t develop correctly despite all our best efforts. It sounds like you did everything you could give them the best chance.

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