Splay Leg

Splay leg is a condition of the musculoskeletal system that affects the coxofemoral joint, femur, stifle joint, tibiotarsus, tarsal joint, and/or tarsometatarsus. This causes one or both of the chicks legs to “splay” to the side and makes it so they cannot stand upright. Splay leg has several causes and for the best prognosis, proper corrective treatment needs to begin within 24-48 hours of symptom onset. Once corrective treatment has begun, full improvement should occur within 3-6 days. Severe cases may require a hands on vet.


  • Trauma
  • Vitamin E deficiency
  • Selenium deficiency
  • Valgus/varus malposition
  • Incorrect incubation
  • Calcium and Vitamin D3 deficiency causing weaker bones and growth plates


  • Ensure parent stock has proper nutrition and come from quality lines
  • Do not hatch eggs from hens under ONE year old
  • Ensure proper weight loss of egg during incubation, avoid excess humidity
  • Use proper substrate (bedding) for chicks and avoid slick surfaces
  • Proper diet for the age and species, making sure to avoid excessive calcium

Treatment Options

  • Supplement with an appropriate vitamin supplement such as, Poultry Cell, Vitamin B Complex
  • Keep chick confined to a deep cup lined with a soft “fluffy” cloth – clean several times per day – can use this along with hobbles. Make sure to attach small bowls to the cup for food and water
  • Hobbles
    • Foam – change every 2-4 days – can use a make-up or thin kitchen sponge, cut a slit for each leg on one side of the sponge, insert legs gently
    • Vet tape – change daily to every other day
    • Pipe cleaner – change daily to every other day
    • Rubber band with drinking straw between legs – change daily to every other day
    • Chick should be able to stand with legs slightly farther apart than normal
    • If chick is feather legged, a piece a t-shirt can be wrapped around their leg before using vet tape
    • Make sure to scratch the back of their neck and any other place that they cannot reach due to the hobbles, this will prevent any skin issues from lack of stimulation
    • When using hobbles, it is recommended to remove the water dish to prevent accidental drowning as they will be extremely uncoordinated. You will need to provide the chick with supervised drinking time at least 6 times per day. Make sure to closely monitor chick for food intake and weight gain.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.
No photo description available.


Blackwell’s Five Minute Veterinary Consult – Avian

Backyard Poultry Medicine and Surgery A Guide for Veterinary Practitioners

Avian Medicine: Principles and Application


This document is property of Chicken Vet Corner’s Chicken Talk. Do not remove or reproduce.

The Vet Corner Groups are run solely by volunteers. If you would like to support the groups, please feel free to make a donation to the running costs of the groups and websites. We thank you for your kindness!

© 2014-2022 Rural Veterinary Outreach. All Rights Reserved.