Spread Leg Syndrome in Baby Birds

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Baby birds or chicks born with legs that go wide -- instead of growing straight down -- suffer from spread leg syndrome, also called splay or spraddle leg. It's easy to spot since the hatchling has trouble sitting up. Luckily, baby birds are tough and generally heal with proper treatment.

Causes

Spread leg syndrome affects all types of birds, from chickens to domesticated cockatoos and parakeets. There are several reasons a bird may develop the problem. For instance, the hen may sit too tightly on the nest after the egg hatches causing the baby’s legs to spread out. Slick floors commonly cause birds to lose traction and develop spraddle leg. Also, a lack of calcium and protein from the parents may lead to splay leg.

Treatments

Spread leg syndrome is treatable in chicks but not in adult birds. A veterinarian can guide you on the best treatment for your hatchling. Banding the legs together with a string before the bird is 2 weeks old is one form of treatment commonly used. Another method used is cutting two tiny holes in a sponge and placing the bird’s legs through the holes to keep them in the correct position. After two or three weeks with his legs in the proper position, the bird generally has enough strength to walk properly without his legs spreading.

Growth and Development

Spread leg, or splay, syndrome does not affect the growth of the young chick. However, spread leg syndrome requires proper treatment or it continues into adulthood. Therefore, a baby not treated eventually becomes an adult bird with this affliction. Issues arise for adult birds with spread leg syndrome, like difficulty escaping predators and lack of exercise causing obesity.

Prevention

Giving your baby bird the proper footing gives him the best leg to stand on and helps prevent spread leg syndrome. Sand, pine shavings and sawdust works well for outdoor birds. For indoor birds, consider paper bags or newspaper since it's not as messy. When breeding birds, offer the mating pair the proper nutrients, including calcium and protein to help ensure the babies develop properly.

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