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Treatments for Leg Problems in Chickens & other Poultry
Below are measures that can be helpful in treating Splayed Leg and other problems relating
to poultry podiatry and orthopedic
s and foot and leg injuries.
Disclaimer: The information on this website is presented by a lay person and may not be accurate or complete. It should not be considered professional or expert advice. Consult your veterinarian on all treatments. Some medicine uses below are off-label & not USDA-approved, and should only be used when authorized by your veterinarian.

*** Special Note on Removing Tape from Legs, Feet & Toes ***


Use baby oil to gently and easily remove sticky tape.
Then use waterless instant antibacterial hand cleaner/sanitizer to amazingly easily remove baby oil.
If you are not careful how you remove tape, you can cause a chicken pain and make its skin sore.
The bird may also become reluctant
to put pressure on places where the skin has become sensitive.
It may then develop more problems with distorted standing and walking patterns, and troubles with deformed bones.

Good Flooring

  • Good Flooring is needed to provide adequate traction and cushioning, and decent sanitation.
  • It is critical for ALL newly hatched baby chicks, so they do not slip while learning to stand and have trouble. It keeps a chick from slipping and developing Splayed Leg (where one or both legs stick out crooked to the side), and so it doesn't hurt itself and get bruises and scrapes.
    • For very young chicks: 1 to 2 inches of pine shavings with paper towels laid over the top (Paper towels keep chicks from eating shavings while they're trying to figure out what they should and should not eat the first few days). Bumpy, rubbery kitchen shelf liner is also good. A soft washcloth is ideal for a lonely chick to snuggle next to.
    • For older chicks: 1 1/2 to 2 inches of pine shavings. Clean dirt also works. Wood floor is alright if it isn't too slick, and there are places with bedding for resting.
    • For chickens with leg problems: 1 1/2 to 2 inches of pine shavings. Clean dirt also works.
      • For a chick that has a sprain or a painful sore on foot, putting one layer of paper towel on top of bedding will keep it from needing to raise legs as high when walking.
      • For setting the bird down temporarily outside its normal home: A smooth-texture folded-over towel is good, or a grassy lawn, as long as you are there to help catch the bird when it stumbles.
  • Do not put young chicks or chickens with leg problems on any kind of slick, painful or hard surface!
    This includes newspaper, cardboard, linoleum, concrete, flooring with sharp points, etc.
    • Small wire mesh can provide some traction as a floor, but chicks have a higher risk of getting bruised and hurt when stumbling around trying to walk.
    • Do not use hay or other materials that the chick is likely to trip on.

Toenail Trimming

  • Useful if a chick's or chicken's toes are getting caught in flooring and causing the bird to stumble, excessively long nails are causing the bird's toes to turn sideways, or people are getting scratched when holding the bird.
  • For chicks: Use a nail file to gently smooth the ends of chick's toenails so they don't snag as easily .
    • If chick's toenails are quite long, you can carefully snip very tips with fingernail clippers first.
  • For chickens: Trim toenails using fingernail or toenail clippers. Use a nail file or metal file to file off any too-wide flares on the toenails and to smooth edges.
  • If you accidentally cut too close to the vein in the center of the toenail, you can press your finger against the end of toenail to stop bleeding. Other helpful methods are putting white flour or Blood-Stop powder on the toenail.

Correct Feed and Supplements

  • It is IMPORTANT to give chickens poultry feed that has been formulated with essential nutrients for their stage of development. There are some 'homemade' recipes at
    that can give you ideas of poultry nutritional needs. Commercial brands each differ--check the feed bag to see for what age a particular feed is designed.
    • Chick Starter: Usually 0-6 weeks
      • Includes Choline: This prevents Twisted Leg (which has symptoms similar to Splayed Leg but only affects one leg) in chicks under 6 weeks old.
    • Chick Grower: Usually 7-?? weeks
    • Grower-Finisher for Meat Chickens: Usually ??+ weeks
    • Grower for Laying Chickens: Usually ??-?? weeks
    • Layer Feed: ???
    • Breeder Feed: ???
      • Helps prevent birth defects in resulting offspring.
  • Essential nutrients include:
    • Calcium, Vitamin E, Selenium
    • VITAMIN B IS VERY IMPORTANT for leg health. Just adding a Vitamin B Complex to a chicken's food will cure some leg problems. [More info needed.]
  • Supplements of vitamins, electrolytes and small amounts of sugar can help a struggling chick have the energy and nutrition to grow well, have energy, and better deal with the stresses of receiving treatment.
  • BE CAREFUL about giving supplements with minerals to chicks. Some minerals in excess can cause serious problems in chicks.
  • Supplements at a feed store:
    • Small pouch of vitamins and electrolytes supplement powder for poultry. About $4. Check for expiration date? Sprinkle very lightly on food or in water.
    • Bottle of liquid Poultry Nutri-Drench for nutrition and energy. Excellent! About $8.
  • Supplements at a grocery store:
    • Bottle of children's PolyVisol vitamin supplement without added Iron. About $4. Give 2-3 drops per day to a chick.
  • Supplements at a pet store:
    • Calcivet. Give 1-2 drops per day to a chick.
    • Baby parrot food. Powder to be mixed with water (Be sure to allow water to be absorbed before feeding to chicken). About $10.
  • [More info needed]

Separate from Others

  • Keep weak or injured birds away from others that may pick on them.
    • Be extra careful! Putting a divider to keep a chick separate in the same brooder with other chicks can be risky. The chick may not have enough room left to regulate its temperature enough by getting close to or moving away from brooder lamp as needed. Chick may also get snagged or pinned by the divider. However, if you can set up safe way for chick to stay visible in same brooder, this will prevent other chicks from picking on it as much when reintegrating it fully with the others later.
  • It is best if the injured bird can have 1 or 2 buddies as companions so it doesn't get so lonely. Choose ones that are not aggressive.
    • Choose female companions. As they matured, a male companion would likely try to breed an injured female or pick fights with an injured male.
    • Choose smaller or same-size chickens. Larger chickens may unintentionally tromp on or knock over an injured chicken.
    • It may be good to only put companions with an injured bird part-time. If so, make sure visits are frequent so they don't feel the need to re-establish the pecking order.

Prevent Drowning in Water Dish

  • A bird is at particular risk for drowning if it:
    • Drops its head forward into a water dish when going to sleep.
      • This is a particular risk with Chick Chair, and for very young chicks.
    • Stumbles or tips into a water dish and poor coordination, weakness or leg braces it may be wearing make it difficult for the chick to get out.
      • This is a particular risk with Leg Hobbles, Chick Shoes, and Foam Leg Brace.
    • Has a water dish that is too deep or difficult to get out of.
  • Choose a method to help keep the bird safe:
    • Offer water only when you are supervising. 5-6 times/day for chicks (This is the safest option until a chick is a few days old). 3-4 times/day for older chickens.
    • Fill the bottom of a shallow dish with marbles. Add water up to the top of the marbles. The chick can push up against the marbles if it falls in. Check regularly to make sure water isn't all gone. (Note: This method can still be risky for very young or weak birds.)
    • Position the dish so that it's raise and the bird can still drink easily but can't possibly tip its head or body into the dish.
  • Always make sure bird can easily reach food and water on regular basis, without having to put too much strain on its injuries.

Leg Hobbles

KEEP IN MIND: You need to help a chick daily by gently scratching itchy spots that the Leg Hobbles prevent it from reaching with its feet. If you don't scratch places like the back of its neck for the chick where it cannot, it will be pretty miserable and can develop a terribly itchy, swollen welt from lack of normal skin stimulation.
  • CAUTION: A young chick wearing Leg Hobbles can't get up easily or stand easily. It can fall and drown if it stumbles near a water container. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish" section.
  • Use to treat Splayed Leg (also called "Splay Leg", "Spraddle Leg",  and "Straddle Leg"), which is often caused by hatching problems or poor flooring.
  • Leg Hobbles (also called "Hobble Braces") have the best chance of being effective if put on within 1 to 3 days of hatch, and usually correct Splayed Leg within 3 to 6 days in a newly hatched chick.
  • Leg Hobbles help keep a young chick from trying to incorrectly twist hip and leg out sideways. Once the chick has Hobbles on, it will usually experiment with turning its legs forwards (like it should) instead of twisting one leg or both legs out to the side. The little chick will gradually wobble less and not use its wing for support as much, and will try stepping ahead. Once the chick learns that correct walking is the most effective motion and the chick reprograms its brain, you can begin leaving the Hobbles off for increasing periods of time.
  • Be sure to change Hobbles at least every 2 days since a chick is growing fast and tape will quickly become too tight to allow growth & circulation.
  • These should be put on lower legs (below hocks) and allow enough room for the chick to stand with its legs a little farther apart than normal standing position so chick can balance and practice walking.
  • Can be made from sports tape, Band-Aids, Velcro (make sure only soft side touches legs), etc. Can also use elastic hair-band in figure-8 around legs with tape wrapped around section between legs.
    • To keep the chick from wriggling out of Hobbles, use vertical wraps of sports tape (or masking tape or sticky section of band-aids) around the section between the two legs to more firmly tape the center section together.
    • If chick is over 4 days old and extra stiffness is needed to help keep legs apart,  reinforce center section. Use extra sports tape wrapped vertically, pipe cleaners, thin piece of taped-on cardboard, etc.
    • For sensitive or feathered legs, put a little piece of paper towel (to cover the tape's stickiness) on just the section of the tape that wraps around the chick's legs.

Fix Slipped Achilles Tendon in Hock Joint

  • Use to treat Slipped Achilles Tendon (tendon that runs down through the groove on the back of a chick's hock has slipped out of place off to the side). If a leg has this problem, the joint will look swollen and the back of the hock will look flat (Compare to other leg to double-check). The chick can't straighten its leg if this is what's wrong with it.
  • Gently pull the upper part of chick's leg a bit behind normal position and then carefully straighten the leg as though chick were stretching its leg back. The tendon should pop back into place pretty easily and cause little if any pain.
    • Some sources recommend pushing the tendon back in place just by pressing with your finger. However, stretching the leg back is a much less painful method.
  • Swelling on hock:
    • If infection is part of what is causing joint to swell, you will find pus. Recovery would be very difficult and the chick should probably be put down.
    • If it is just caused by displacement, swelling will go down in 2-4 days.
  • Put the chick in a Chick Chair and/or put its leg in a cast (such as one made from a drinking straw) for a few days (~5) while re-alignment stabilizes.
    • It is important that the legs not be able to touch the ground at all. The chick needs to hang with them bent and be discouraged from using its legs until the tendon has stretched and adjusted back to the right place and shape.
  • Note: It may take a few days for the groove to be fully developed on a young chick and you may have to fix the tendon more than once.
  • If there is pus in the joint,
  • [More info needed.]

Physical Therapy for Trouble Standing and Walking

  • Use to treat Splayed Leg or other problems with chick holding legs incorrectly.
    • Can be done even while chick is wearing Leg Hobbles.
  • Helps the chick "practice" walking correctly. The main purpose is to reprogram its brain patterns, but therapy also helps develop needed muscles.
    • It is better for a chick to spend time sitting or lying down than using its legs wrong.
  • Support chick's body a little while gently pointing its legs forward and extended like they should be while standing. Try to lessen your support of its body for a moment or two and hopefully it will push up with its legs and find out that leg angle and position is a good one for balancing.
    • If it's 5+ days old, you can also hold up a treat above its head to encourage it to increasingly push up with its legs to grab the treat. It's okay the chick's legs and balance will be wobbly at first and that it falls over sometimes--just catch and steady it with your hands.
      • Good treats: Very small piece of bread, tomato, strawberry, banana, lettuce, spinach, grass, etc.
        • Be sure to add a bit of chick-sized grit (tiny stones or coarse sand) to chick's diet if offering treats.
  • Gradually progress to using your fingers around its legs to move/step them forward one at a time so the chick learns to take steps and walk correctly.
  • Number of sessions for newly hatched chick:
    • Days 1-3: Minimum of six 30-second to 2 minute sessions per day.
    • Days 4-5: Minimum of nine 1 to 3 minute sessions per day.
    • Days 6-7: As needed.

Give Painkiller

  • CAUTION: Do NOT give Ibuprofin (Advil, etc.) or Acetaminophen (Tylenol, etc.) to birds! Those are harmful to them.
  • Buffered aspirin (such as Bayer, etc.) can be used for a chicken to help reduce:
    • Stress, listlessness, discomfort, pain
    • Fever
    • Swelling / inflammation that is not caused by bleeding (Aspirin thins blod and keeps it from clotting as quickly as normal.)
      • Birds bruise more easily when on aspirin.
      • You should wait until internal and external injuries have begun to heal before using aspirin.
    • Note: A standard baby Aspirin is 80 mg, and a standard adult Aspirin pill is 325 mg.
    • Dose for chickens: Approx. 25 mg per pound of chicken's body weight each day.
      • Examples: For a 6-lb. Large Fowl Leghorn rooster, 2 times per day give 1/2 of a regular aspirin ( = ~300 mg total per day).
                            For a Bantam 1.6-lb. Bantam Leghorn rooster, 2 times per day give 1/2 of a baby aspirin (= ~75 mg total per day).
    • To administer:
      • To give immediately or in individual administrations: Crush up and split dose up into 2 or 3 administrations per day. Sprinkle the powder on a small tasty treat such as fruit or yogurt and give to the chicken.
      • To have the chicken self-administer throughout the day: Crush up the total daily dose and dissolve in the approximate amount of water that the chicken drinks each day. Pour into chicken's drinking container.
  • Never give a chicken any kind of painkiller with 'caine' in the name. These are EXTREMELY toxic to chickens.
    • Do NOT use a Triple Antibiotic Ointment with Painkiller because almost all include '-caine' ingredients.
      • Exception: Neosporin with Painkiller products usually only use Pramoxine HCl as the painkiller ingredient, and that is alright for chickens.

Chick Shoes

  • CAUTION: A chick wearing Chick Shoes can easily drown if it stumbles near a water container. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish" section.
  • Use to for splinting and correcting Curled or Twisted Toes.
  • Cut out a small, flat triangle a little larger than the size that the chick's foot should be when toes are spread. Tape to toes with sports tape.
    • Triangle be cut from sponge, thin cardboard or a piece of a plastic lid from something like a sour cream container.
  • A different type of chick shoe splint can be made from pipe cleaners (or flower arranging wire and thin padding, for older chickens).
    • Instructions for this kind of chick shoe and also a half chick shoe at
      • I recommend using sports tape instead of duct tape.
  • When chick is young: Important to put on new shoe at least every 1-3 days while feet growing fast.
    • Make sure shoe size increased regularly so foot doesn't outgrow shoe.
    • Notice and correct sooner if chick wiggles toe into wrong position, before deformities caused.
  • *Be extra sure to follow instructions at top of this page for safe removal of tape.

Toe Taping

  • Can be done on any age chicken to help fix individual Broken or Deformed Toes or improperly rotated back toe ("Duck Foot").
  • Sports tape works well.
  • When repositioning toes, make gradual changes. Be careful that tension from tape doesn't cause excessive pain or damage skin.
  • Change tape regularly to monitor for infection and chafing, and so that tape does not inhibit healthy growth or restrict circulation.
    • At least every other day for young chicks.
    • Every 4-5 days for older chickens.
  • *Be extra sure to follow instructions at top of this page for safe removal of tape.

Hock Cushion

  • Use when a chicken has a leg problem that causes it to fall on its hocks, especially if the chicken is older and heavier or will be on poorly cushioned flooring. Can be particularly useful for heavy "broiler" chickens that often develop leg problems.
  • Prevents injury when bird falls back or scuffles along floor.
  • For young chicks, use soft padding such as gauze or disposable all-cotton round (face cleansing pad for removing make-up) that is secured by sports tape.
  • For older birds, make from thicker, sturdier cushioning such as a thin square piece cut from foam-type cushion that is secured by sports tape.

Chick Doughnut

  • Used for injured chicks and chickens that are having problems staying upright.
  • Twist a soft washcloth or similar cloth into a coil and place it in the brooder in the shape of a doughnut. Place the injured chick in the "doughnut" hole and adjust the doughnut so its body is supported.
  • Remove the chick and "fluff up" and reshape the cloth once or twice a day to help prevent the chick from developing "bedsores."
    • I haven't tried it, but sprinkling a little baby powder on the places where the chick's body rubs might also help.

Chick Playpen

  • Used for chicks that are having leg problems or other problems tipping over.
  • The Playpen helps in treating Splayed Leg by restricting sideways travel, and encouraging chick to push up with legs and develop correct muscles. It also helps keep the chick from getting picked on or trampled by others, while allowing it to still interact some.
  • A chick being put in a Playpen to treat Splayed Leg needs to also wear Leg Hobbles.
  • Place a 16-oz. plastic container (such as the smaller ones used for cottage cheese) in the brooder a couple inches further from the heat lamp than the other chicks are staying. There the chick won't be too hot or too cold.
    • Caution: If the temperature in the room will vary a lot during the day, you should NOT leave the chick in the Playpen unless you will be there to move the Playpen nearer or further from heat lamp to adapt.
  • Place a soft cloth in the container. Crumple it so that there are high spaces and low spaces, where the chick can prop itself up.
  • Remove the chick and "fluff up" and reshape the cloth once or twice a day to help prevent the chick from developing "bedsores."
    • I haven't tried it, but sprinkling a little baby powder on the places where the chick's body rub might also help.
  • Another chick may occasionally climb in, too, and that is alright. When the recovering chick has built up enough leg strength, it will climb out of the playpen.

Chick Chair

  • CAUTIONA bird in a chair can drown if it drops its head forward into a water dish when going to sleep. See "Prevent Drowning in Water Dish" section.
  • Reposition the chicken slightly every so often to help prevent discomfort, chafing and "bedsores." Check chicken periodically for sores.
  • Used for injured chicks and chickens. Especially helpful during healing time after you put a slipped hock tendon back into place.
  • A variety of designs can be used.
  • Depending on design, chair keeps chick either from bearing much weight with legs and walking, or even being able to touch the ground with its legs or feet.
    • If your chicken is recovering from Slipped Hock Tendon, it is important the legs not reach the ground. The bird needs to hang with them bent and be discouraged from using its legs until the tendon has stretched and adjusted back to the right place and shape.
  • A plastic container or Kleenex box can be used for the base. Cut holes in the sides to allow you to see the legs to check that they haven't gotten caught in "seat" part of chair.
  • "Seat" part of the chair is like a sling or hammock, and should be lined with something soft-ish. Cut out a hole for each leg and a poop hole.
  • You may want to add a flap that fastens across the chick's back to keep it from being able to squirm out of the chair.

Foam Leg Brace

  • CAUTION:  I recommend using a foam leg brace only if a chicken is old enough that it no longer has a chance of learning correct movement and you are just trying to provide comfort and mobility.
    • A chicken will become dependent on this brace, and its legs will become increasingly deformed the longer it wears one.
  • It is put on upper thighs and keeps upper legs separated to help the bird maintain useful position and balance.
  • The chicken needs to also be wearing Leg Hobbles (and Hock Cushion, if needed).
  • It is made from cut-out piece of large square piece of foam cushion sold at fabric store as a pad/cushion for furniture (~$7), wrapped with sports tape (sold in pharmacy section of stores) close to the ends. Trim off any part of the back of the brace that gets poop dropped on it.

Treat Bumblefoot Infection

  • Foot pain, swelling, lameness, and sometimes red or darkened area, scabbing or crack in skin on feet.
  • This is a staph (staphylococcus aureus) infection. Usually caused by a cut or bruise, often from landing too hard when coming down from a perch. It can also be caused by chafing from perches that are too smooth and/or too narrow for the bird's feet.
  • Provide perches that have texture and are reasonably wide (minimum of 1 1/2" for bantams, 3" for large fowl).
  • To prevent large birds from bruising their feet, make sure there are no perches higher than ~3 1/2 feet from the ground and that landing area has soft, thick layer of bedding.
  • Keep coop and perches sanitary and dry.
  • Trim any excessively long toenails so your bird can use its feet correctly when landing, etc.
  • Problem can be chronic. Unfortunately, it can lead to death in extreme or prolonged cases. However, some treatment methods have good success rates.

Give Injection

  • Syringe Size
    • A small (3 to 5 cc) syringe is needed for accuracy for injections for chickens. (Note: 1 ml = 1 cc)
  • Needle Sizes
    • "Gauge" numbers relate to the needle's diameter thickness. Higher gauge numbers = thinner needles. Ex.: 24-gauge is thinner than 16-gauge.
      • For drawing medicines into syringe, thick needles (such as 16-gauge to 20-gauge) are easiest and quickest. By using a different needle to draw medicine from bottle, you prevent the injection needle from getting dulled by the rubber bottle stopper / lid.
        • It is critical that you use a 16-gauge needle when drawing Penicillin because it is a very thick medicine.
      • For injecting medicine into a chicken, the small size of 22-gauge to 30-gauge needles are best. (Vet clinics are sometimes the only source for this small of needle, though some feed stores sell needle-and-syringe sets with 22-gauge needles.)
        • If you are injecting a thick medicine (such as Penicillin) that gets clogged too easily in thin needle, you should use a 20-gauge or 22-gauge needle.
    • "Inch" numbers relate to how long the needle is.
      • 3/4-inch needles are good for intramuscular injections. 3/4 to 1 inch are good for subcutaneous.
  • Injections of antibiotics, vaccines, or fluids can be helpful in some treatments. Some should be given subcutaneously (just under the skin), some intramuscularly (in the muscle), and very few intravenously (in a blood vein). Methods for these are described below.
  • ALL injections
    • Pull any rubber cap off medicine bottle, and pull off the thin metal circle on the center of the bottle's rubber stopper.
      • Check for and follow any instructions about shaking bottle, bringing medicine to room temperature, etc.
    • Take a thick needle for drawing medicine. Pull the short cover off the base end. Press the base end onto the tip of syringe. Pull the long cover off the needle.
    • Poke the needle all the way through the center of the medicine bottle's rubber stopper. Turn the bottle upside down. Pull back the plunger until mark for desired amount of medicine is reached. Pull needle out of bottle. Put long cover back over needle. Gently twist and pull base of needle to remove it from syringe.
      • Note: Never press on the syringe's plunger when needle is inside bottle, or contamination may get injected into bottle.
    • Take a thin needle for injecting. Pull the short cover off the base end. Press the base end onto the tip of syringe. Pull the long cover off the needle.
    • Point needle upwards. Tap the side of syringe with your finger to make any air bubbles rise to the top. Then push the plunger on syringe until all air bubbles come out of end of needle & medicine starts to come out. Then stop.
    • At the injection site, spread the feathers apart so you have clear access to skin.
      • To minimize soreness and any scarring, try to avoid giving injections too often in one location. Alternate giving one time on left side, next time on right side, etc.
      • You can choose if you want to try to clean area with alcohol--Many people don't.
    • The tip of a needle is slanted. For least damage and pain, rotate the needle so the longest edge of the tip is angled toward the place on body where the needle will go in.
    • You can wash and re-use a syringe, and a needle that is used only to draw medicine from a bottle--NOT one used to inject into chicken. To disinfect, soak 15 mins. in rubbing alcohol, and then rinse off alcohol with water so alcohol won't cause sting when use next.
      • Don't re-use needles used for injection, because of the  risk of contamination, plus the needle tip gets dulled each time it's inserted and a dull tip would be painful to the chicken.
  • SUBCUTANEOUS injection
    • Least painful for chicken. Slowest and most even rate of absorption. Distributes medicine over longest period of time.
    • Good locations: Under the loose skin to near the base of the back of the neck (Be sure the needle points more forward than down, because the lungs are located right below), [Info on other good locations needed??]
    • How to inject: At base of back of neck, off to the side of neckbone, gently grab loose skin with thumb and forefinger of each hand with about 1/4 to 1/2 inch between the the two "pinch-holds." Lift the "pinch-holds" at an angle slightly away from chicken's body to create a little "tent" of empty space under the raised skin. Poke the needle just through the skin. Try to avoid hitting any veins, tissues or masses. Slowly depress plunger until dose of medicine you want to give is administered. (Watch measurement marks on side of syringe, or fill syringe with only desired dose.)
      • If you are injecting a medicine that MUST NOT be accidentally injected intravenuously, pull the syringe's plunger backward a tiny bit just prior to injecting. If blood appears in the syringe, withdraw the needle, and try for a different spot on opposite side of the neck. (If you try to use a spot close to the first spot, medicine may leak out of the chicken's body through the first hole.)
    • When you withdraw: Pull the needle out quickly and press a finger on the injection hole for a minute or two to minimize leaking of medicine or blood. Gently press down and massage area to help medicine get distributed.
  • INTRAMUSCULAR injection
    • Easier to find good injection site. Likely to cause muscle soreness, and cause limping if injection site is in leg. Rate of absorption of medicine is faster than with subcutaneous injection but slower that with intravenous injection.
    • Good locations: About 1/4 inch deep in the muscle in the chicken's thigh, or in the breast muscle a little to the left or right of the center bone (keel bone).
    • How to inject: Insert end of needle about 1/4 inch deep in the muscle. Pull the syringe's plunger backward a tiny bit just prior to injecting. If blood appears in the syringe, withdraw the needle, and try for a different spot.  Slowly depress plunger until dose of medicine you want to give is administered. (Watch measurement marks on side of syringe, or fill syringe with only desired dose.)
    • When you withdraw: Pull the needle out quickly and press a finger on the injection hole for a minute to prevent leaking of blood or medicine. Gently press down and massage muscle to help medicine spread well and to help minimize soreness.
  • INTRAVENOUS injection
    • Integrates medicine very quickly into chicken's system, but maintains it there for only short period of time. Higher risk of medication overdose. Needle insertion is painful to chicken and may cause soreness. Vein may be excessively damaged and may leak blood.
    • Good locations: [Info needed??]

Treat with Penicillin

  • Poultry should be treated with "short-acting" Penicillin, not "long-acting," 48-hour Penicillin.
  • Supplies you will need:
    • Small bottle of Penicillin (~$11 in refrigerator at most feed stores. You don't need a prescription.) -- Must be stored in refrigerator
    • At least one 2-cc size syringe (20 cents)
    • At least one 16-gauge needle (15 cents). 1/2 inch length is best but longer is alright.
    • One 20-gauge or 22-gauge needle for each injection you'll be giving (15 cents). 1/2 inch length is best but longer is alright as long as you don't push into chicken too far.
  • To prepare shot:
  1. Remove Penicillin bottle from frig and allow to reach room temperature (Wait 15-30 mins.).
  2. Attach 16-gauge needle to end of syringe, for drawing out medicine.
    • Don't use a smaller needle for this (Higher numbers like 20-gauge or 24-gauge are smaller needles) because the large particles in the medicine can't go through as well.
  3. Very important: Shake bottle vigorously 2-4 mins. right before drawing out medicine.
    • Penicillin has large heavy particles that need to be floating so they go into your syringe.
  4. Push needle into top of bottle; then turn it upside-down so syringe is below bottle.
  5. Pull back the plunger on syringe until medicine reaches mark 1/8 cc more than amount you want.
  6. Turn bottle right-side up and withdraw needle.
  7. Hold syringe with needle pointing up. Pull 16-gauge needle off the end.
  8. On end of syringe, attach 20 or 22-gauge needle for making the injection.
    • Some Penicillin particles may not make it through this smaller needle, but enough will. A larger needle would be too damaging for the small size of a chicken.
  9. Give injection, following instructions in previous "Give Injection" section.
    • Giving intramuscularly will get medicine circulating in system soonest and is recommended for Penicillin. You can choose to give subcutaneously. Don't give in vein.
      • Intramuscular Penicillin injections are very painful for people, cats, and some other animals, but do not seem to be for chickens.
  • Dose is 0.20 cc (ml) [=a little less than 1/4 cc] per day for a standard-size chicken. Range of safety is good: up to 1/2 cc occasionally won't generally hurt the chicken.
    • For severe infections, it helps to split the dose in half and give twice a day for the first 2-3 days, so chicken gets Penicillin more frequently added into body.
  • If Penicillin is a problem for you, do not eat eggs or meat from chicken for a while after treatment.

Give Antibiotics for Synovitis

  • Disease caused by Mycoplasma Synovaie (MS). Also called Infectious Synovitis or Silent Air Sac
  • Symptoms: Lameness. Then lethargy and reluctance to move, hock joints swollen with cream-color fluid, stiff gait, weight loss, blisters on breast.
    • In respiratory form of MS, birds show respiratory distress.
  • The best antibiotics for treating generally are tylosin, erthromycin, spectinomycin, lincomycin, and chlorotectracycline. They are most effective if given by injection.
  • [More info needed]

Control Mosquitoes to Reduce Spread of Equine Encephalitis

  • Includes Eastern and Western Encephalitis (EEE and WEE).
  • Symptoms: Reduced intake of feed, staggering, paralysis, death.
  • Surviving birds may have blindness, neck twisting, leg or muscle paralysis, weakness, tremors.
  • No successful cure is known, though birds can be vaccinated with horse vaccine (1/10th of horse dose = dose for a pheasant).
  • EE is mostly spread by mosquitoes, and by birds cannibalising bird carcasses.
  • To minimize spread: Drain standing water where mosquitoes breed. Mow 50-foot strip around coops to reduce cover for mosquitoes.

Identify Infectious Tenosynovitis

  • Also called Viral Arthritis, Teno, Reovirus Enteritis, Malabsorption Syndrome.
  • Symptoms: Swelling of tendon sheaths in shanks and above hocks. Lameness, sitting on hocks, reluctance to move.
    • In chicks, wing feathers may stick out ("Helicopter Disease").
    • In Reovirus Septicemia form, egg production drops, birds become dehydrated and turn blue, comb becomes progressively purpleish and dark.
  • Spread between birds through droppings and respiratory contact.
  • Treatment: No treament has been found that gives strong success, though there is a vaccine.
    • For hens: Tetracycline, molasses and oyster shell can be beneficial.

Use Sulfa Drugs or Antibiotics to Treat Fowl Cholera

  • Symptoms: Lameness from joint infections. Fever, reduced eating, labored breathing, mucus coming from mouth, ruffled feathers, diarrhea. Joints and footpads may swell.
    • Not usually seen in chicks.
  • [More info needed]

Treat for Scaley Leg

  • Chickens can develop progressively more raised scales and deformed-looking areas on their legs and toes. These are caused by Scaley Leg Mites and their eggs and refuse. The attacking mites and the raised scales cause soreness, irritation, pain and some lameness; make the chicken more susceptible to further injury; stress chickens; can reduce egg-laying; and can lead to infections that can reach as deep as bones and be fatal in extreme cases.
VARIOUS TREATMENT OPTIONS are listed below that may be beneficial. Recommendations for treating Scaly Leg vary widely.
    • The goals of treatment are to suffocate, drown, poison, and/or remove mites and their eggs.
    • It is useful to re-treat after 2 weeks, when pre-existing mite eggs will have hatched but new mite eggs will not yet have been laid.
  • Soak the chicken's entire legs in solution made of warm water and permethrin-based insecticide for poultry. Mix up according to instructions on label.
    • Too strong of a concentration or too much time soaking can result in overdose.
    • It is possibly not good to use this method if your chicken's legs have raw places.
    • Research more first if you are going to clear out scales the same day, because the chicken's legs will get raw and insecticide residue may possibly cause pain plus potentially other problems.
  • [Editor's note: I still need to check up on this method more] Spray legs very well with Adams Flea and Tick Mist. Massage it in if the chicken has feathered legs. (You probably should wear rubber gloves.)
    • If you get the kind with Insect Growth Regulator (IGR), it is supposed to last 3 months and take care of adult mites and mite eggs.
    • If you get the kind without IGR, you need to treat again in 2 weeks.
    • Caution: This mist probably causes health concerns for eating eggs and meat. Check the label.
  • Soak the chicken's entire legs in warm water 3-15 minutes (You can add Epsom salt if legs don't have raw places). Do not leave part of the legs above water, or mites can survive by climbing up. You can stand the chicken in a container, or many chickens are alright being left alone soaking in a few inches of water in the bathtub as long as you close the shower curtain. Afterwards, do dry off the chicken's feathers some with paper towels or a towel, but work quickly enough that legs will still be damp and soft for the additional treatments you have chosen to do.
    • Soaking drowns mites, makes legs easy to wash clean, softens scales for trimming and cleaning, helps draw out infection, and softens skin to readily absorb medicine.
    • It is very useful to soak legs prior to any other form of treatment.
  • Wash any major poop off legs. Use warm water and a little hand soap or dish soap (only if there are no raw places on legs). Rinse well.
    • This helps prevent infection.
  • Clear out scales. Skip this treatment unless the case is bad, because it is very difficult and potentially painful, and other treatments will likely take care of these areas. Especially skip steps 2 and 4 below unless you have a very careful, steady hand, because you can cause excessive pain and possible injury and infection.
  1. For treatment, hold the chicken on your lap tilted slightly upside down and gently gripped by your legs. Turn the chicken right-side up and hold it close against you every so often if it needs a break.
  2. OH-SO-CAREFULLY sweep out the worst of the gunk from under raised scales. Use a sewing seam ripper, safety pin, or toothpick to push the gunk out a side edge of the scale. Sometimes some dead scales will shed off as you do this.
    • Tip: Bend the chicken's toes to make it easier to clean scales there.
  3. Trim ends off of any scales that are very long, hard and raised. (These will be only in severe cases.) Use toenail clippers, toenail scissors, or small cutting pliers such as wire cutters.
  4. OH-SO-CAREFULLY dig out the gunk in the "caves" that will be revealed inside the scales. Use a sewing seam ripper or toothpick. This step particularly helps remove some well-protected mite eggs.
  • Apply Campho-Phenique medicine ($5 at general stores, $7 at groceries. Will treat 4-6 chickens.). Hold the chicken on your lap tilted slightly upside down and gently gripped by your legs. Dribble medicine on all scaley areas of feet and legs, especially any areas that are raw. Buy an eyedropper for this (Many cheap over-the-counter medicines include one, or you can buy separately for under $1.) so you don't waste medicine, and so you can most easily apply. Put the medicine bottle in a small glass or a small yogurt container to prevent tipping.
    • This drowns & kills mites, helps prevent and cure infection, and applies safe painkiller. Editor's note: This product works great!
  • Smear petroleum jelly (such as Vaseline) over entire surface of legs and toes, gently pushing it up under scales.
    • This suffocates Scaly Leg mites.
    • This is not as effective with feather-legged chickens or if legs have developed thick scales with mites and eggs inside, but can still be helpful.
  • Smear triple-antibiotic ointment (such as Neosporin) on the legs after soaking, while they are still soft and can absorb medicine well.
    • This suffocates mites, and helps prevent and treat infection.
  • Only with veterinary approval, apply Frontline or Frontline Plus tick & flea drops directly on the chicken's skin.
    • For Large Fowl: Apply 3 drops on each inner thigh, and 2 drops below vent.
    • For Bantams: Apply 2 drops on each inner thigh, and 1 drop below vent.
    • The medicine is absorbed into your chicken's system. When a mite bites your chicken, it becomes poisoned and dies. The medicine's effectiveness lasts several days or possibly weeks.
    • This treatment is the easiest way to kill Scaley Leg Mites that are deep under or inside scales.
      • It also treats internal parasites.
      • If you are having a hard time curing Northern fowl and chicken mites, Frontline is very effective because mites don't avoid the chemicals (unlike they do with some powders and sprays), and are killed off for several days.
    • This treatment should be reasonably safe for your chicken unless it has special health issues.
    • Caution: This may cause health concerns for people. Some recommend a 2 1/2 week wait after treatment before using eggs, but no withdrawal time has officially been established. No safe withdrawal time has been established for meat.
  • Put in all-new sawdust at least in areas where the chickens nest or hang out a lot. Dust those areas plus all roosts with Sevin dust (poultry insecticide sold at feed stores for ~$6).

Correct Incubator Conditions

  • Too high of temperature can cause problems with crippling in chicks.
  • Too low of humidity can make it difficult for the chick to break through the shell, or cause the membrane to stick to the chick. The chick can develop incorrect movement patterns and muscling that may then lead to crippling.
    • In cases of low humidity, dampening a paper towel or washcloth with very warm water and placing it partly around the egg and chick may be helpful if done appropriately. [MORE INFO NEEDED]

Breed to Avoid Birth Defects

  • Watch for birth defects that cause leg problems.
    • Broilers often develop leg problems from being bred to grow too heavy too fast.
  • Minimize genetically problematic bloodlines by discontinuing breeding birds whose offspring tend to have problems.
    • Isolate genetics as the cause by comparing other chicks raised at the same time.
  • Inbreeding sometimes can cause genetic leg problems but does not always.
    • If problems appear, add some "outside" birds into your breeding program. If problems persist, you may have to not breed your most recent generation from your inbred line.

Shortening and Blunting Rooster's Spurs

  • Spurs can be shortened to help with several problems:

    • Some roosters' spurs grow so long and at angles that make it difficult for a rooster to walk comfortably.
    • Smoothing a rooster's spurs (along with trimming toenails and filing end of beak) can help make it less hazardous if it is aggressive around people.
    • When an rooster is causing hens to become too barebacked from breeding, shortening spurs (along with trimming toenails) might help alleviate damage to hens.
    • When roosters are first introduced or one rooster or is persistently over-aggressive with others, blunting one or more rooster' spurs can help minimize injuries.
  • There is a sensitive "quick"  center (similar to the "quick" in dogs' toenails) in the base section of a spur. Inside light-colored spurs, the "quick" can be seen vaguely as a darker, reddish area. The layers in the outer shell of the spur and the end of the spur are not sensitive (though if you press too hard at an angle against these, the base of the spur will get bent and damaged and the rooster will feel pain).
  • Spurs will gradually grow long again after you shorten them using methods below.

    • If spurs just need to be blunted temporarily (such as during initial introduction period between roosters), you can wrap their ends with several wraps of masking tape to round and cushion them.
    • Use wire-cutter pliers or horse hoof nippers to cut off the non-sensitive end of the spur. Then use a metal rasp to smooth and round the end of the spur.
      • Caution: If you use pliers/cutters too close to the "quick," you will pinch and bruise the quick while squeezing with the cutters, even if you do not cut the quick.
    • Removing the shell results in the spurs being shorter and smaller than if simply trimmed. The "Hot Potato" technique helps minimize pain. Almost no bleeding occurs during during shell removal, though the "quick" will bleed a little if bumped within a few days after removal. A new protective outer shell will harden over the "quick" within 3-4 weeks.
    • Click Here to see photos showing this method. Caution: Photos are somewhat graphic.
  1. Prepare a clean area with soft pine shavings a few inches deep that the rooster can live in for 2-5 days after spurs are removed.
    • If rooster normally lives with other roosters, it is best if he be protected from them 7-14 days after treatment. He should be kept in a cage or pen inside the same coop. That way the roosters' keep contact with each other and don't have to re-establish the pecking order when he's turned loose.
  2. Microwave a raw potato 6-8 minutes until it is cooked. Let cool off about 5 minutes.
  3. Meanwhile, fill a pan or deep bowl with warm water. Hold the rooster in your arms with his legs and spurs in the water for a couple minutes. This will soften the skin at the base of the spurs and loosen any dirt on his legs. Use an old toothbrush and mild soap to do a basic cleaning of the rooster's legs and spurs. Rinse off.
  4. Sit down and lay the rooster on his back in your lap, with his head slightly lower than the top of your knees. Hold him there by gently squeezing him with your thighs.
  5. Use a hand towel to pick up the hot potato and spear one of his spurs almost completely into the potato. Use a corner of the towel to wrap around his leg next to the potato to keep his leg from getting burned. After 1 minute, pull the potato off the spur.
  6. Use a regular pair of pliers to gently grip the base of the spur. Gently and gradually twist the spur back and forth (Be careful to not bend the spur at an angle, because that would damage the base of the "quick" and hurt the roo). The hard outer sheath of the spur will twist loose. Carefully lift the sheath straight away from the sensitive inner "quick."
  7. Microwave the potato a couple minutes to reheat it, or cook a new potato. Then repeat Steps 5-6 to remove the other spur.


Age: Older Chick
Problem (pictured at right): Left foot showed Duck Foot tendencies from birth
Treatment (not shown): Toe Taping
Result (not shown): Problem was completely corrected
with 1-2 weeks of treatment
Age: 3 weeks old (Please pardon the poop!)
Problem: At hatch, chick had Curled Toes and chick's left hock got Scrape Injury which caused her to develop Splayed Leg movement.
Treatment: Chick Chair for 1 day (In the future, I would STRONGLY recommend 5+ days while injury heals, so the chick doesn't favor the injury.).
Leg Hobbles and not-so-great Chick Shoe (This one made from only tape), and New-Skin ointment* applied to hock injury.
I found out you SHOULD NOT USE NEW-SKIN on injuries--It stings badly!. Instead, try Hock Cushion.
Result: Chick was more mobile. However, she continued to favor injury and deformities progressed, though treatments slowed their development.
Age: 5-month-old pullet (same bird as above 3-week-old chick)
Problem: Deformed legs, feet and toes
Treatment: Foam Leg Brace, Leg Hobbles, Hock Cushion, Chick Shoe, and Good Flooring to help with comfort and mobility
Result: Pullet was much more comfortable and mobile, and able to live a longer life than otherwise. However, her growing weight
and continuing deformities caused increasing discomfort, and extensive care was required. She had to be put down shortly after photos.

More Resources

Video of how to bandage chicken's footpad when treating Bumblefoot:

Reference cited by forum member dhlunicorn on symptoms, causes and preventive strategies for leg diseases and problems, with an emphasis on nutrition:

Cage 'N Bird products:

Making Leg Hobbles out of a make-up sponge: and

Use of drinking straw as a cast while Slipped Tendon heals:

Use of syringe case as body cast for Splayed Leg treatment:

Preventing leg problems from leg bands, string and toenail damage:

Additional spraddle leg treatment illustrations:

"The Chick Who Can't Stand Up" article by Linda Greeson:

Pretty Bird article with topics "Splay Leg," "Crooked Toes," "Chick Won't Sit Up," "Bloody Bedding," and "Toes Swollen or Constricted":

"Orthopedics for Poultry" website of D.C. Townsend - the friendly poultry orthopedist:

D.C. Townsend article, "Orthopedics for Poultry Made Easy for Beginners", and video ordering information:

  • Note: For Slipped Achilles' Tendon, I don't recommend the Townsend method of repositioning tendon purely manual pressure.
    Instead I recommend method described above on this webpage.

"Kickstand" for chicks that tip over, pipe cleaner "Leg Hobbles" for splayed leg, "Chick Chair":

"Chick Chair" for leg injuries:

"Ortho Box" (at end of article) for chicks that have a hard time standing:

Body Sling and Chair for treating broken legs. Cast or splint for broken legs and wings. Also, info on Rickets:

Discussion of leg problems and special diet during recovery:

In-depth descriptions of treating problems in exotic birds (Most would probably work with chickens, as well) including Wounds; Lacerations and Abrasions; Injuries from Leg Bands; Broken Feathers; Broken Toenails; Injuries to Beak; Self-Mutilation; Burns; Frostbite; Degenerative Joint Disease; Bumblefoot; Broken Wings; Leg, Joint, Foot, and Toe Fractures:

Webpage on treating Scaley Leg Mites by dipping legs in vegetable oil: