Meet little Hazel Hen-Chick. She is sitting in front of her sister, Hedwig Hen-Chick.
Hazel is very cute but when she was about ten days old, I noticed she had a curled toe. You can see it in the photo. Her little outside toe on her left foot curls underneath her foot and comes out the other side. She is no less cute because of this little curled toe, just a bit more vulnerable than the other chicks and of course, unsaleable.
She walks (and runs) extremely well and doesn’t seem to be in pain or bothered by this little curled toe.
I have read lots of stories about chicks with curled or crooked toes. Many of these curled toes are said to be caused by incorrect incubator humidity just before hatching. But of course, these little chicks were hatched under a broody, so I am guessing there were no humidity issues but then this is my first hatch, so how would I know?
Maybe there was not enough humidity due to the lack of wood shavings in the broody nest. Maybe I should have put an upturned sod of earth under her nest. Maybe I should have given the eggs a spray with water just before hatching. But then I think that hens laying in the wild don’t have people to spray water on their eggs!
Maybe we hurt Hazel’s toe by mistake when we were trying to get the baby chicks into the coop on day one after we realised they couldn’t navigate the ramp. No, I really hope we didn’t.
Some say curled toes could be due to a lack of vitamins or riboflavin in the diet, but I feed my chicks on commercial chick crumbles and I doubt that would be lacking in chick nutrition.
But then maybe, just maybe it is hereditary. I have a friend who got eggs from the same breeder and she also had a chick with a curled toe develop after about two weeks. I am hoping that is what it is. That way I can absolve myself of any blame.
So what have I done about Hazel Hen-Chick’s curled toe. Well I haven’t done anything. There is lots of advice on the internet about putting splints on the toe to make it straight but much of the advice also says that if they are running around quite happily and the crooked toe does not seem to be bothering them, it is best to leave it alone.
I have taken this advice for two reasons. 1) I have a “vicious” broody and it would cause so much stress if I tried to fix the chick’s toe, and 2) I noticed the toe on a Sunday night and I had to work for the week and I am pretty sure if you are going to splint the toe, it needed to be done when you first notice it.
I hope I am not damning Hazel Hen-Chick to a life of pain and suffering. But then I wouldn’t let that happen. I just hope I don’t live to regret my decision.
UPDATED December 23rd
See an updated post that I wrote after reading the thought provoking comments below in this post.