My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?

Partridge wyandotte chick with a curled toe

30 Comments

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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.

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30 thoughts on “Partridge wyandotte chick with a curled toe

  1. I should think if you were going to splint it, you would have to bring her inside too. I’m not sure on that, but likely the hen would peck at something visible on her chick’s foot. All you can do is trust your gut. As to making a list of all the things that might have gone wrong, especially those things you consider possibly having played a part in, don’t.
    It very well could be hereditary. And sometimes these things just happen. And even if you had provided your hen with a spray bottle full of water, it’s my guess she wouldn’t have bothered using it anyway. 😉

    • LOL. What a great comment. Thanks for that.
      I never actually thought about the hen pecking at the splint. And I think you are right. Anyone that I have read about who splinted had their chicks being reared inside anyway, which of course has the chicks already used to you and so would cope with the handling, and no mum to peck it off.

  2. omg…I’m so in love!! I don’t think I’ve seen something as adorable in a while!! 🙂

  3. I can see why that would be hard…but you are definitely not to blame. These things happen. I don’t know much about this, but if the chick is doing well otherwise, I think I would leave it alone, too.

    One of my sons had fallen arches as a child. I noticed one day when he was walking in front of me in flip-flops that his feet looked strange. Years later a man told him to roll his feet over a foam roller, that it would strengthen his calf muscles which would then strengthen his arches. He did that, but all through his childhood and even now as an adult, he is the fastest runner, the highest climber, the most agile and physically fit of all my children.

    All that to say, it’s hard to know what to do, the chick may never have a problem, but please don’t blame yourself. She may be the strongest one of the flock. 🙂

  4. Good luck with the curled toe. We once had one as such and eventually her skin broke down because of the odd pressure placed on her deformed foot. We eventually had to put her down. May you have better luck.

  5. Cute Cute Cute – even if she is a bit crippled. I’m sure it wasn’t your fault and that she’ll be fine (but she might not get asked to the prom – teen can be cruel). She’ll probably only scratch right footed but I know you feed your girls well and so it won’t be a problem. I’m sure it was a tough decision to splint or not and I have no idea what I’d have done in your position – nature can be tough.

  6. Sweet girl. I have heard that, especially when they are itty bitty like this little one, “splinting” can be as simple as putting a bandaid over it and slowly shaping it in the non-curly direction. But yeah – I would probably be doing exactly what you’re doing, as long as there are no signs of physical impacts!

  7. Okay wait, you are not talking about a crooked toe to the side here. I took a closer look at the picture and this poor baby is literally “walking on it’s toe”! Animals have an inherent ability to “hide pain”, for to outwardly show pain makes them more vulnerable to predator attack, as I am sure her mother is teaching her. Put your big girl panties on (and a pair of gloves) and go in there and show “vicous broody hen” who’s the boss. Baby chick bones are very pliable and you probably still have time to put on a splint and correct this issue. Otherwise you are setting this chick up (if it survives) for a lifetime of irritated skin, possible infection and never being able to comfortably “roost”. Splint the foot, put it back in with mom and see what happens. She may very well leave it alone. If she doesn’t, pull the baby back out and brood seperately. After a week take the splint off and watch her for another couple of days. If the toe stays put reincorporate her in with the others “at night” when mom is sleeping. If it doesn’t, resplint and repeat the process.

    Note, sleepinghorse has edited comment

    • Thank you for taking the time to give me such clear advice.

      • I have to say some of this post resonated with me. I remember reading that it is really really hard to detect a sick chicken because they do everything in their power to hide their weaknesses. We may love chickens but apparently they aren’t very nice to the weak members of their flock. So maybe this foot really is a problem and splinting now to fix the toe will save your chook a life of hardship and bullying and even a painful death. Tough love isn’t easy!

        Whatever you decide, good luck with it.

  8. Wow, that was “clear advise”… Still, she might be right. You could try….I wonder about this little chick being alone for a few days…they don’t like to be alone. Maybe one of the other chicks could stay with her….or maybe Mom would be ok with the splint….does the mother hen let you touch the chicks at all? I would at least try to pick this little one up and really look at the toe….good luck with it all. I look forward to reading about her progress. Take care, Patti

    • Hi Patti,
      No, the hen won’t let us go near the chicks. She has been living in the “wild” for 4 years until we caught her and took her in. She is not that friendly herself and when we tried to help the chicks up the ramp on day one when they couldn’t traverse it, she flew at our faces with beak and claws outstretched. A very good mum.
      If this chick was being raised in a broody and was able to be picked up, I wouldn’t hesitate but to try but I have no idea how to catch her other than using a long fishing net and frightening the chicks in the process.

      • That is difficult then. I forgot Mum had been wild. If she won’t let you near the chicks I don’t see what you can do. And I agree separating the little chick would be very stressful for everyone and who knows what Mum would do. Does the breeder you got the eggs from have advice? Or your friend who had the chick with the curled toe? How did that work out? It really is a dilemma. I would keep doing what you are doing..watch, research and see what happens. If the chick is managing she might be ok. Nature wil take its course and we sometimes have to respect that because we can’t always control it. You are doing the best you can. Good luck and know that we are all hoping this adorable little chick does well. Thinking of you, Patti

  9. Sorry for the “harsh reality”. I took your post as an eenie, meenie, miney, not real sure what to do, there are too many options/variables and I don’t want to make a mistake after a long day of work, cause I don’t really know what to do kind of story. The following comments gave no difinitive advice, more like oohing and ahhing over the cuteness of the chick, which gave no help for you or the injured chick. I think it’s awesome that you took in this “wild hen” and gave her a home, clearly you have a tender heart, and that is a wonderful thing that far too many people do not possess. Please accept my apology. After reading your last comment, clearly your hands are tied in this particular situation.
    Comment edited by sleepinghorse

  10. Oh My Gosh – you have put me off raising backyard chooks… your KNOW how I am with backyard CATS!!! LOL.
    I don’t have the first clue what to do about this sweet little chook’s curly toe… but, I know I (personally) have ‘defects’ that would make me unwelcome in a henhouse… LOL
    I feel deeply sorry for ‘chickensinthegarden’… and want to hear more from him/her (but, probably …her)
    The little chook seems to be happy… and if Te Radar couldn’t keep his chooks under control (and I assume he had ‘expert’ advice) … then, I think you deserve a medal for taking on this … ‘reject chook’ and her offspring.
    I suspect we all worry too much.
    If the little chook is ‘happy’ (how do you tell?)… then… even those of us with … ‘issues’ … deserve a good life…
    One more sleep to the Zombie Appocalypse…
    sigh… XO

    • The little curled toe has almost put me off having anymore chicks too as I am clearly not equipped for this sort of thing! How I wish mama hen wasn’t so bossy and that she would let me touch her chicks. But maybe she knows that one of her chicks would end up with a funny looking boot 🙂

  11. Thanks everyone for your comments and caring for my vulnerable little Hazel.
    Thank you Chickensinthe garden for your comment. I hadn’t thought of her ability to roost nor the skin on her toe not holding up. I am very new to chickens and chicks as you can see and am grateful for any advice.
    Up until you comments, most of my advice had been to leave her if she seemed ok, which she did does seem to be, but I have a friend who read about my plight and she is coming around on Saturday to see if she can help me to catch the chick. We may be too late and the bones may already be fused but we will see.
    (That is of course if we can actually catch her without being clawed and pecked too much by mama hen.
    I’ll keep you posted.

    • Let us know how you do with Hazel and her toe. We’re all aching for her to be well. I think it’s good that chickensinthegarden pointed out the possible down-side of doing nothing (perching and rubbing the skin off her foot) because the rest of us are too new at this and spend a lot of time worrying about the stress we cause the animals in our care in the short term and miss the long term side effects of being nice.

      Good luck with poor mama hen – she may not know you’re helping, but you have to just remember you are. Don some chain mail, harden your heart and go get ’em tiger!

  12. Hey, why aren’t comments allowed on the next post? I think your tail-less chook looks darned cute even if she is lacking a few feathers.

  13. I hope the toe works out all right. I’m glad now I got day-old-chicks. But, I wonder about the less than perfect ones at the hatchery. All I can do is spoil em rotten. And if I don’t spoil them enough my wife takes up the slack.

  14. Pingback: Update on my partridge wyandotte chick with a curled toe « My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

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