How to Treat Splay Leg


Splay leg, or spraddle leg, is a common deformity in very young baby parrots. The most common cause is inappropriate or slippery substrate in the brooder. This causes the birds' legs to slide out, warping the legs natural shape. Left untreated, this can become permanent and prevent the birds from perching and walking normally. Splay leg in young baby birds can usually be corrected by fashioning a brace or hobble to realign the birds' legs.

Things You'll Need

  • Sponge
  • Ruler
  • Scissors
  • Marker

Determine whether the birds are candidates for home treatment. Home treatment using a brace is most effective on very young birds, soon after the problem first occurs. If the birds are fully feathered, or have had splay leg for more than a day or two, you should consult an avian veterinarian rather than attempting to treat the condition yourself. Surgical correction may be required.

Cut the sponge to 1/4 inch thickness, 1 inch wide, and slightly longer than the affected birds' width.

Place the birds on the sponge, and use the marker to mark where the leg holes will be cut. There should be just enough space between the two holes to allow the birds' legs to extend straight down from the hips.

Pierce the sponge using the tip of the scissors or a knife to create slits at the locations you marked in Step 3. Make sure the slits are wide enough that they will not squeeze the birds' legs, but not so wide that the legs will slide around within the slits.

Gently insert the first two toes of the birds' feet into the slits. Pull the feet through carefully, making sure that the toenails do not catch on the sponge. Push the sponge up against the birds' body, so that the bottom of the sponge does not cover the leg joints.

Turn the baby birds upside down in your hand to make sure that the vent is clear and droppings will not land on the sponge. If the sponge extends directly under the bird's' vent, use scissors to carefully trim away that portion of the sponge.

Check the sponge several times a day and correct the positioning as needed. If the sponge becomes soiled, replace it.

Leave the sponge brace on the birds for at least a week. The amount of time it takes to correct splay leg varies depending on the severity and the age of the birds. If birds' legs are not straight after two weeks, consult an avian veterinarian.

Tips & Warnings

  • Splay leg is easiest to correct in birds that are one to two weeks old.
  • If you have older birds with splay leg, it may be correctable via surgery. Consult an avian veterinarian for more information.
  • If more than a very small percentage of your baby birds develop splay leg, there is likely to be a preventable cause.
  • Use a brand new, plain sea sponge for this purpose. Do not use an abrasive cleaning sponge, or one that contains scents or cleaners. These could cause injury or toxicity to the baby birds.
  • Do not place baby birds with a brace back into the nest box with the parents. They may refuse to feed, or even kill, the baby.
  • Be certain the sponge is not squeezing the legs too tightly, as this can cause circulation problems and gangrene.

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