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By: U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey,
Patuxent Wildlife Research Center, Laurel, MD, USA
Chicks may develop crooked toes . We suspect that it's because of differences in substrate (chicks in the wild are on various natural substrates, while our chicks are on sod, carpet over concrete, or bedding over concrete) combined with less exercise than in the wild, and differences in nutrition. It's a complex problem we haven't been able to eliminate despite many attempts. However, we have learned how to correct it.
To correct crooked toes, we must tape small splints to the crooked toes and leave the tape on for 2 days. We use a tape that isn't too sticky, that doesn't irritate their skin, and comes off easily, along with veterinary applicator sticks.
The chicks grow so fast that the tape has to come off by the second day, simply because the foot is getting larger. But usually, two days is all it takes to resolve the problem. When the tape comes off, the toe is straight. It might stay that way, and it might become crooked again later. If it deviates again, we simply continue to tape it until the problem is corrected. We've learned, however, if we don't correct crooked toes, they get worse, and can result in deformed feet that can hamper the bird's ability to get around, and can become arthritic at an early age. Certainly not a condition we'd want to have on a chick that will be released into the wild. We also discussed crooked toes in a report about one our breeding pairs, www.pwrc.usgs.gov - Hal and Hanna.
Disclaimer: The information is only our experience. We are not veterinary surgeons so please bear this in mind and seek help from a vet if you are at all worried.
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