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Chick Vitality
Healthy Bird Management





Leg Problems in Small Poultry Flocks

Chickens and turkeys go off their legs for many reasons, but generally the reasons fail into three areas:
  1. Infectious diseases such as Marek's Disease, Viral or Staph Arthritis, Infectious Synovitis and Epidemic Tremors.
  2. Nutritional problems such as Vitamin D and calcium problems causing rickets, riboflavin problems causing curled toe paralysis, and numerous factors causing perosis and twisted legs.
  3. Genetic or mechanical problems such as "Kinky Back" which is a spine deformity, and Tibial Dyschondroplasia which is a deformity of the tibia [drumstick].

Of all of these, only a few are within the direct control of the small flock owner, but those that are, need to be prevented. In general, follow these rules:

  • Never stress the birds by overheating, chilling, crowding or under-ventilation.
  • Use only 24 hour bright light long enough to get the birds on feed and water, but never more than two or three days. The birds need rest. Either continuous dim light [if you can read the newspaper, then it's too light] or 4-8 hours of darkness per day is necessary.
  • Always buy the feed designed for the bird's age and the kind of bird being fed. Chick starter for chicks, and turkey starter for turkeys.
  • Never introduce farm grains as part of the diet until the birds are at least 6 weeks old and then replace the starter with a correctly mixed concentrate and grain designed for the bird and it's age. Approximately 1/4 - 38% concentrate and 3/4 grain.
  • Always feed some concentrate to all birds regardless of how old they are. Concentrates contain the balance of vitamins, minerals and proteins needed to make farm grains do the job they can do.

Flocks raised to 9 weeks of age [4 to 5 lbs] will almost, always 3% of the birds with leg problems. Birds raised to heavier weights will likely have a higher percentage, perhaps up to 5 or 6%. If more than this have problems, you should take a good look at your feeding and management, and possibly take some birds into your local veterinarian or laboratory.