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Avoiding poultry leg, foot problems

by 5m Editor
16 May 2005, at 12:00am

By Charles Goan, University of Tennessee - Charles Goan, University of Tennessee poultry specialist, shares some management practices with us to help you avoid leg and foot problems with your large meat breed chickens and waterfowl.

Avoiding poultry leg, foot problems - By Charles Goan, University of Tennessee - Charles Goan, University of Tennessee poultry specialist, shares some management practices with us to help you avoid leg and foot problems with your large meat breed chickens and waterfowl.

Nutritional deficiency in breeders: The first signs of leg and foot problems are noticeable at hatching time. The adult breeding stock needs to be fed a well-balanced diet since the chick develops on the nutrients placed in the egg by the hen. If the breeder's diet is deficient in vitamins and minerals the chick's structure is off to a poor start. Nutritional deficiencies of Vitamin D3 causes soft bones and an increase in lameness in chicks.

Riboflavin deficiency will cause a high incidence of curly-toe paralysis, spraddle legs and chicks going down on their hocks.

  • Old hatching eggs: Eggs held too long (10 days or more) before being set in the incubator can cause an increase in the number of crippled and weak chicks.

  • Low humidity: Eggs incubated with insufficient moisture tend to develop poorly, stick to the membranes and have a hard time hatching. "Dry sticks" or chicks hatching in these conditions are more prone to crippling and other leg problems.

  • Slippery brooding surfaces: Newspaper, wood, and other slippery surfaces cause excessive leg problems for all young fowl, especially waterfowl, game birds and feathered-legged fowl.

Provide a soft absorbent litter that gives the birds good footing and traction. Textured paper towels, old cloth towels, or burlap work well for the first two weeks. After two weeks of age a three-inch base of pine shaving, chopped straw or peanut hulls are recommended. Don't use materials like corn cobs or sawdust which become packed down and mold if they get wet. The biggest problem with slippery surfaces is spraddled legs. Once the fowl has spraddled legs, the problem is nearly impossible to correct.

  • Lack of feed and water space: Crowding at feeders and waterers tends to put undue stress on the bird's legs. This can result in hock disorders.

  • Improper diet: Starter diets that are adequate for laying chickens do not do the job in meat chickens, turkeys and waterfowl. Use a complete starter and grower mash balanced for the specific types of fowl whenever possible. People often feed whole grains to young fowl trying to save money. This often results in nutritional deficiencies that cause lameness.

  • Improper equipment: Make sure any mesh wire brooders are small enough to prevent the young fowl from getting their hocks stuck in the wire.

Be sure doorways are large enough for the birds to move through easily.

Source: University of Tennesee - April 2005