I love the internet. I love to research things, find out tips and tricks to use on my homestead and I also love to be inspired.
Unfortunately I have a problem sometimes where I take what I read online as the right way to do things or the Gospel truth. You see, I tend to believe what I see and what I read. I just assume that the person posting the information has either used the technique they are writing about or at the very least researched it completely.
Well, this past spring I learned a valuable lesson about believing what you read. And unfortunately it was at the expense of my baby chicks.
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Every time I have gotten my baby chicks I always put them in a very large cardboard box lined with newspaper and a nice layer of wood shavings. I have never had a problem with this technique so why I would want to change it is beyond me. However, one day when I was playing on Pinterest I happened to see some examples of temporary housing ideas for baby chicks.
Quite a few people were using plastic totes and I really liked the idea. How nice it would be not to have to dispose of a large box full of dirty wood shavings when the chicks moved out. I would be able to clean the tote more thoroughly and keep any pests or diseases at bay.
I was sold!
So off I went to find a large tote that would hold my little chicks that were due to arrive in just a few short days.
In my attic I found a few totes that would work perfectly for my project. I emptied them out, cleaned them, and put down fresh wood shavings. Since the bottom was plastic I believed I did not need any newspaper on the bottom. I was going to clean it after all so this to me was an unnecessary step. down.
Next, I found a window screen that I could use as a lid and wedged in a few sticks for “practice roosts”. The tub looked great and when the little chicks arrived they took to their new home quite well.
At first I loved this new housing option. It was so easy to reach things so feeding and watering was super easy. After about a week I noticed something was up.
One afternoon I realized a couple of my chicks had a toe or two that was curled and not straight like the rest. I had never seen anything like this and after some research found that this condition was called Curly Toe.
A call was made to the company where I purchase my little chicks and they got back to me right away. I was told there were two causes for this. One was a nutrient deficiency which we quickly ruled out. The feed I was giving the chicks contained all the correct nutrients needed for them to thrive.
The other possibility was having them on a slippery surface so they had to grip the ground with their toes to keep from slipping and falling.
The plastic tote was indeed slippery and since I did not put newspaper down I put the poor things in sub-par housing. I was really upset about not giving my chicks the absolute best environment to thrive. I am not ashamed to admit that I totally beat myself up for it.
Back to the internet I went and found the condition is not correctable (unless you catch it super early, which I unfortunately did not) but the good news is the condition is not life-threatening. I immediately put them in new housing with newspaper down and a good thick layer of shavings. No other chicks came down with the condition thank heavens.
Lesson learned, cardboard boxes as housing is the only way this girl will raise her little chicks from now on. It’s free and it works! Today my hens are full grown and doing well. Yes they still have the curly toes, but they have adjusted to life this way and are able to scratch and roost like the other hens. I was very lucky to learn a lesson without causing a life-threatening condition to my hens.
Causes of Curly Toe or Curled Toe Paralysis
Reason #1 Vitamin deficiency. When you notice a very young chick with curly toe on both feet chances are you have a deficiency of some kind possibly riboflavin causing the problem. This more often than not can be blamed on the mother hen. The trick here is to treat immediately with vitamins and hopefully this will help the toes to uncurl naturally on their own.
Reason #2 Inadequate flooring. If you house your chicks in a container with a slippery surface their toes may curl due to them trying to “grip” the floor for traction. If this is the reason you will need to find new housing or put down newspaper to keep slipping to a minimum.
How To Treat Curly Toe
Treatment #1 Let it go. This is not the best case scenario but I have it listed here to help alleviate your concerns. A chicken can do adequately enough living her life with curly toe. You should, however you must watch her closely in colder climates. Severe curly toe can be quite painful in the winter months so watch her for walking deficiencies. If she is limping, walking very slowly or refusing to leave the coop in the winter a Veterinarian may need to be consulted.
Treatment #2 Splint it up. Anna over at www.avianaquamiser.com as a great tip that looks super easy and quickly effective. She chose to use two pieces of 3M Transpore tape to sandwich the chick’s toes into a flat position. Simply adjust the toes to a straightened position and place on a small fan shaped piece of tape.
Place the toes on the tape and apply a top piece to sandwich and securely hold the toes in place. The chick will actually do quite well this way and her toes should (if caught early enough) straighten out rather nicely in just a few short days.
Anna does caution. Make sure you completely cover the chick’s toes. Chickens are very curious in nature and Anna’s little hen along with the other chicks pecked at the tape. As a result the tip of the toes that were slightly exposed were very slightly injured. You can prevent this easily by completely covering the toes and maybe leaving just a bit of excess when you do.
Treatment #3 Give vitamins. If after consulting a Vet you determine the cause is a vitamin deficiency you can give supplements as directed by your Vet.
Please learn from my mistake. Do not take what you read online as the truth. Do your research, cross check your information and test under supervision always watching for issues that may quickly and minutely popped up. Remember our animals count on us for food, water and safety. Watch and learn everyday and keep your livestock safe and healthy.