I have a four week old chick with a bad leg and wondered if anything can be done to help it. The hock joint is slightly larger than on the other leg (I don’t think this is swelling) and there’s a hard lump on the side of the joint. It does put weight on the leg but has a limp and tends to walk on the area between the foot and joint. Any suggestions?Murray Hatton, via email

This sounds like a skeletal deformity and so the chick should be culled – it will never walk properly, even if operated upon. If there are any others like this chick in the batch, it’s likely to be a mineral deficiency when the bones were formed – check that the parent stock has been fed on a breeder ration as this contains all the necessary minerals for good chick development and is passed into the yolk which feeds the embryo. If this is the only one, then it’s likely either to be an inherited deformity or poor temperature regulation, either in the incubator or under a broody. It’s also important that chicks are put onto a non-slippery surface for the first 24 hours after they hatch – a slippery surface can make the ligaments stretch and then one leg (or worse, both) sticks out at an angle and can’t be used. Sometimes, if the other leg is strong, the weaker leg can be loosely tied to the strong one for a day or so to see if the ligament strengthens up, but often, the best thing to do is to cull and prevent the problem happening again.An old clean towel or kitchen paper can be used to make the surface non-slippery. If you’re using layers of newspaper as litter, take the top layer off at least once daily. If you’re using shavings, these can be a better surface, but they’re less hygienic as they tend to be changed less often. VR

Victoria Roberts BVSC MRCVSEmail the Vet’s forum at: vetsforum.csh@archant.co.uk

Disclaimer: The information and advice in this column is given in good faith. However, as the animals in question have not been examined by the author, no liability in respect of diagnosis or application of any treatments is accepted either by the author or by Country Smallholding

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