When Is It Too Late to Fix a Splayed Leg?

A splayed leg is best fixed as early as possible, ideally within the first 24 to 48 hours.

Once three to four days have passed, it’s likely to be too late. 

Whether the recovery is speedy or not also depends on the bird’s age.

baby pigeon with a splayed leg
(we couldn’t find any image of pigeons with splayed legs so this image was actually generated using AI)

For example, chicks and young pigeons have a much higher chance of recovering quickly when they are three to four weeks old than later in life. 

How to fix a splayed leg

The main purpose that a chick or pigeon owner should have on their mind is to position the legs in such a way so that they resemble their normal gait. 

This can be done through a variety of methods:

  • Bandaging: In small and young birds, you may be able to use a fabric adhesive bandage and wrap it around both of the legs until the bird is effectively forced to keep them in the right position. This is by far the easiest technique.
  • VetWrap: A quite effective and similar product that does the same thing is called VetWrap, which is an adhesive type of bandage that both sticks to itself and does not restrict the local blood flow. It also produces no damage to the feathers or the skin. 
  • Pipe Cleaner: Another product you can use would be a small pipe cleaner. With this method, you may need the assistance of another person as you have to hold the bird in one of your hands and then try to fit the pipe cleaner around both legs after having folded the piece like a staple. Then, you bend one of the sides over one leg and do the same to the other, carefully and closely putting the margins next to each other so that the bird can stand. 
  • Elastic Band: If you really have nothing else available, you can achieve the same goal by using an elastic band — provided that it’s the right size and can keep both legs in the correct position. 

This article was written by our qualified veterinarian Cristina.

This is part of our commitment to providing you with the most trustworthy veterinary advice for your pigeons.

Can a splayed leg fix itself?

In a way, yes, but only with your help. If you do not place the legs in the right position so that the bird is able to walk and feed and drink water, they can lose their life in a matter of days or hours. 

A spraddle leg can become permanent if it is left completely untreated. 

While the problem itself does not put the chick’s or pigeon’s life in danger, it clearly affects their ability to live a normal life (and have access to food or water). 

Given that it is so easy to correct, fixing a spraddle leg is highly recommended — as soon as you notice it. 

Are splayed legs permanent?

They can be if they are not fixed in the first few days. 

Young birds have a higher capability to recover their normal gait, so time is of the essence in their case. 

If an adult somehow ends up with a splayed leg, it’s quite likely that another factor has led to this situation. 

As such, we recommend consulting your local veterinarian or rescue center, as they can give you guidance on what you’re supposed to do or provide the right treatment (if there is any). 

pigeon friendly rescue centres

Suppose you leave the splayed leg unfixed, then yes, it can become a permanent leg deformity. 

Can a pigeon/chicken live with splayed legs?

Having splayed legs doesn’t put a bird’s life in danger in any way other than the fact that they cannot feed themselves properly. 

However, if you take the charge of feeding and watering them and ensuring that you protect the bird from predators, the bird can indeed live. 

The problem is that they will not live normally in the sense that since they can’t engage in physical exercise properly, over time, some of the other muscles they have in their body might suffer from atrophy, therefore affecting their general health. 

Besides that, since most chicks/pigeons with this deformity will have to be kept indoors to be safe, they will not be exposed to solar radiation as much as their counterparts — which can lead to vitamin deficiencies

So, while survival with a splayed leg or both splayed legs is indeed possible, it is not synonymous with thriving. 

How long does it take to correct splayed legs?

The healing process is quite short, particularly if the bird is young or has recently hatched. 

It can take just three to four days for you to see a significant improvement in the bird’s gait. 

baby pigeon a few hours old

You will have to regularly change the bandage, elastic band, or VetWrap to ensure that everything is progressing smoothly. 

Do not leave the pipe cleaners or any other rigid materials you’ve used to put the legs in the correct position on for too long. 

Given their firmness, they can lead to local lesions, especially if the bird manages to scratch itself or get stuck in an area.

Check the legs once every two days to make sure that the tissue is intact and that the bird is on the right track to becoming healed. 

Some birds can fully recover in as long as a week or up to ten days, whereas, for others, it can take just two to three days. 

Make sure you check all of your birds after they have hatched to see what gait they have. 

Fixing a spraddle leg later on in life takes much longer and is also more painful for the bird, given that they don’t have as much flexibility in their legs as their younger counterparts.

Cristina Vulpe

Cristina hold a Ph.D. in Veterinary Oncology and co-authored a scientific presentation on the Radiological Contrast Studies of the Digestive Tractus in Pigeons which was published by the European Society of Radiology. She is responsible for writing our health-related articles and ensuring that any medical information published is correct.

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