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Splay Leg

Spraddle Leg, Splayed Leg, Sprawls

Splay leg, also known as spraddle leg, is a type of leg deformity that is usually seen in young, newly hatched ducklings. It is most commonly caused by raising ducklings on a ground surface that does not provide adequate traction, however it can also be the result of problems during incubation, and less commonly genetics. The condition is characterized by the legs splaying outward or laterally from underneath the duckling's body. One or both legs might be affected, and can range in severity from mild to severe. The onset of the clinical signs of splay leg might take a couple of weeks until it becomes obvious. However, for a positive prognosis, intervening with early, prompt treatment is needed.

Ducklings with splay leg usually respond pretty well to corrective orthopedic techniques and physical therapy. There are a wide range of orthopedic techniques described for use in ducklings with splay leg, made from a variety materials. The main goal of any of these methods is to help position the duckling's legs in the position that they should normally be, ensuring there are the correct distance apart and are not too tight as to restrict blood circulation to the leg, nor too loose so that it is ineffective.


Inability to stand properly
One or both legs splaying outward
Difficulty walking


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam


MethodMethod Summary
HobbleA orthopedic technique in which the duckling's legs are tethered to one another, in a figure-of-eight pattern or with a piece of material around each leg and a short length between each leg. This can be accomplished through the use of various materials, including band-aids, fuzzy pipe cleaners (like that you find in an arts and craft store), Vetwrap, strips of adhesive tape, etc. The device will need to be adjusted on a daily basis, during which, the duckling should be monitored closely.
Foam blockAn alternative orthopedic device that uses a foam block with holes cut at the appropriate distance apart for the legs.
Supportive careDepending on the severity of the condition, the duckling may not be able to easily access feed and water, and therefore will need to be provided easy access to these resources.


  • Ensure that ducklings are raised on non-slip ground surface, such as a bath towel, pine shavings, straw, or shelf liner.
  • Do not place incubators in rooms where they receive direct sunlight.


Age Range

Newly hatched ducklings are at risk of developing splay leg

Risk Factors

  • Raising ducklings on an inappropriate ground surface (anything that is slick, such as newspaper, vinyl tiles, cardboard, etc.)
  • Extreme fluctuations in temperature during incubation
  • Incubating eggs at too high of a temperature
  • In older ducks, it may be associated with a high protein diet, lack of exercise, or vitamin E/selenium deficiency.

Also Consider