Spraddle or Splayed Leg

So just exactly what is splayed or Spraddle Leg? It’s a condition in which the newly hatched chicks can’t bear weight in their legs. The legs will look like they are gymnasts doing the splits. The poor legs just spread out to the side and the chick can’t walk. If not corrected early it can cause permanent damage. It can be caused by slippery surface in the incubator or brooder and by temperature and humidity too high or too varied during hatching. It can also be caused by a chick or keets having a rough time hatching. Fortunately if caught in time it’s a fairly easy fix.

Newly hatched keets still in the incubator

Two of our guinea keets had splayed or spraddle legs. It looked like a few more but they got stronger quickly. I suspect that their extremely hard eggs and difficulty hatching may be part of the cause. The guineas seemed to have more trouble walking in the incubator after hatching than our chicks ever have. I believe the incubator surface was slippery for them. Next hatch we will put shelf liner in at lockdown to help prevent it. Our brooder has a wire bottom but it also has a rough cardboard insert that is not usually slippery. This always helps and keeps little chicks feet from going through. This is our first guinea hatch so we quickly discovered that the surface wasn’t right for them. They were slipping. So we tried paper towels but that didn’t work either. An old towel did the trick for them and all but the two are doing great. Shelf liner would have worked as well.

We put a brace on the legs of our two that were struggling. We tried cheap bandaids first and they didn’t stick so we moved on to the vet wrap bandages and they didn’t stay in place. The brace or hobble kept slipping. So we went with the expensive flexible cloth bandaids and they worked great! Just an fyi though, guinea keets are fast and very squirmy so hold on good once you catch them.

To put on the hobble or brace we cut the bandaid in half lengthwise and wrapped it above the joint on one leg. The bandaid is then folded back to the padded section in the middle. Repeat on the other leg and then you have a brace that looks sort of like a sideways 8. If your brooder is crowded or their condition is bad you will want to separate the chick or keet. Our case was mild and not very crowded so we monitored to be sure they didn’t get picked on or trampled. Most people recommend keeping the brace or hobble on 24 hours and then removing and reassessing. Some remove and assess more often. We follow the 24 hours advice. It usually takes a few days and they are good as new!

Memorial Day

Memorial day……long weekend, day off work, barbeque, beach trips…..

Despite the fact that people tend to do all these things that is not what the day is for.

Memorial Day was originally called Decoration day and was originally established to honor those who lost their lives in the civil war. It was later changed to include all who died in service and became a national holiday in 1971.

My family has military roots and a deep seeded respect for the country and the flag. You will not see us talking during the National Anthem or disrespecting the flag. It is built into our very souls to be respectful. Part of that comes from seeing what serving during war time can do to a parent.

I’ve noticed lately that there is a trend to include covid front line workers in Memorial day. Trust me….I think they are very valuable. My daughter is one of them. But Memorial day is not for them. Memorial day is not for police, firefighters, teachers, nurses, doctors etc. Memorial day is a day to honor our Military who gave the ultimate sacrifice of their life for this country. That is it’s sole purpose.

I’m also hearing “happy memorial day” so much these days. Happy Memorial day pictures flood the internet. Memorial day is not happy. There is not a thing about it that’s happy. To wish someone a happy day is just not appropriate. Someone died…lots of someone’s died for us to have this long weekend. While we may be flipping burgers and enjoying the beach someone’s heart is broken over the loss of their loved one. Memorial day is for honoring their loved ones sacrifice.

So what do we do on Memorial Day? Please honor and respect Memorial Day and those who gave all by reflecting on and remembering their sacrifice. Although it is not correct to thank current military for their service on this day it is appropriate to thank the families of those whose loved ones died in service. Remember the holiday and why it exists. Gently correct and remind those who tell you to enjoy and have a “happy” one that the day was not founded for joy.

I leave you with these lyrics to one of my favorite songs. It is beautiful and says it all. Have a reflectful, respectful Memorial Day.

“He stood beside his daddy
And watched the solders marching by
It was Veteran’s Day and he wondered
Why there were tears in daddy’s eyes
Later they laid flowers
Beside a monument of stone
He said, My daddy went to fight
And didn’t make it home

Fallen, not forgotten
He was a hero
He stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
He gave his all

They left behind their families
And the towns where they were born
For the rice paddies of Vietnam
And the sands of Desert Storm
They were soldiers in Korea
And World War One
And World War Two
They paid the price
Some gave their lives
And they fought for me and you

Now freedom is a blessing
But freedom has a price
And we must remember those
Who paid it with their lives Remember the
Fallen, not forgotten
They were the heroes
Who stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
They gave their all.

Fallen, not forgotten
They were the heroes
Who stood so tall
And forever, we will remember
With honor and glory,
They gave their all”

Song by Ray Boltz.

Hatching chicks and ducks

We have been incubating our own eggs for several years. One of our more frequently asked questions is about hatching so we will try to answer some of those questions.

We have changed the type of incubator we used several times over the years. Our current favorite is the Harris Farms Nurture Right 360. The newest model has an almost completely clear top so we can easily see inside. It also has a opening to the water reservoir on the outside so water can be very easily added. I use a large syringe and add water twice a day, morning and evening. It has an automatic turner so we rarely have to open the lid. This incubator keeps the temperature and humidity regulated better than any we have used. It also has a built in count down and an egg candling light. And no, I do not get any compensation for endorsing them. But I’ll be glad to take a free incubator if they want to give me one. 🤣 Seriously though when we find a great product we do like to share it.

So now that we have the incubator what’s next? Start by gathering your eggs or buying hatching eggs. Try not to use any older than 7-10 days. The hatch rate goes down the older they get. We have had good success with eggs we found in odd places and had no idea how old they were! Store them in a cool and humid place. 55° and 75% humidity is ideal but that’s not easy. Mine have hatched for me and others and I keep them in a carton in my kitchen. Also turn them in the carton daily until you are ready to start incubating. Turning keeps the yolk centered and from sticking to the membrane. Always store them pointy end down.

Get your incubator ready and make sure the temperature and humidity holds steady before you put your eggs in. I usually leave mine running and keep an eye on it for several hours.

Once you put the eggs in monitor the eggs often. Temperature should stay at 99.5° F and humidity at 50-55% for both chicken and duck eggs. They stay this way for the first 18 days for chicks and 25 days for ducks. Day 7-10 is a good time to candle your eggs and see if there is growth inside them. A strong flashlight will work if your incubator doesn’t have a candler built in. Look for signs of blood vessels. If you can see them there is a live embryo inside. By day 18 days the embryo takes up most of the egg and it looks very dark inside the egg. Sometimes you can see movement inside the egg.

Three days before hatching add more water to raise the humidity to 65-70%. At this point your eggs are in lockdown. Do not open the lid until they’ve hatched!

Now is the time to start watching for pips or little cracks or holes in the egg. It is so exciting to see the first pips and to watch them hatch!

Hopefully this helps with your egg incubation. Feel free to ask any questions I may not have answered. Happy hatching!

We have chicks, now what?

So you’ve been given or bought some chicks, or as in the case of my teacher friends you’ve hatched them in your room with the help of a knowledgeable person. That would be me, by the way. 😊 So now what? We have these tiny beings running around. How do we take care of them?
First, I know you want to hold them but don’t be in a rush to take them out of the incubator. They are warm and safe there and still being fed from the yolk of the egg. A newly hatched chick can survive 3 days without feed or water. The yolk of the egg is drawn through the navel into the stomach of the baby bird before it hatches. This provides nourishment for the chick from the time the bird hatches, fluffs out, and gains enough strength to look for its food and water. So no need to rush them out of the incubator!

All snugly in the incubator
All snugly in the incubator

Once it is time to take them out they need to be in a draft free space with about 6″ of room per chick, less if you have smaller breeds. When they are bigger they will need about 3 sq.ft. each. We use a large brooder to house our babies until they are ready to go outside, but it is not necessary for a small backyard chicken owner to go to that expense. Before we had the brooder we used a metal tub. A sturdy box will also work. Make sure to put a couple of inches of pine shavings in the bottom. The shavings will need to be cleaned out and replaced from time to time when soiled. The good thing about the brooder is that it has a thermostat built-in. A heat lamp of some sort needs to be used to keep the chicks warm until they are fully feathered, approximately 6 weeks. For the first week the temperature should be set at 90-95. Each week the temperature needs to be lowered by 5 degrees until they are fully feathered and ready to removed from the heat and put in the coop. There have been reports of mishaps with heat lamps. Thankfully we have never had anything go wrong. Our brooder is completely safe, but if I had to rely on a heat lamp I would recommend checking into the Prima heat lamp by Premier or a small brooder with a safe heat source like the Brinsea EcoGlo 20. Both of these options are much safer than traditional heat lamps. After a few weeks if the weather is nice and warm the chicks can be taken outside briefly for some yard play time. They love to scratch and peck!

Our current set up in the classroom. Looking for a better lamp.

Classroom set up before we got the safer lamp.

Inside our brooder
Inside our brooder

Fresh food and water needs to be available and checked regularly. Chicks don’t like dirty water and it harbors bacteria. They may more interested in water than food the first day or so. When taking them out of the incubator for the first time dip their beaks in the water dish so they will know where and what it is. Be sure to add a chick electrolyte solution such as gro gel or quick chick to their water for the first few weeks. Organic ACV (apple cider vinegar)in the water, 1 Tbsp per gallon, is also helpful in a large variety of ways.
Chick food should be of good quality and balanced with vitamins and minerals. We use both Purina and Nutrena brands. Chicks need to stay on a starter/ grower blend until about 18 weeks or until they lay their first egg. Some brands have a separate starter feed that is followed by a grower. Defer to instructions on the bags. Treats are okay as well after a couple of weeks, but the majority of their feed should be their starter grower. If they are allowed to forage or are fed whole grains they will also need access to chick grit which will help them digest and grind their food. When they begin to lay their food should be switched over to a layer feed and they should be given supplemental calcium such as egg shells.

During the first couple weeks chicks will also need to be watched for signs of “pasty butt” Droppings can stick to the vent and clog the area. Using a warm cloth with water and or ACV and washing gently will help. Vaseline is also helpful to clean little bottoms. Using organic ACV in their drinking water will help avoid “pasty butt”.
Chicks also like to perch so after the first week or so we make them a little perch for their box or brooder.

Little perch made from tree limbs
Little perch made from tree limbs

Raising chicks is fun and entertaining. They are sweet little things to watch but they are also dependent on your care. Watching out for their daily needs and protection can be time-consuming but once you fall in love with that first chick, it’s worth it!

Love at first sight!
Love at first sight!