Splay Legs

Fitted with a hobble made of insulating tape

After my disastrous hatch of grey partridge at the weekend, I was fairly irritated by the fact the most promising survivor developed a dramatic case of splay-leg and quite rapidly became totally unable to move around the brooder. As I thinned out the stragglers and realised that I was only going to be left with two viable chicks, it became apparent that if I didn’t fix the problem, I might as well just wipe the slate clean and start again with another batch of eggs.

Looking through some old poultry keeper’s guides from between the wars, I hit on a technique which seemed somewhat improbable, but which promised to fix and restore the effects of splayed legs. By taping the ankles together and giving chicks something rough to walk on for extra grip, the old text explained that serious splay leg can be completely fixed in just a few hours. To be honest, I looked down at the sprawling chick and decided that I was so sick of things going wrong that I was prepared to try anything.

It’s not easy to tape a wriggling chick’s legs together, and I immediately felt bad for the poor little blighter as I put him down and he fell straight over onto his breast with his legs stretched out behind him. I decided to give him a couple of hours and if there was no improvement, he would go the way of his siblings. When I came back, I was surprised to find that I couldn’t see him amongst the swirl of day old quail which had been put in with the partridges. When I had found both partridge chicks, I couldn’t see which one had the splay legs. It was only when I picked them up that I saw the tape holding the legs together, and it was amazing to see how quickly the chick had adapted to the makeshift hobble.

Over the next few hours, he learned to move about quite freely, and I was pleased to see him feeding and drinking with all the other chicks. I hope to be able to take the tape off him tomorrow and set him back to the arduous task of growing up, and it was a good perk to an otherwise gloomy first encounter with grey partridges.

I daresay most people would have euthanased two grey partridge chicks after a duff hatch and I understand their logic, but I honestly believe that these two little blighters are made of sufficiently tough stuff to make it through. I’m not trying to make money out of these birds, and even though they are now sharing their brooder lamp with quail, I would still have footed the electricity bill for bringing them to adulthood alone. I know it’s early days and all sorts of things could still go wrong for them, but the case of the hobbled partridge carries something of the flavour of the old GWCT expression “every one counts”.


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