The information below is only our experience. We are not veterinary surgeons so please bear this in mind and seek help from a vet if you are at all worried.

Crooked Toes

A problem often associated with pheasants is crooked toes. When this is severe not only does it look bad but it can mean a bird will have difficulty perching and in extreme cases even walking. It is also likely to cause arthritis and affected cocks will be unable to mount females sufficiently for successful fertilization of eggs.

Newly hatched:

Occasionally we have had chicks hatch with crooked toes. We have heard a few explanations of the reasons why this should happen but we have only ever experienced crooked toes (at this stage) with chicks which have hatched late. When all chicks hatch their toes are curled but normally, very quickly, as the chick starts to move about they sort themselves. If they do not show signs of improving, within around 12 hours - 24 hours, we give them plaster shoes. We just cut a small piece of the sticky part of a plaster and wrap it round the chicks foot being careful to straighten out the toes and keep them spread apart so that they "set" in the correct position. If you can manage to fold the edge of the plaster just enough so you can unwrap it again it helps a lot when it comes to taking it back off the chick's foot. The chick will not be very pleased at first but will very quickly become accustomed to these funny feet. Other chicks will sometimes find the plasters fascinating and have a peck at them. Just keep a close eye on them. With our own chicks this has not caused a serious problem. All the chicks get used to the plastered toes quickly and lose interest. We do not have our chicks heavily stocked and have other morsels for them to find among the shavings which may help to distract them. If you can use plenty of shavings (or other litter) in the brooder this might help to hide the strange toes as well. It usually only takes a couple of days to sort any problems but you can always put a new plaster back on if the toes are not completely sorted first time. It is best to check the toes regularly (every day or two until the toes are sorted) in case they have not stayed stuck, in the correct position within the plaster, as the older the chick becomes the less chance there is of being able to sort the problem.

After a few weeks:

Sometimes a few weeks after hatching a chick will start to develop crooked toes. This rarely happens if the chicks are parent reared or Banty hens have been used for rearing. If the chicks are under a hen they will put more pressure on their feet as they push up thereby exercising the toes and minimising the risk of them twisting. Curled toes are usually a consequence of the chicks toes not being exercised in the correct manner. If the young birds have a variety of surfaces to walk on and perches available to them for roosting the risk is greatly reduced. Chicks resting with their feet on flat ground have more problems as their toes can start to curl to the side when ideally they should be curled under a perch. An outdoor grassy area for the chicks will certainly benefit their toes as it gives them a good variable surface which the toes can grip.

There is some evidence to suggest that curled toes at this later stage may, at times, be due to inbreeding. This is another important reason therefore to search for unrelated birds when intending to use them for breeding. Nutrient deficiency has also been suggested as a cause which, in our own limited experience, I can't be sure of but if using a proprietary game feed (for the correct stage of pheasant rearing) I think other causes are more likely. If you are experiencing crooked toes with a number of different species or bloodlines, with access to a variety of surfaces to walk and perch on, diet may be worth considering as the source of the problem.

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