It's Always Something...
Sometimes it feels as if there is always something to deal with, and a curveball gets thrown. A few weeks ago, I noticed that one of my laying hen’s feet was slightly swollen. Eric thought perhaps it was due to the cold. I didn’t give it a lot of thought because her feet appeared normal in color, they didn’t feel hot, and they didn’t seem to be bothering her. Have you ever had that terrible feeling when you know you’ve dropped the ball, and the undesirable outcome is entirely one hundred percent of your fault? That is how I feel about my hen and her feet.
Late last week, I noticed one of my hens was spending a lot of time in the coop, just resting with her feet under her. I thought it was odd because all the other chickens were outside. That evening, when I went to check on them and close them in for the night, I noticed her feet were almost double in size. Her feet looked painful. I immediately went to the computer and Googled “chicken with swollen feet.” The first article to appear was about an issue called bumblefoot.
Up to this point, I had not heard of bumblefoot. I read up on the issue and learned that bumblefoot develops when a chicken has a cut, scrape, or splinter in its foot and becomes infected. If left untreated, the infection can go up to their leg and into their bones. It is a painful and debilitating condition. The treatment seemed relatively straightforward. One is to soak the infected feet in an Epsom salt bath, clean the feet, and remove anything that may be puncturing the foot. However, if the infection is left to fester, one must pierce and remove any infection and dead tissue. It is also recommended that a five to seven-day course of injectable antibiotics be administered twice a day. Sigh.
I believe my chicken’s infected feet fall into the latter category when compared to the pictures. Not only are her little feet swollen, but her legs are also swollen. I asked The Bean if she would assist me with “the surgery.” I sanitized a table, laid out all my instruments and medication, had sterile gauze and tape, along with rubbing alcohol, peroxide, and triple antibiotic ointment. The Bean and I washed our hands, donned our sterile rubber gloves, and began the process of removing all the infection.
Removing all the pus from the abscess was an ugly process. Infection poured out of both of her feet. Although I still have not regained my sense of smell, The Bean assured me it smelled as disgusting as it looked. Once I felt confident I had removed as much of the infection as possible, we cleaned the wounds with peroxide, flushed the wounds with saline, applied antibiotic ointment, and covered her feet with sterile gauze and tape.
I could not in good conscience take her back out to a dirty chicken coop, so we filled a large box with shredded paper, placed her in the box for the night, and covered the box with a blanket to block the light and hold in warmth. She seemed quite comfortable in her new sleeping arrangements and slept quietly throughout the night.
In the morning, I flushed her wounds again, reapplied Blukot, a wound spray, rewrapped her feet, and placed her in a small private mini-coop for the day. She could move about and eat and drink freely, but we didn’t have to worry about the other hens pecking at her or her feet. Chickens are cruel and persistent creatures. If a chicken detects weakness, illness, or blood, it will peck the poorly afflicted flock member to death. In my humble opinion, this would be a terrible way to die. I chose to err on the side of caution and segregate her from the flock until her wounds heal.
For the past five days, I have given my hen a shot of antibiotics twice a day, soaked her feet in a warm Epsom salt bath, flushed her wounds, and treated her with an oral vitamin B and K solution. She is a calm and willing patient. I am impressed that she is so tolerant of her treatment. I am pleased that the swelling in her legs is completely gone. The swelling in her feet has gone down considerably. I am going to do two more days of antibiotics and then continue to treat her feet as needed. I think she may continue her isolation for another week just to be safe.
I feel terrible that her infection reached such an acute level. I hate to see any creature suffer, but it is worse when I know I am responsible for the suffering. Sigh. I am chalking this up to a learning experience. In my experience with chickens, I have never before seen or heard of bumblefoot. At the expense of my poor little hen, I now know what to look for and how to treat it.
As always, dear reader, stay safe, be smart, don’t ignore a problem, and keep washing your hands.