Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Chickens: Bumble Foot

We lost 4 chickens to Bumble Foot this past week. These were the remaining 4 chickens, over 2 years old, from our very first brood. They were leghorns that gave many extra large to jumbo eggs at least every other day, but usually daily.

Bumble Foot is basically a staph infection of the foot in chickens. It is caused by the infection of small cuts on the unprotected feet of the not-so-concerned-with-cleanliness, not-so-bright, egg laying machines that we love so much. The cuts are from jumping off the perch by older or overweight birds. Ours fell into the former category.

So naturally I was concerned when large, fluid filled boils started appearing on the feet of the older chickens, right when some of our 30 new chickens became mature enough to start laying. After all, it could be contagious, and that's a big flock to risk. So we separated them immediately, cleaned the pen and the chicken house, and started the entire flock- sick or not- on an oral antibiotic.

When the sick chickens did not improve in a few days, Mr. Farmer decided it was time to intervene. Like any boil, the procedure is the same: Lance, Clean, Medicate, and Bandage. During that intervention, I discovered that maybe I'm not as "Little House on the Prairie" as I'd like to think I am.

We put  the first chicken head first into a burlap sand bag, so that just her feet were showing. She was calm and agreeable throughout the procedure, for which I was grateful. Unfortunately, the smell of the thick, white pus, combined with the fact that it was actually semi-solid and almost stringy, made me dizzy, and I had to sit down. After a moment of recovering, Mr. Farmer was able to go back to opening the boils with a scalpel. It was no small task when you consider the callus on a 2 year old chicken's feet. We had to repeat the process 3 or 4 times per chicken, so we stopped after the second one out of exhaustion. Mr. Farmer had to stop after each boil to wipe sweat away, as it was hot out and he had to bend over to reach the chicken in my lap as I sat with her. He tied gauze to the cleaned and medicated wounds, and put them back in the quarantine pen.

The chickens did not peck at their dressings or each other, but they did not improve either. Based on that, we decided it was time to dispatch them for the sake of the rest of the flock. Retiring them was not really an option either, since the infection would have undoubtedly spread to their blood and killed them slowly and painfully anyway.

So ends the first (and VERY successful) run of egg producers in my back yard. The second string has stepped up to the plate and is laying in full force now. The eggs are smaller, but they should get bigger as the birds mature.

"Dirty Butt" and Her Sisters

The New Brood - 2 Days Old - May 2010

The New Brood - Almost Ready to Lay - July 2010