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A Chicken and Her Cankles

 Just like gardening, where you mostly learn as you grow, chicken keeping is proving to have the same learning curve.  Polly the Barred Rock in particular, has kept us on our toes this week.

At first, we thought she might be a ‘he’, since her legs and feet began to look much thicker than her sisters.  It’s not entirely uncommon to discover your hen is a rooster if her comb changes color or the legs thicken up (or she starts to crow).  Given that we bought female pullets (teenagers), we had to rule this out.


So what’s with the cankles?

Polly’s feet kept looking swollen, and I started investigating. Thank God for the internet!  Possible diagnoses included Bumblefoot, which is what it looked like, but she didn’t have anything imbedded in her foot – a tell-tale sign of Bumblefoot.  Next we thought it could be scaly mites – which attack the feet and nest under the scales, causing the foot to swell.

We implemented a technique intended to smother the scaly mites: dipping the feet in cheap cooking oil (not heated, of course), but nothing changed.  Two days before our home was to appear on the Mar Vista Green Garden Showcase, featuring the chickens, I took Polly to the vet.

The diagnosis?

A strange manifestation of a Bumblefoot-type infection.  Strange because there was no sign of puncture on her feet.   Possibly a systemic joint infection.  Needless to say, home remedy was not the way to go here.   Enter antibiotics and pain meds.

The vet lanced her feet, drained the infection, cleaned everything up and bandaged her. We were given instructions to house her separately, on a soft surface, without access to dirt for 4-6 weeks.  Oh, and give her these horse-pills and liquid pain relievers orally twice per day.

Polly’s new home. Special thanks to Jeanne Kuntz and Sara Stein for lending us the
dog kennel and play pen.  We covered the kennel with a tarp = instant coop, and covered the
kennel with bird netting to keep her safe.  The blanket will be tossed when all this is over.

What else?

The morning of the garden tour we took her back to the vet, where they removed her bandages and gave us further instruction to begin daily foot soaks in Betadine twice per day.  Amazingly, Polly likes those.  She stands in the warm water and coos.

What have we learned?

It’s important to keep the coop and run clean, regularly.   While we were cleaning out droppings from the coop every morning, we had become lazy about spreading diatomaceous earth around (to prevent mites, insects, and parasites) and giving the coop and run a thorough cleaning every couple of weeks.  That laziness has cost us about $650.  Oy!  Expensive lesson.

Polly enjoys feeding  from Italian ceramic.  

The upside of this, if there is one, is that we’ve been able to bond with Polly a little bit more. She is now used to being held and stroked.  As she heals, we look forward to returning her to her friends and getting back to normal around here.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Leslie

    But, but, but…. Polly gets to wear such cute legwarmers! Glad to hear that she’s getting better – and thanks for sharing. I’ve been thinking about getting my own little flock of egg-laying sweeties, so any information about how to keep the ladies happy and healthy is welcome.

    1. Sharon

      Leslie, Just DO IT!! You won’t be sorry .. I got a “flock” from my cousin about January or Feb this year and I enjoy them soooooo much!!
      From the back porch in a small coop — to the outside coop their all now in!!
      Heating them with a lamp .. watching them grow, searching the internet to learn what to feed them, whats good for them and what’s not .. It’s like raising my kids all over again only there was no internet back then and the kids didn’t come with instructions!!!
      I was so thrilled with the chickens I thought my next big step should be “GOATS” Yes, I said Goats .. Now mind you we live in the suburbs but are allowed to have a full fledged farm if we wish, but we are containing it to “Back Yard Farming” lol .. BUT here’s what I learned, that goats can be very pushy, they try and butt my chickens, (AND me) Not to hurt you but the Mama wanted to sit in my lap .. since I’m in a wheelchair she thought it would be FUN .. While the baby goat (her kid) thought it would be more entertaining to eat my cloths and the leather off my wheelchair! On the internet I learned IF my goats ate the chicken feed (which they LOVE) it can kill them, so when I let the chickens out every morning I had to lock them from their coop .. leaving them no shelter from rain and the elements. Many thanks to the lady that I got them from who said, IF you decide you don’t want to keep them please let me have them back.
      They have gone back to their homestead and it’s been reported they are really happy to be back home, but the previous owner reported, “Honey” the mama goat keeps wanting to sit on me!! I smile and giggle b/c I KNOW how heavy Honey is!!
      My chickens are MUCH happier and so am I!!!

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