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.
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.
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.