Treating Bumblefoot in Chickens

bumblefoot

Bumblefoot, in poultry, is something that occurs more frequently in moist warm conditions. Just the kind of weather we experience on the East coast most of the summer.

Think about it this way. Your hands are never fully dried and your skin gets soft and somewhat fragile. The skin on your hands is soft and you are working around rough items in the yard. The next thing you know, you get a splinter! But you can’t pick it out of your hand…. because you are a chicken! You don’t have tweezers or thumbs so the splinter just sort of festers and works its way into your soft skin.

Dirt and germs go along with  the splinter and the next thing you know the germs have taken over. An infection has brewed inside your skin but the spot where the splinter went in, has healed over. Now what?

Bumblefoot- How it happens….

treating bumblefoot

That, of course was  an analogy of how bumblefoot can occur. The chicken is walking around in muddy wet conditions. The skin on the bottom of the foot is softened. The chicken jumps off the roost, or scratches in the dirt and ouch! Something sharp penetrates the skin on the bottom of the foot.

Another way a chicken’s foot is susceptible to a bumble foot in chickens infection is the type of roost. If the roost is rough or extremely narrow such as the top of a metal fence, the way the chicken has to grip the roost can lead to bumble foot. Roosts should maintain the foot in a relaxed  gripping position, where the resting chicken’s body covers the entire foot.

Now that we know some of the factors behind a chicken getting a bumblefoot infection, what do you do?

When I took care of the first bumblefoot infection in our flock, I read as much as I could. Most of the information available at the time, recommended a type of surgical procedure using a scalpel to cut into the foot and remove the core of infection. Many in the chicken community still recommend this approach and avian veterinarians if you can find one,  will use this approach.

treating bumblefoot
A foot soak in Betadine solution and vetrycin spray to clean the feet and disinfect

Other chicken websites and chicken caretakers began to treat the infection with out using invasive techniques involving surgery and were having good results. As we often do, I took what I thought were the best parts of each method and have a method that works and that I am comfortable using. Fortunately, bumblefoot infections in my flock are not all that frequent. But I have had success using either method. The non-surgical approach is much easier for most people to stomach though, so I will describe that here.

What to Look For

The first clue that something is wrong may come from observing your chicken’s behavior. Often the chicken will be hesitant to walk on the affected leg and foot. It may hold the foot up off the ground or stay hunkered down on the ground. Upon lifting the chicken up and looking at the bottom of the foot, this may be what you see. An obvious sore or abscess that has formed on the bottom  of the foot. 

Bumblefoot is a Staph Infection.

 When working with a bumble foot infection it is a good idea to wear disposable exam gloves.

First you should gather up your supplies for treating the infection.

preparing supplies for treating chicken wound
I cut the strips of vet wrap and hang them near by so I can grab the next strip quickly.

Here’s what I use:

  • Saline solution to rinse and clean
  • Veterycin wound and infection spray
  • Triple antibiotic ointment (make sure it is the kind with NO pain reliever added)
  • Gauze pads, 2 inch by 2 inch
  • Cohesive bandage cut in long strips
  • Electric Tape
  • Scalpel in case you need it.
  • Tweezers

Find a Quiet Place to Work on the Chicken

Next, you will gather up the chicken and take her somewhere calm to work on her. I usually include snacks of meal worms or some other tasty morsel to sweeten the deal.

A quick tip- When working on a chicken, tipping them upside down and tucking the head and wings under your arm can give you a good angle for working on the feet and seems to calm the bird down.

Look at both feet. Hopefully there is only one foot infected with bumblefoot,  but sometimes both feet will be affected.

Cleanliness!

I like to clean up the foot and start with a clean area. I stood my hen in a mixture of Betadine and Vetrycin wound spray. After the foot bath, I dried her feet and tucked her under my arm to control the wings while I worked on the foot. In this case the infection had abscessed already so I was also dealing with an open wound. I cleaned it out as best I could, not really using the scalpel to cut into the foot but just to clean away the debris and any scab. Tweezers might also be helpful at this point.

bumblefoot

Next I soaked a gauze pad with Vetrycin spray and held it on the bumblefoot wound. I wanted the solution to soak in. I prepared another gauze pad to get it ready for bandaging. 

While holding the clean gauze pad with Vetrycin and triple antibiotic ointment on the wound, grab one strip of vet wrap. Hold the end of the vet wrap strip around the shank on  the lower leg. Bring the vet wrap down and between two toes and back over the top of the foot. Continue wrapping in a figure 8 style through the toes and around the foot ending back up on the shank. I often use two or three strips of vet wrap on each foot.

Bumblefoot

When the wrapping is completed, grab the strip of electrical tape and again, starting on the shank do a wrap that will hold the vet wrap bandage in place, ending up on top or on the shank. The electrical tape will hold the bandage job in place and resist moisture that might allow the bandage to unwrap and fall off. 

wrapping an injured chicken foot

Observe the Chicken for a Few Minutes

Slowly allow the chicken to return upright and set her on the ground. She will inspect the bandage job but should be able to walk normally and scratch at the ground. The bandage will keep most of the dirt from reaching the bumblefoot wound site. 

treating bumblefoot

The bandage should be changed every day and a cleaning done on the bumblefoot wound. Reapply a fresh bandage. After a week you should notice a difference in the appearance of the bumble. It should start to look less inflamed, less swollen and sore  and look like it is healing. Usually, in the cases I have treated, the wound is well on the way to being completely gone within a month’s time. Good routine care is the key, along with observing that the problem is starting to go away and not get worse. If you start to see signs of infection returning, feel heat in the foot and leg and notice the chicken not acting well, you should seek veterinary assistance.

bumblefoot
healing up nicely. notice that the inflammation is gone and the wound is nearly gone

Disclaimer Statement

I am not a vet and any suggestions, or procedures are given just as a farming method of dealing with an infection. Therefor, No guaranteed results  are given or implied  If you don’t feel comfortable treating your own chickens, then you should seek out a mentor or a veterinarian. But, my advice would be to try to learn from the mentor so you can be more confident when an illness or injury occurs in your flock.

Other than an early molt happening, Ms. Featherfoot is healing up nicely!

treating bumblefoot




Foot Injuries in Chickens -Methods That Help Heal

foot injuries in chickens

Properly treating foot injuries in chickens is very important. Cleaning wounds and a bumble foot treatment plan should be started promptly. The chicken may not eat or drink enough if it has a foot injury. This will weaken the bird and could lead to infection and death

A good habit to get into is looking at each one of your animals every day. Learning on the homestead never stops. Every day there is a new issue to resolve or roadblock to scale. Knowing all of your animals, and what is normal behavior for each one, is important and can make a difference in their health or even survival. Keeping a good first aid kit helps you start a bumble foot treatment or clean an injury promptly.

foot injuries in chickens
Chickens are always on the move and need healthy, pain free feet to take them places.

Weird things can happen on a farm, especially when you throw animals into the mix. You may think your fences are pig tight, horse high, and bull strong, you may think that you have built the most secure pen or made the enclosed area extremely safe, but there is always that animal who manages to thwart your best efforts at keeping them safe and secure.

foot injuries in chickens

Most of the animal keepers I know just seem to have a sense of when things just aren’t right. For me, without even consciously thinking about it, I take a head count so to speak. I know my animals habits, behaviors, who hangs out with who, that sort of thing. And here is another example of why this is an important habit to get into.

Finding Foot Injuries in Chickens 

foot injuries in chickens

One evening, I noticed that Mr.Tweet was not walking normally. I went to pick him up and instead of trying to run away he just waited for me to lift him up. Animals know when they need help. This is what I found.

foot injuries in chickens

At first glance I was not sure if it was a wire or thread, but it turned out to be a long shredded piece of plastic from one of the shade covers over the run. It had probably only been on Mr.Tweet’s feet for that day. He had been acting normally the night before and had no signs of being picked on by the flock. But, in that short time, he had managed to wrap the thread of plastic very tightly around his feet and individual toes. This was going to take a few minutes to untangle.

Mr. Tweet and I left the coop area to get some help and to find some scissors.

Not As Bad As Expected

We soon had Mr. Tweet’s feet free from the tangled mess. The plastic had tightened so much in some areas that it was hard to get the scissors in to make a cut.

There was some mild swelling on some parts of his feet but nothing serious. I sprayed his feet with Vetrycin Wound Spray just to be safe. Having a good general purpose antiseptic spray on hand is the first step in treating foot injuries in chickens, or any wound for that matter. I am keeping a closer eye on his feet for now to make sure an abscess is not forming from the tight bands of plastic. I had a feeling he was a little hungry and thirsty since he was not able to run around freely as usual. So I gave him some time with just a few of the hens and some fresh food and water to enjoy without any of the alpha personalities being present.

Soon, he was enjoying the freedom of movement and was acting normally. He seemed ready to head in for the night so we put everyone to bed. In the morning, there were no further issues from the foot entanglement. We are keeping a close eye on his feet to make sure any small cut we may have missed, does not become infected.

DSC_0019

Other Foot Injuries in Chickens 

Bumble foot

Bumble foot is a staph infection of the foot. One of the first signs of this will be the chicken not willing to put it’s foot down or put pressure on the foot while walking. It may walk around a lot less or be hopping around on one leg. Mine often become depressed and just sit in one spot, in the cases I have had to treat. Bumble foot treatment is a specialized treatment plan and requires a good antiseptic wash, and antibiotic cream and lots of gauze and vet wrap to keep it clean.

Educate First

I suggest you find a few videos or articles on Bumble foot treatment before starting treatment. I have described our treatment plan in this article. Everyone has a slightly different method of removing the infection. The end result should be a removal of the abscess causing the pain, and a well healed chicken foot.

bumble foot treatment
a picture of a bumble foot abscess that is doing well healing.

(it’s hard to get a good picture of a bumble foot treatment when you are also holding the chicken!)

Splay Leg in Chicks

Splay leg or spraddle leg in chicks can often be repaired. There are a lot of videos on the internet with directions to make splints, and bandages to secure the legs while the hip joints grow. I liked this out of the box idea from The 104 Homestead using a drinking glass.

Another hatching issue causing foot injuries in chickens is crooked or bent toes at hatching. Forming a small support from a pipe cleaner and securing it to the chick’s foot is often suggested. Both Splay Leg and crooked toes can often be fixed and the chick will grow normally.

Scaly Leg Mites

The tiny mite, Cnemidocoptes Mutans, is the cause behind scaly leg mite. You will first notice that the scales on your birds feet look raised. This escalates until the foot and leg are covered in raised scales and white dusty patches. The mite harbors in the damp chicken litter or bedding and burrows into the wood of the roost bars, waiting for a nice soft chicken foot to happen by.

scaly leg mite

Treatment involves soaking the feet and legs, loosening the scales with a soft brush, and coating the legs and feet in coconut oil or olive oil a few times a week for four weeks. Dust bathes with added wood ash help eliminate scaley leg mites too. You can read more about treating scaly leg mites in this post.

Broken Toes and Toenail Injuries

Broken toes may need to be splinted. A pipe cleaner, vet wrap and electric tape may be all you need in this case. Watch for pieces of exposed chicken wire where your chicken may get it’s toe trapped and need to struggle to be free. Also, if your chickens are very friendly and used to being underfoot while you feed and clean, you could accidentally step on a foot and break a bone.

healthy chicken foot and leg
healthy chicken foot and leg

Cuts and other open wounds can potentially lead to serious infections. Clean the wound with sterile saline, apply a wound dressing and antibiotic ointment. Keep a close eye on it. If it is getting worse instead of better, then a Veterinarian may need to be called for a stronger antibiotic. Keeping the wound clean and dry will go a long way towards not having to call the vet.

Broken toenails and spurs also can lead to limping and further infection. And bleeding can invite pecking at the wound from the flock, since chickens are attracted to the red blood. We use cornstarch to stop bleeding but there are commercial products such as Wonderdust available also. Once the bleeding has stopped, treat the wound as mentioned above. You may need to isolate the injured bird if the injury is more severe and the bleeding recurs.

foot injuries in chickens

Steps You Can Take When Discovering Foot Injuries in Chickens

  • Prepare the materials and first aid products before you catch the chicken. Removing the chicken from the flock causes stress. Reduce the amount of time you will be working on the bird by being prepared.
  • Have a first aid kit ready!
  • Know your individual flock members. You don’t have to pick up each chicken every day to observe for odd behavior that may be the result of a foot injuries in chickens scenario.
  • Stay calm. Your stress and panic will transfer to your chicken. If others around you are not able to stay calm and quiet, move to a more secluded location.
  • Isolate any cases of foot injuries in chickens if the bird is being bullied, picked on or not able to get to food and water.
  • Clean dressings and wounds daily. Wear disposable gloves to protect yourself as some infections are transmissible to humans.
  • Keep products on hand that help with your bumble foot treatment plan

For more information on preparing a first aid kit for your farm check out this post.




Build a Goat Sleeping Platform

goat sleeping platform

Building a goat sleeping platform was one of the simplest projects we have put together on the farm. The hardest part of the project was nagging  reminding my son to please pick up some pallets for me since he has the large truck with out a cap on it.

Each section of the goat sleeping platform goats, used two pallets. You can make your goat sleeping platform as large as you need to or what your barn space will allow. 

goats on the goat sleeping platform

Raising different species of livestock adds much to our lives. I love thinking up projects that will enrich the lives of our animals and keep them comfortable. It doesn’t have to be a fancy fix to add some comfort to the goats, sheep and pigs lives. They don’t get fancy around here, but they sure are kept comfortable! Lots of dry bedding is one of the care essentials. As I age, I feel aches and pains where there were none before. Animals experience this phenomenon of aging, too. 

Goats require good nutrition, safe, dry housing, and plenty of forage. Mostly, goats are easy keepers, as long as they have their needs met and any problems addressed promptly.

As often as possible, I like to use natural preventative care and natural remedies for my goats. Building these raised goat sleeping platforms fit right in with our preventative goals.

Why Build a Raised Goat Sleeping Platform?

Age is one consideration when thinking about building a goat sleeping platform for goats. Our flock of Pygora fiber goats are getting up in years now. Our first goats, that we purchased in 2004, are considered senior citizens! Goats can get sore joints as they age. Similar to large dogs in size, goats can get stiff, sore joints, and be stiff when they try to get up from resting. Giving goats a raised goat sleeping platform can help by keeping the joints warmer. Add a thick cushion of dry straw to make everything really comfortable.

Foot rot is another reason to build a goat sleeping platform. Anything you can do to keep the goat on dry ground, helps prevent an outbreak of foot scald which, with the right combination of bacteria, can lead to foot rot. Once foot rot is present in your barn or paddocks it will remain there. It waits for the right opportunity to flare up from a tiny sore area in between the goat hoof “toes”.

pygora goats

A third reason to build a goat sleeping platform is because goats like to climb! They will enjoy being up even a few inches off the ground. As long as the platforms you build are sturdy and stable, the goats will use this structure. 

Fiber goats will have a nicer fleece harvest, if the goat remains clean and dry throughout the winter. Sleeping off the damp ground helps keep the fiber in top shape.

In Case Of Emergency….

If your barn happens to get a minor flood from a heavy storm, having a platform already built, gives the goats somewhere to stand while they wait for you to “rescue” them. This happened to us one winter. We arrived to find the goats fighting for places that were anywhere above the few inches of water that had invaded the stalls. Building a few swales helped redirect the rain waters but the goats were very unhappy about the situation!

goat sleeping platform

What We Used for the Goat Sleeping Platforms

Two pallets per section. – I made a double platform for the stall with six goats. They can’t all sleep on it, comfortably but it keeps most of them off the ground. As we reconfigure the barn, arrangements will be made to have sleeping platform space for all the goats. 

Stack two pallets. Add pallet stacks as needed. Two sections of stacked pallets will require one sheet of plywood to cover the open slats. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet structure with the sheet of plywood. Use a nail or two in each end to keep it stable. 

goat sleeping platform

Cover the pallet goat sleeping platform with straw. The space underneath the platform will trap warmer air. Also cover the stall floor with a good layer of dry bedding and straw. Replace wet areas as needed to keep the flooring dry.

Let me know in the comments if you try this with your goats or have found another method. I would love to hear your feedback. 

goat sleeping platform

Look for this project and over 50 others in my next book- 50 Do It Yourself Projects for Keeping Goats (Skyhorse Publishing 2020)




Quiet Chickens – What Breeds to Choose in the Suburbs

quiet chickens  what breeds to choose in the suburbs

Quiet Chickens – Is that an option?

Are there quiet chickens that won’t disturb the neighbors? Many suburban and city neighborhoods have voted to allow residents to keep a few chickens in the backyard. This recent question was posed to me by a resident trying to get her town to allow chicken keeping. Generally speaking, I don’t find chickens noisy. Yes, roosters will crow, but most urban cities and suburban towns prohibit roosters, so that is not the concern. Hens will be more quiet than most dogs, as they go about their daily scratching and pecking.

The hen who is about to lay an egg or who has just accomplished her daily work, will cackle loudly. The hen is announcing her good deed for all to hear. But it isn’t as loud as a rooster and the cackle ends quickly. Other than that and an occasional tiff between two wannabe alpha hens, noise should not be a prohibiting factor. 

Which Breeds are the Quiet Chickens?

speckled sussex hen
Speckled Sussex

Even among hens, some breeds tend to be more settled and less flighty than other chicken breeds. When looking for quiet chickens the first breed often named is the Buff Orpington. Buff Orpingtons rate high on many of the factors people are looking for in backyard poultry. They are quiet, docile, friendly and fluffy birds. Orpingtons seek out their human caregivers by asking to be picked up with a submissive squat. They rarely become the mean girl in the bunch, and spend their days happily doing chicken stuff.

quiet hens

Other breeds often mentioned when seeking quiet chickens for the urban setting are Australorps, Wyandottes, Brahmas, Cochins, Barred Rock, Mottled Java (a breed currently on the Livestock Conservancy listing as in danger) Ameraucanas, and Rhode Island Red.

My personal favorite docile, quiet chickens have been the Orpingtons, Speckled Sussex, Brahmas and Wyandottes.

When receiving input on this topic from other chicken owners, quite a few stated that their Easter Egger hens were the loudest ones they owned.

What is Normal Behavior Even for Quiet Chickens

assorted chicken breeds
Left Silver Laced Wyandotte, light Brahma behind her, Middle Buff Orpington with Australorp behind her. Right, Rhode Island Red

In a flock without a rooster, it is common for one of the hens to assume the leadership of the flock. She will call the other chickens when treats are being given, or when danger is lurking. While not as loud and disturbing as a rooster crowing, the caution clucking is louder than normal activity clucking. This can be a warning to the chicken owner, as well, that something is wrong in the yard.

quiet chickens

What Can You do To Keep Chickens Quiet?

Are there chicken keeping tricks that help keep the flock peaceful and quiet? Consider these ideas when planning your flock.

  • Partially covered run for shade and protection. If the chickens feel safe from aerial predators they won’t carry on as long with loud cackling. The shade protects them from hot summer days, giving them a place to rest with less risk of heat stroke.
  • Chicken toys. If you have an adventurous flock, perhaps a home made chicken swing will add to their entertainment. Or try hanging a cabbage on a string for their pecking amusement.
  • Dust bathing chickens seem very content. Give the flock an area that has a mixture of sand, wood ash, DE powder, and dry dirt. Toss in a few dried grubs to get the party started. After a snack and a good dusting, your chickens will feel like they spent the day at the spa. Totally zen!
  • Make sure the flock has the necessities of clean fresh water, chicken feed, and a place to shelter if the weather is bad, or uninvited predators arrive.

Talk to Chicken Keeping Friends

Talking chicken breeds with other chicken keepers is a great way to narrow down the quieter breeds for your flock. Another good resource for new or aspiring chicken owner is the local farm store where you might choose to purchase chicks. The staff or owner should be knowledgeable about which breeds would be a good choice for you.

If you order from a mail order hatchery, I have found the staff and personnel to be very helpful and informative, too. Ask questions and prepare before you bring home the chicks. Have the brooder and the accessories set up before hand. This starts all new chicken owners off on the right foot.

If you’re looking for more opinions on which breeds of chickens will keep your peace loving neighbors happy, look to the comments. Originally written in 2015 and many readers have weighed in on their favorite breeds for quiet chickens.

quiet chickens

(This post may contain affiliate links which won’t change your price but will share some commission.)




Managing and Composting Chicken Manure

composting chicken manure

Composting chicken manure is a side benefit of raising chickens. This beneficial by-product must be managed before it can be used as a garden amendment. Chickens provide us with hours of companionship, fresh eggs, and……manure! Lots of manure. Approximately one cubic foot of manure is produced by each chicken in approximately six months. Multiply that by the six chickens in an average back yard flock and you have a mountain of manure every year!

If you live on a farm, that may not  be a problem, but in a backyard and in a neighborhood, there has to be a plan to take care of the chicken manure. How can you turn your pile of chicken manure into something  beneficial like the delicious eggs your hens are producing? With a little extra effort the manure can be turned into rich compost for your garden and maybe you will have enough to share with the neighbors, too. 

Cautions when Composting Chicken Manure 

Most chicken owners know that fresh chicken manure can contain Salmonella or E.Coli bacteria. In addition, the fresh manure contains too much ammonia to use as a fertilizer and the odor makes it unpleasant to be around. But, when properly composted, chicken manure is an excellent soil amendment. Compost does not have the unpleasant odor. Chicken manure compost adds organic matter back into the soil and contributes nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium to the soil. 

managing and composting chicken manure

Two Reasons to Compost the Chicken Manure

  1. 1. Adding the manure directly to the garden can spread pathogenic organisms to the soil which can be picked up by low growing leafy greens and fruit. 
  2. 2. Fresh  manure will burn the plants roots and leaves because it is too strong or “hot” unless it is composted. 

How to Compost Chicken Manure

The waste you scrape out of the coop, including all of the shavings, sawdust, straw and hay can be added to the compost bin with the fresh manure. Compost components are usually labeled either brown or green. The bedding materials, along with any additional yard plant debris, leaves,  small sticks, and paper would be your brown parts. The manure, and kitchen scraps would be the green parts. When composting chicken manure, a recommended level of 2 parts brown to one part green is recommended because of the high nitrogen content in the manure. Place all the materials in the compost bin or composter. (One cubic yard is recommended as the size of the bin). 

composting chicken manure

Continue to Turn the Compost Pile

Mix and regularly stir and turn the composting material. Occasionally check the inner core temperature of the material. A temperature of 130 degrees F or up to 150 degrees is recommended in order to allow the soil bacteria to break down the pathogenic bacteria from the manure. Turning and stirring the pile allows air to enter and the good bacteria need some fresh air to continue working. After approximately one year, you should have some very rich, valuable compost suitable for your garden. All of the E.Coli and Salmonella should have been destroyed by the heat produced during composting. It is still advisable to carefully wash any produce grown in a compost fed garden. 

A Few Safety Precautions

  • Always wear gloves when handling manure.
  • Do not add cat, dog, or pig feces into your compost.
  • Always wash produce thoroughly before eating. Individuals with compromised health should not eat raw food from a manure fed garden.

Containers for Composting Chicken Manure

Composting bins can be made from many different materials. You can, of course, buy a small compost system like this one. (affiliate link)

Do it Yourself style compost systems are easy to put together. Using a few wooden pallets, a series of three bins gives you a system for composting chicken manure.

pallet compost bins

When less space is available, chicken wire can be formed into a bin for containing the coop waste.

chicken manure