Do you remember my story about my meeting Laurie on New Year’s Eve to deal with Ella’s bumblefoot? If you need a reminder: it’s a hard, black circle on the pad of a chicken’s foot caused by a staph infection, which enters through a cut on their foot. If you’re lucky you can get rid of the infection by soaking the foot and applying polysporin. If not, you need to bring out the big guns: scalpels.
A few weeks ago I saw Rena’s FB post asking for advice about her hens’ bumblefoot. I, like others, chimed in with my two cents. She posted again this week saying they’d tried various things to no avail and would someone volunteer to do the surgery on her hens. Having had some experience, and appreciating when a total stranger came to help me, I stepped up to offer my help.
We emailed a bit and I thought she had a couple of hens with the infection. Then I realized not one, not two, but all six of her hens had bumblefoot! I’m a trooper but wasn’t sure I could stomach doing six surgeries, so I offered to do two and see how it went.
I was prepared for a long, drawn out process so I asked if they could have the ‘operating table’ and their hens ready on my arrival. It helps if you soak their feet in warm, Epsom salt water for 20 minutes to clean them and soften up the bumble.
Rena and Darren are living in their RV until they start building their house next spring. That made for some tight quarters but we worked on an assembly line: Darren did the bathing, Rena assisted me, and I did the surgery.
When we got the first patient on the table (actually, their kitchen counter) I asked which foot. Rena replied, ‘both’. What? Six hens with bumblefoot and more than one bumble? Yup, turns out all six had infections on both feet. As someone who’s had many chickens over the last 9 years I’ve only seen bumblefoot in two birds before. This was an epidemic!
We worked out way swiftly through the first two, so I offered to do one more. I cut out the first bumble and Rena asked if she could do the other, under my supervision, as practice for the remaining three hens. She did a great job and felt confident to carry on and operate on the rest of the flock.
It only took an hour to excise six bumbles. I didn’t get much of an opportunity to chat with them, but before I left Rena took me on a tour of their fantastically cute coop. She asked if there was anything in their coop or pen might cause scrapes on their feet. We narrowed it down to the chickens scratching down through the soil on to the hardware cloth on the bottom of the pen. The sharp wire probably created openings in the bottom of their feet which got infected. They’ve since added extra soil to avoid re-infection.
By now, all six hens will have had their surgeries and I hope that we were able to eradicate the infection in their flock. Rena promised to keep me posted and I’ll pass on her update.
Update: Here’s a healed foot 6 weeks later. Some have completely healed, some will take a bit longer. It looks like our amateur veterinary handiwork paid off.
Update October 2019: I have since dealt with other cases of bumblefoot and have stopped using intrusive methods like surgery, in favour of drawing salves (which require a bit of patience. More on that here.