Another look at bumblefoot.

After posting about my attempt at bumblefoot surgery on Coraline, I received this comment on Heedley’s Hens Facebook Page:

“We get those every so often. I just flip the chicken over, rip the scab off, squeeze until the kernel comes out and it get bleeding really good then throw the chicken on the ground. Never have treated them and it goes right away. I probably sound heartless, but the chickens really do just look at the bottom of their foot and then continue on like nothing happened.”

I was absolutely gobsmacked. Could it be there’s another, simpler way to handle this all-too-common problem?

This comment came from Tricia Snyder, of Tricott Dairy, a real farm. Tricia manages 300-400 animals: chickens, turkeys, guinea hens, goats, pigs, rabbits…I know I’m leaving some out.

When Trisha talks, I listen. The pragmatism of the year-in, year-out farmer is often lost amid the voices of hobby farmers and veterinarians. I began to wonder if our anthropomorphisation of animals, and our empathy, lead us to treatments that are actually harder on the animals, if easier on ourselves.

I learned from Buffy’s attack just how resilient fowl are; she had fully one-eighth of the flesh ripped from her body by that dog, and she was not only okay, she wasn’t even in shock. Her recovery was nothing short of miraculous to me. No wonder Tricia finds my posts so entertaining.

Coraline and Buffy are still in the crate in the house, although I’ve been getting them out for short durations when weather permits. Buffy’s foot looks much, much better, but there is still swelling, and she is still limping heavily. Coraline’s right foot has improved enough to allow her to limp; she couldn’t even do that a few days ago.

Yesterday, I decided to try out Tricia’s method. I picked up Abby and gently turned her over. The scab on her right foot came off easily enough, but there was no amount of squeezing that would draw blood, or any liquid at all. The flock has been on antibiotics for three days now; is it possible that has cleared up the infection?

At any rate, just as Tricia says, Abby just walked away with a fluff of her feathers, none the worse for the treatment. I have no doubt that some advanced cases of bumblefoot require the scalpel, but I don’t think I have any more here. When Stepdaughter the Elder is here next, I will enlist her help in checking the rest of 1.0’s feet.

So, many, many thanks to Tricia for her perspective, and the benefit of her experience. She’ll make a farmer of me yet.

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9 thoughts on “Another look at bumblefoot.

  1. I hope you still applied ointment to her foot after ripping the scab off. Especially if she is going to be walking around on all kinds of bacteria.

    Ripping the scab off sounds easy enough, but I would definitely provide a barrier between the fresh would and the ground they walk on.

      • Abby was never really feeling badly; Coraline has been the only one limping or showing any symptoms, other than the black scab. I know putting the whole flock on antibiotics isn’t ideal, and throwing away the eggs is breaking my teeny heart, but it does seem to be working.

      • Better to be safe than sorry. Penny is inside the garage in a kennel as well. We had to wrap her all around because the wound was too visible, and she was picking at herself. The whole time I was cleaning out her would, she was eating blueberries. She devoured an entire package. That’s gotta mean she feels okay – right? She doesn’t like her wrap – but it’s for her own good. I need a dress like you had for Buffy!

  2. Very interesting! I think there is some necessary difference, though, for the backyard chicken owners who have 5 chickens versus hundreds. I mean, if one out of five chickens dies/is impacted enough that production goes down, well, that’s a big difference. If one (or five) out of 300 have problems, it’s not such a big deal. I don’t know… just thoughts of scale. :)

    • Very true. I also think that the smaller flock owner is more likely to regard her hens as pets, even family members. I have discovered in my own little adventure that, the larger my flock grows, the less I am invested in each individual chicken. I mean, one can’t name and individually identify 300 chickens, can one?

      I do think that small flock owners, especially those like me who are new to it, bring a desire to do everything right, and laudably so. I know my own level of concern for my girls reaches neurotic levels, and I find the perspective of the large and long-time flock owner to be necessary to my mental health. I think the answer for me, lies somewhere in the middle of Tricia’s methods and taking a chicken to the vet.

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