Monday, December 8, 2008

It's Not All Fun & Games

DISCLAIMER: If you're even a little bit squeamish, you might not want to read this post...

I'd highly recommend raising chickens to anyone. They're fun to watch and provide hours of entertainment. It ain't all fun and games though. Nope, there's a very unglamorous side of raising chickens. I started off the weekend making chicken saddles. Or aprons. I've heard them called both. I can hear you saying "That's it, she's finally flipped her lid."

Why on earth would I ever do such a thing? Well, sometimes a rooster plays favorites. In this case Bob has a few girls that he uh, exercises, yeah uh, exercises more often than others. And all that exercising can wear a girl out to where she no longer has feathers on her back. Then when trying to grow feathers back, the other chickens see them, think they're something to eat and peck at them. The next thing you know you've got a bloody chicken. And that is really bad, because blood attracts even more pecking and the next thing ya know their innards are no longer in. Sorry, but that's just how it is. I told you it's not glamorous.

Sooo, I made them little chicken saddles out of two layers of denim. They attach around the wings with elastic and protect the back of the favorite hen. The feathers can grow back underneath without being pecked. And aren't they kind of cute? I think I might embroider their names on them. Or maybe applique some flowers for the girls with no names.

Then while I was out watching the fashion show I noticed my favorite hen, Beth, limping. I've told you about Beth before. She's the "special" chicken. She is one of the original chicks that we incubated and hatched ourselves. Her daddy was a Barred Rock just like Bob and her mommy was a Blue Ameracuana. So she looks like a Barred Rock but she lays blue-green eggs just like an Ameracuana. But that's not the only thing that makes her special. She's always just kind of beat to her own drum. When it comes to the hens, she's got the most personality. Or maybe she's brain damaged. I'm not sure, but I know she's special.

Anyway, after noticing her limping I noticed her foot swollen up like a little balloon. I scooped her up and brought her inside for a closer look. And it was what I was afraid of. Bumblefoot. It's a staph infection. They can get it by having a small cut or wound on their foot. Left untreated it is fatal.

The method of treatment is to soak the foot in Epsom salt. Then remove the scab and attempt to remove the hard pus material. An incision may need to be made in order to do so and you need to be careful not to cut the tendons or blood vessels. Then treat with antibiotic cream and bandage it.

I attempted the surgery. Twice. Problem is I only dreamed of becoming a veterinarian as a little girl. I didn't DO it. How in the heck am I supposed to know where the tendons or blood vessels are?

Another option for treating it is an oral antibiotic. So I called my dog's vet who happens to also treat chickens and asked if I could have whatever antibiotic would cure Bumblefoot. Unfortunately, the State of Indiana now has some law on the books that will not allow veterinarians to prescribe any medications without a prior "patient/doctor relationship". I asked how much this "relationship" would cost to establish. She said $47. I said, "You realize we're talking about a chicken, right?"

Anyway after giving it much thought, and determining ordering antibiotics online wasn't any cheaper, we've decided to pay the $47. I'm a visual learner and if I can watch the procedure once I'd be a heck of a lot less shaky when doing it myself the next time. And since this is a common chicken ailment it would be a skill worth knowing. Not to mention that we could then have access to any medications we might need in the future because while the "patient/doctor relationship" is supposed to be on a per chicken basis I could hear the vet tech winking on the phone. So Beth has a doctors appointment tomorrow at 11:oo a.m. I can't even imagine what my Dad would think of that. Taking a chicken to a vet. Craziness.

BTW, you know you're community is being taken over by city slickers when you call the small vet office just a few miles down the road and when you ask for medication for a chicken their response is "Sorry, but we don't treat exotics." Huh?


Milah said...

I'd be tempted to treat her with LA-200. It's for swine, beef and dairy cattle but I googled it and saw I'm not the only one who has thought of using this for chickens. It's pretty inexpensive. But what do I know....I've never raised chickens.
I know you said she should get an oral antibotic but if the vet decides to give her a shot I would definitely ask what he's using and look to see where he gives it. That might save you future visits to the vet. Good Luck!

Jayne said...

Your "exercise" explanation is hilarious! And the little denim apron is too cute. That Bumblefoot, though, is definitely NOT cute. Ewww. Poor Beth. Hopefully you caught it in time.

Suzette said...

Oh, nooooo! Bumblefoot looks terrible. We'll anxiously await updates!