And so, as I was leaving the coop this past Sunday, I was just thinking, well I guess this is the "new normal" around here, quiet happy pecking hens, soft clucks, and no noisy loud sounds from a handsome rascal, when I heard something unusual behind me. I turned to see what it was, and there was my poor Eleanor behind me, trying to keep up with me, and she couldn't because she was hobbling. My heart sunk. I could see what was causing her problem.
BUMBLEFOOT... a infection that chickens get in their feet that could have a variety of causes but usually begins with a cut or scrape on their foot that subsequently gets infected. The infection grows and hardens into a hard kernel inside the soft tissue mass. Once the bumblefoot gets to the point where the chicken is hobbling and can't walk, surgery is generally the only alternative.
With a sick feeling in my heart, I knew that an unpleasant task lay before me. I had planned to go berry picking today.. well, that wasn't happening now! I needed to get the hard kernel out of her foot in order for her to heal. I did a lot of reading and research on the issue before getting started. I read that several people had lost their chickens to anesthesia when taking them to the vet to have this done, and also that there really wasn't anything to give the chicken for the pain during the procedure because chickens can't have anything with a "*caine" in it, because it will cause them to stop breathing. Here is a very good article on bumblefoot for more information on bumblefoot in chickens by a trusted chicken expert.
If you're a bit squeamish, just scroll down past the next few pictures, as they are not the most pleasant!
My daughter and I worked together to perform the surgery, turning our bathroom into a mini-surgical suite. First we soaked her feet in warm Epsom salt water to soften the abscess. Then we wrapped Eleanor in a towel and laid her on her back. We had sterilized the knives and tweezers we were going to use, wore gloves and... then we prayed! I knew without the Lord's help I would not be able to stomach such a procedure, and I prayed as I went. It was a very tough thing to do. In fact, my daughter had to stop and go rest for a bit, because it was so intense. Eleanor was obviously in pain although she only squawked once, bless her heart! It is true that chickens are very stoic, and handle pain extremely well. This procedure was extremely taxing for all of us. I know the Lord helped me through it, because normally I don't do well when seeing blood. However, I knew it had to be done, and I just had to get through it.
After digging for what seemed like forever, I finally located the a small kernel of hard tissue that usually is present in bumblefoot. You can see it lying on the towel above.
If you are squeamish, cover your eyes for the next picture, it is not pleasant!
Finishing up after the kernel had been removed, it was time to bandage and dress the wound.
We applied mupirocin (an antibiotic cream that we had on hand) to the wound with some sterile gauze. We then wrapped the foot with latex-free self-cling wrap and then applied duct tape over all to hold the bandages in place.
Here she is with the foot all bandaged up.
I put her in a cage in the garden for the first 12 hours or so, so that I could keep an eye on her.
She was not too happy with the bandage on her foot and tried to peck it off.
Finally she realized she could walk with the bandage on, and we fed her some special treats from the garden... lettuce, peas and strawberries. That made her very happy!
And while we are sad that Mr. Rudy is no longer with us, his son Pepper is starting to make it quite known that he is a rooster. To my dismay, it appears that "Sally" our last little chick that hatched out, is most likely a rooster as well. Our second chick that we hatched we named Buttercup, who I was certain initially was a rooster. However... now I am not so certain as Buttercup has not begun to act like a rooster, and continues to be very timid, shy, and has shown no signs of aggressive behavior.
Goldie adopted Salt & Pepper, along with her own chick that she hatched out... Sally. However, Sally and Pepper have been playing games with each other that no doubt soon will get nasty. I see them feathering up and staring each other down, and coming towards each other with their heads down, and then they go right back to eating together. So... no doubt our chicken drama will be continuing, as I will soon have to make a decision on which rooster to keep. I am continuing to watch them, and work with them. Each day I am taking Sally and Pepper and just holding them and walking around with them to show them that I am boss. Rooster taming... I hope it can be done!
Meanwhile, Eleanor has been getting around pretty good around the yard and keeping up with the other hens. For the first day or two, she stayed close to the coop, but the last few days she has been making the rounds with the rest of the girls. I'm hoping that the chicken drama has quieted down for a while!
And as a side note... my heart is heavy with all the terrible tragedy that took place in France and the continuing violence that seems to be escalating in the world we live in. Here on my little piece of heaven this side of earth, I find it comforting to go outside and be with my animals and in my garden, and just pray and ask the Lord to be with the hearts that are grieving. There are no easy answers to these things... but there is hope in Christ, and that is where I turn in the midst of the sorrow in my heart with these kinds of tragedies.
"On Christ the solid rock I stand.. all other ground is sinking sand."
I'm thankful that in the midst of the hurting world we live in... our hope in Christ is where we can find solid footing and hope to keep us through the darkness around us.
I've also been quite busy as berry season is in full swing around here! I hope to post soon about some of the fun berry experiences we've had. :)