Ohiofarmgirl's Adventures in The Good Land is largely a fish out of water tale about how I eventually found my footing on a small farm in an Amish town. We are a mostly organic, somewhat self sufficient, sustainable farm in Ohio. There's action and adventure and I'll always tell you the truth about farming.

Monday, September 26, 2011

Chickens: The Bumblefoot Surgery

Since my post on chicken fat failed to provide the much anticipated shrieking and horror I was expecting, I figure you are all farm enough for the next layer of grossness. Ready? But first a picture of one fine looking young rooster......

OK we should be low enough on the page to really talk turkey. Actually we are talking chickens today - more specifically, what to do when you hen has the bumblefoot. But first the disclaimers:

Look away tender victuals! We're going to talk about super-gross things! Your very eyes may melt by just reading whats coming up! Don't read this if you are eating breakfast - especially if its scrambled eggs. No really! I'm even ooked out by this and I like gutting chickens! And most importantly, I am not a vet. I don't play a vet on TV. I never wanted to be a vet. I am not diagnosing your chicken now or ever. If you chicken is sick, call your vet. Got it? OK let's move on. 

 Anybody still with me?

A week or so ago I noticed one of the unnamed rabble - a nice plump mostly black hen - had a weird bump on her foot. I could even see it without bending down or picking her up. It was a bulge between her toes on the top of her foot. Drat. It looked like she had the bumblefoot on her.

What's bumblefoot - besides being one of the funnest words ever?  Its a kind of infection that poultry get in their feet. Usually because they get a little splinter or a thorn or something stuck in their foot, and it festers, and then it gets out of hand. More than likely if your hen has a big black spot on the fleshy part of the bottom of her foot - thats what it is - bumblefoot. There's probably a fancy name for this kind of staph infection but I don't know what is it.

This hen had it on the top of her foot. The only reason I could identify it was because we had another hen a couple years ago with the same problem - but also she had then tell tale black dot on the bottom of her foot. We had to treat both spots - so I knew what this hen had immediately.

What do you do? A couple options:

1. Nothing. Your hen may get over it. But probably not and she'll spread the infection to the others and maybe to you .....and then your hen might get really sick and flop over dead. Not a great choice.

2. Take your chicken to the vet and hand over all your folding money to someone who may or may not just wonder why in the sam hell you wouldn't just send that chicken to the pot. They'll probably charge you about a million dollars and drive off in their new sports car laughing. If that's your choice that's just fine with me. No judgments here. But I knew someone who spent $1200 to get a laying hen a surgery that was basically a hysterectomy. I'm not even lying. You can bet I judged her to be a fool. But everyone is different.

3. Go find yourself a big round pair of you-know-whats and do it yourself.

I have to tell you friends, you know I'm pretty stout. But it takes me about 3 days of beating my chest, dancing around a fire to summon the courage of my ancestors, and repeating to myself "IcandoallthingsthroughChristwhostrengthensme" about a thousand times before I can march out there, scoop up that hen and get down to business.

I don't have pictures of the actual event, mostly because a bunch of shots of me puking probably aren't that helpful, so hands down the best reference I have for treating bumblefoot is right here.  Generally I'm not a fan of BYC but there's some good eggs there and this gal is one of them.

We set up the bathroom as a surgical center and laid out all of our supplies. Then we marched out there, scooped up the hen, and got down to business. The most important thing you can do is wrap your hen in a towel so her head is covered up. The Big Man held her in his arms with her bad foot sticking out of the towel while I worked on her.

The next most important thing is to wear gloves. For heavens sakes don't take a chance and get the infection yourself. And disinfect everything when you are done - use lots of bleach to really get everything clean. And make sure you have separate medical implements for your vet care. We never know what is going to happen around here so we have a pretty good surgical/first aid kit. We also always have rubbing alcohol, hydrogen peroxide, and tons of and vet wrap and bandages of all kinds. And lots and lots of Neosporin.
This is what you're going for - the infected mass that needs to be removed. Gross. The only reason I'm showing this pic is so you know what it looks like.  Sometimes you can get the whole thing to come out in one piece but I couldn't this time. See that there is some blood but much less than you'd expect.

When the deed was done and her foot was firmly packed with Neosporin, gauze, and wrapping we took her out of the towel and there she was - none the worse for wear. Did it hurt her? Nope. How do I know? Because she didn't squawk or flap or scream or try to get away. If I did this to you I imagine you'd do all of those things - and take a swing at me. In two days you won't even be able to tell anything happened to that little hen. Until then she is in solitary in a cage and covered to keep her calm.  Chickens really are amazing creatures.

Altho gross this is not a cruel procedure and is much better than the alternatives of her dying from the infection or ending up on the block and then in a shallow grave. The hen we fixed up before has lived a good long 3 years (so far) and has never missed a beat. We're sure this plump little black hen will make a full recovery and get back to business soon.

I'm guessing all y'all will be out there looking at your hens feet today, wontcha? Well, what are you waiting for - run right out there and inspect the poulty's feet.

Happy Monday everyone!


David P. Offutt - The Gastronomic Gardener said...

So is that a splinter running the the larger mass?

Ohiofarmgirl said...

hey Dave! Nope its just part of the structure. I don't even think the splinter has to stay in the foot for this to happen. Barnyards tend to have a lot of weird stuff in them - its a good reminder for us to wear shoes out there.

Samantha said...

A good reminder for those of us without farms, too (as I spend an hour picking chestnut spines out of my foot last night!).

I remember my Gram doing this to our hens..they never seemed bothered by the procedure.

Big Onion said...

Surprisingly, most chickens in commercial farms have bumblefoot. Since it's pretty easily spread (it is a staph infection, after all) it's not uncommon for a lot of chickens to have it. We once ordered some chicken feet from an "organic" farmer -- every single one of them had bumblefoot. We weren't even okay feeding those feet to the dogs ... kinda gross.

We had one duck with this in the past. We tried to operate on it but it didn't seem to come out as easily as some folks led us to believe. Luckily we haven't seen it since then.

Just out of curiosity, why are you not such a big fan of BYC? It's been the only source of duck info we've been able to find. We never mentioned the words "meat birds" (cause it usually ends with an "oh my goodness my ducks are like my children!" deluge of posts) but the info there is generally ok, if you wade past a lot of the anecdotal advice.

Regardless, great job on taking care of the bumblefoot!

Gingerbreadshouse7 said...

Now that's what I call real "Homesteading" (am I allowed to use that word :o)...Guess with a farm you learn to do a lot of things..Good job.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Yikes! Careful there, Samantha, my grandma used to get chestnut spines also. She'd soak her hand in epsom salts and then take a shot of bourbon. And nope - doing this doesnt hurt hens at all. That little hen is doing great this morning.

Holy moly, Big Onion... yep into the trash for sure with those feet (ick). I think waterfowl are harder to 'fix up' then chickens, I'm sure that was tough.

Yep, I used to be on BYC all the time. But they seemed to pivot to the "put nappies on your chicken and carry it around in your purse" crowd. I think they are doing a terrible disservice to the farming community by perpetuating the notion that chickens, goats, pigs are "just like little children." While that may be adorable - its hurting the farmers, especially small farmers. Our state was targeted by the HSUS - which is NOT your local shelter - and they were coming at us with both guns. A deal was worked out but the legislation is just bad news. Folks who have never even seen a cow are making laws about what is and what is not OK. Unfortunately I think BYC has encouraged this.

Just last week I had an 'altercation' with one of the mods on one of BYC's sister sites who was defending a PETA/welfare troll. If thats the direction they are allowing on a site that is supposed to cater to folks who raise their own meat, then I just cant support it. How's that for a long answer? And if you ever need it - Goosedragon, one of the most knowledgeable waterfowl men out there can be found as "~GD" and you can always find Steve from S and S Poultry on his website:

Thanks Ginny! In all my life I never imagined I'd be doing any of this. I really do learn something new everyday - even if its how to fix up a broke down chicken.

small farm girl said...

I always wondered what that was on the chickens foot. Now I know who to call for chicken surgeries. hehehehe

Autumn said...

I had myself all steeled for some serious gore... and then it was just one little picture, whew!

Big Onion said...

Wow, I didn't know it was that bad! My girlfriend (from the Team Hightail blog -- I think she's commented on here before) probably goes to that site more than I do.

We got most of our initial information there but we've been doing it for a couple of years and only really go there if we have big issues and need to find some info.

I'm a bit surprised about the PETA thing, but then again ... not so surprised. And as far as legislation goes, it's a shame that real farmers don't have a stronger voice with the lobbyists. Squeaky wheel sometimes does get the grease, and there's lots of animal activists out there who are a lot more squeaky than your average group of farmers.

Jody said...

Nice job! We never really know what "All things through Christ" means until we own livestock!

Tammy said...

Good job!! Just did my first bumblefoot surgery ~10 days ago. Not a big deal. I was very proud of myself. She's healing nicely. My friend was apalled "no anesthetic??". No need. I held her in one hand and did the surgery with the other. No flapping, squirming or squawking. They are amazing!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

SFG- the Dr. is IN! hee hee hee

Autumn - it was all I could handle. blech!

Hey BO - yep. If anything its a big opportunity missed. But they can run their site however they want - I just dont have to support it. I know some folks who commented on the proposed legislation - it seemed to have worked. But some farmers are in peril. It may be well intentioned but wow. All we need is our Bad Neighbors to get bent out of shape and we'd get inspected. I'm not sure that me calling the pigz names constitutes "abuse" but someone would probably burst into tears about it.

Jody - most of my trips out to the barnyard begin in prayer...

Tammy that's fantastic! And hats off to you for doing it by yourself! You rock!

Chai Chai said...

I have a chicken that I need to "doctor", maybe I will try your medicine chant.....

Chai Chai said...

Just reading through the comments between you and BO and figured I would mention something.

I wounder if your regular everyday person had any idea that the Gov is trying to make creating dust on farms illegal.


How about a Judge who thinks you don't have a right to food grown or raised on your own property.


Or how about legislative death to small farms and locally grown and sold goods?


Did you know there are more employees at the FDA than there are farmers in America?

I hope the "League of Government Veternarians and Unscrupulous Blood-sucking Lawyers" doesn't read this post....they may come after you! Ask the Amish and Menenites if you think I'm kidding.

Note: This was not posted by Chai Chai no matter what the internet id and post may indicate...this was posted by the hacker known as Baltar....it has happened before and will happen again.

chipmunk said...

Whew, when I saw those tweezers, all I could think was "that's gotta hurt!" I'm glad to hear it doesn't seem to bother the chicken. Kudos to you for toughing it out to take care of your critter!

Ohiofarmgirl said...

CC - bourbon cures a lot of things.. or.. oh did you mean real medical stuff? ha!

Hacker known as Baltar - face it, we are screwed. I'm afraid to speak up - what if I cause a fuss and then I get on the watch list? Or what if I report that Debbie the goat died in kidding completely unexpectedly. I'd be charged $5000 if I didnt have some kind of alternative colostrum for the kids. If it happened at nite when everything was closed - then what? Its one of the new rules. They were trying to outlaw mud in your barnyard also. Super. Great work government. This has been the wettest summer in history - how would we avoid that? This is all going to be hilarious until we get all our food from China - and then decide they want all the money they loaned us back. And guess what's going to be at stake. Sheesh!

Thanks Chipmunk! And nope, didnt bother her at all.. but I needed a little bourbon afterwards.

Chai Chai said...

I don't know who that Baltar was or how they hacked my account but is the mud and kidding milk thing for real?

Do you have links or have you got my, ahem, goat?

ps. I bet Baltar would like to know if you got his/her subtle signature joke....I'm betting you did

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Yep its real. You must offer colostrum or a sub to most farm animals now. Or else. A good idea - absolutely. Well intentioned - probably. But what happens when something goes wrong? They finally took the mud thing out - but it was something along the lines that goats couldnt walk thru mud to get to their food/water. Idiots. See:


These people are NOT on our side. The only reason the state passed "Issue 2" was b/c this state was targeted - like California - by the HSUS (NOT your local shelter). We are a big ag state - the state did not think they could fight the HSUS so came up with Issue 2 to head them off at the pass and let people from our state come up with the regs - AS LONG AS there was one of the HSUS people on the board.

And another thing - while I'm at it... Note they have euthanasia rules. Fine. All perfectly good ideas... However. I'm not sure if this is for butchering or just cuz you gotta put a goat down. See that there is not an option for slitting the throat and letting the animal bleed out. I'm not Jewish but I'd be p*ssed off if 5000 years of kosher law was thrown out b/c of those jokers. Think it won't happen here? Its happening right now in the Europe. I'm telling you, CC..um.. Baltar... its all circling the drain. Zoikes!

Chai Chai said...

I guess I can't go to Ohio as I would be a wanted felon. If I can't afford to have my sheep shorn will the state pay to have it done for me?

Is it time for a new OFG rant post?

Zoikes? I was thinking more like "Frack".

Chai Chai said...

Exerpts from the fact sheet:

Adequate lighting must be available for inspection purposes.

All prescription and extra-label use medication must be obtained and
administered with the advice and involvement of a licensed veterinarian.


Ohiofarmgirl said...

Yep. So if you're Amish too bad for you... you'd better run right out and get electric run to your barn if the inspector shows up after 5 in the winter. Or if you can do your own vetting too bad for you. Most vets around here don't or won't treat large animals - and we live in a big ag state! Not to mention most meds are not for labeled for goats....

Chai Chai said...

When are you changing the name of the blog to MissouriFarmGirl, Showing Me and You Adventures in the Goodland?

Heck, I have always considered using the goat and sheep meds on the family here once ObamaCare kicks in.

My outbuildings have no electricity, I would be doomed.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

We're feeling kind of doomed here, CC, for sure. And yeah its pretty bad when they don't even have this kind of legislation for people but have it for chickens. I'm sure there are some folks living in their cars and on the street that would love the luxurious coops we require.

And ha! It might just be Dakotafarmgirl's Adventures in the Not-So-Badlands

Chai Chai said...

That "Not-so-Badlands" is way too funny and quite brilliant really. Too bad no one will read these comments in a post 3 days back.

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hum... that almost sounds like a challenge, CC.

Vickie said...

Oh-ho - but I did read them. I'm new here, gals, and we just got moved permanently to our farm. I'm anxious to get my chickens and other critters probably in the spring. I don't know what the Texas laws are concerning this topic, but I'll be learning I'm sure... Ohio girl - I'm sure enjoying reading your blog! By the way, I've been to BYC - actually haven't done much reading yet - just trying to get some coop ideas...

Ohiofarmgirl said...

Hey Vickie! Glad to have you! Welcome to the fun!

Anonymous said...

I know this is way after the event and all, but having just done bumblefoot surgery myself, with no other person holding the chook, I can assure you that the chicken CAN feel what you're doing. I can also say that she's dancing around just dandy post-surgery. But it was NO walk in the park, lemme tell you. I did two feet, and it took 2 1/2 hours and I can't say I got it all or that it was as clean and obvious as the various interwebs vids that I researched suggested it would be!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...