I’m not going to pretend that keeping chickens is the cheapest activity out there, but generally it could be worse. Once you get the coop sorted out, the rest is mainly small items like food and bedding. Those expenses, for me anyway, come once a month or so, and usually add up to about $20 for a bale of pine shavings and a bag of layer feed. I don’t have to pay for grooming or walking, like we might with a dog, and it’s certainly cheaper than say, owning a boat. Sure, I can’t cruise around a lake on a chicken, but I’m also not bleeding money. I can live without a boat.
Tends to work better with ducks, if you can get your hands on one.
Of course, there is always the issue of vet costs. For the most part, the chickens seem in good health, save for the mites and occasionally vent gleet, both of which I can treat on my own. Up until now, the only times I had to take a chicken to the vet was when Suzy Creamcheese Senior had a prolapsed vent, and when Boss Chicken’s legs gave out on her. I know my limits, and seek out the pros when needed. But a lot of ailments can be DIY projects. Sometimes messy and gross DIY projects, but that’s the price of savings.
Cost of rubber gloves not included in cost of savings.
Which brings us to the Great Bumblefoot Scare of 2016. During one of my evening chicken inspections, I noticed that one of the Mandrell sisters had a weird growth between her toes about the size of a peanut. Not sure what else to do at that moment, I reached out and poked it. It was pretty hard, also like a peanut. It didn’t seem to hurt her, but no one really likes being poked, so I stepped away from the chicken and took to the internet. I was worried that it was either a tumor, or something horrible to do with mites, but my search for “weird growth on chicken foot” brought up loads of pages about bumblefoot. Bumblefoot is when a chicken gets a cut on her foot, and the cut gets infected. They’re always scratching around in the dirt, so the likelihood of hitting something sharp is pretty high. So then I began to read about how to cure bumblefoot. For some reason, I had it in my head that rubbing some Bag Balm on the problem foot would do the trick, but I seem to be wrong about that. Everything I found pointed to the need to puncture and drain the abscess, or, if you were lucky, you might be able to squeeze out the gunk inside the growth, since there’s usually a cut at the bottom. I’m not very squeamish, but I didn’t like the sound of this. Then I read one of the step-by-step DIY bumblefoot surgery pages. I’ve had to ask my wife to hold a chicken while I stick my finger up its butt on a number of occasions. I was always pretty sure that that was the limit of her willingness to help with gross things. To ask her to hold a chicken while I cut open its foot and squeezed out nastiness was going to be too much. Actually, it was going to be too much for both of us. A scared, bloody chicken is not what you want to be around. The surgery also took a lot of time, and one page encouraged taking breaks to rest every so often. All I knew was that if we took a break, we would never be able to pick up that chicken again. I saw doom around every corner, until I read a line about how one person always does it herself because she doesn’t have a chicken vet nearby. Then it hit me. I had a chicken vet nearby! I was ready to hand this one off.
Not the chicken vet. Do not hand off your chickens to this guy. Abort mission! Abort mission!
The next morning I called and made an appointment. “What’s the chicken’s name?” they asked.
“Uh, well, she’s one of The Mandrell Sisters,” I said.
“We need a first name,” they said.
“Ok, um, let’s go with Lurlene,” I said. The appointment was now set, and I finally solved the mystery of which Sister was Lurlene. Until I actually arrived at the vet for the appointment, and found they had written down Murlene. So there’s still no Lurlene, I guess.
And you thought cats hated to ride in the crate.
At the vet, we noticed that Murlene had peanut growths on both feet. The vet did a close inspection, and thought there might be a puncture hole, thereby officially making this bumblefoot, though having it on both feet was a little unusual. She took Murlene out back, and five minutes later, they both returned. “Well, it wasn’t bumblefoot,” she said. It turns out that Murlene has loose foot skin, and each peanut was just packed full of dirt and crud. The vet soaked her feet in some water, and then just pulled the crud out with some tweezers. I was sent home with Murlene and a bottle of betadine to soak her feet in daily. I was also, if able, to soak her feet in epsom salt water daily to try to tighten up the crud area. Amazingly, she put up with this. Once I got her situated in the bowl of liquid, she just stayed put and cooed. I guess a good foot soak does wonders.
Like a day at the spa.
On the plus side, I didn’t do any unnecessary surgery. On the down side, a $3 chicken cost me $100 at the vet. That’s a bad return on investment, but I think I came out ahead by not unintentionally maiming Murlene by pursuing the wrong treatment. I’ll take the bright side on this one.
(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle)
Peak Beak by Doctor Turtle is licensed under a Attribution-NonCommercial License. No changes made, other than looping it.