Posts Tagged ‘vent gleet’

Season’s Gleetings!

Friday, April 22nd, 2016

We had had a rough couple of weekends, and hadn’t had a chance to go grocery shopping. When you don’t have time to do anything during the week because you commute, you have to cram a lot into Saturday and Sunday, and when you’re exhausted from the cramming, the last thing you want to do is go to the grocery store. We generally have to go shopping on Sundays, which seems to be when all the sports or snowstorms happen, so it’s always a madhouse. That doesn’t help with the motivation to get to the store either. If I could go into work late one day a week so I could shop on a weekday morning, that would be ideal, but I see a tough negotiation ahead if I pursue that. So here we are. We were out of most things, including yogurt and apple cider vinegar, which are staples of my chicken regimen. Both keep some nasty stuff at bay, but I figured it was like taking vitamins. You don’t come down with rickets because you stop taking vitamins for a week, so a week without yogurt in a dish and vinegar in the water couldn’t possibly cause a problem, right?

What I've been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

What I’ve been led to believe a chicken with rickets would look like.

Well, the butts of Steve and John told a different story. The story they told was one of gross cloaca disasters. Or one specific disaster we all know as vent gleet. I usually have a run-in with the gleet once a year or so, and here it was just as Spring approached. The plus side, if there is one, is that Steve and John both have such big wattles that it’s very easy to get their beaks open to squirt the mixture of epsom salt and water down their throats that I’ve always treated this with. This is not an easy task by any means, but bigger wattles give me an edge. So I grabbed them one at a time, trimmed all the super nasty butt feathers off, then brought them inside for their “medicine.” (Side note: I ran out of my stock of rubber gloves during this episode, and when I went to buy more, the drugstore was clean out. Like, an entire shelf’s worth of rubber gloves was empty. How does this happen? What was going on in Harvard Square that that many people needed rubber gloves? Luckily(?), there are actually two drugstores of the same chain a block apart, so I was able to get more. I didn’t want to be touching these butts bare-handed.)

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

Oh, come on. No one has wattles this big.

I’m not sure if it was Steve or John who was the easier of the two, but one of them was a breeze. Open, epsom, open, epsom, open, epsom, until it’s all gone. I think I even managed to not get any on my pants, which is rare. I usually can be counted on to miss at least one shot, but not this time. Then I brought in the other one. Let’s just say it was John. John wasn’t having any of this. My pants got soaked, then she got away, and it was just a big struggle, even with the wattle advantage. Then I did the thing they warn you not to do. I squeezed the dropper too hard and I got some down the wrong neckhole, so liquid went into her lungs. I could hear it rattle with every breath. I had no idea what to do. I held her upside down in the hope that the liquid would run out. It didn’t. I looked online, and I found a lot of people saying not to do this, but no one saying what to do if it happened. I figured all I could do was ride it out. A ton didn’t get in there, so she could breathe, but enough was in there that she rasped. I put her in the coop, then she sneezed, and that actually seemed to make the rasping better. I had to hope it would sort itself out.

It went a little something like this.

It went a little something like this.

I posted on a messageboard for help. No one really had any input on how to handle this, but one person asked why I was still doing the epsom trick. I said it was because that was a thread that had been stickied on that website. The other poster pointed out that vent gleet is fungal, so it’s much easier to just spray their butts with athlete’s foot spray for two weeks. You’re supposed to do it twice a day, and I don’t see them sitting still for this in the mornings, but nights are easy. So I’ve been doing that in lieu of the second dose of epsom salt. John’s breathing was fine the next day, and the gleet seems to be on the outs. I do have one lingering concern, though. Last year what I thought was a vent gleet outbreak was actually mites. So is it really the gleet, or am I fighting the wrong foe? Time will tell.

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

Still an enemy, but the right one this time?

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Some Smoke by National Promenade Band, record scratch sound effect by: simkiott)

Steve’s Got The Gleet!

Friday, June 19th, 2015

Vent gleet has been a continual burr under my blanket for a very long time. Some people call it “nasty butt disease” due to the lovely symptom of diarrhea, but it’s really a fungal infection of the vent (aka the chicken down-below hole). There are things you can do to ward it off, such as give your chickens yogurt, since probiotics are anti-fungal, and you can put apple cider vinegar in the chickens’ water for the same reason. You know what? I do both these things, and every year I have to deal with at least one chicken coming down with it. Would it be worse if I didn’t do these things? I don’t know, and I’m not willing to find out. It’s annoying enough dealing with one chicken that has it, I don’t want a bunch of them to get it at once.

Saturday Night Gleeter

Saturday Night Gleeter

For a while now, I kept looking at Steve’s butt in the yard and wondering if she had the tell-tale nasty butt. I would look quickly, see what looked like crustiness, and then a minute later everything would be fine. “A trick of the light,” I’d think, and go about my business. Then a little while later, this scenario would repeat itself. It eventually happened enough that I finally remembered that I kept thinking she had something up with her butt, and I should probably get a closer look. That wasn’t going to happen during the day while they were out in the yard; I would have to strike at night.

night coop

It’s easier if you bring a flashlight.

After the sun had gone down, and the birds were on the roost, I crept into the coop and took care of some business. Henny Penny and Suzy Creamcheese Junior had been having their butts pecked, so I gave each of them a dose of Bluekote while I was in there. (It’s an antiseptic thing to protect them from infection.) Everyone probably hoped that I had finished my tasks at that point, but then I grabbed Steve. You may have heard of people screaming bloody murder before. You may not have heard of a chicken doing this, but I can assure you that this is exactly what Steve did. You know bloody murder when you hear it. I flipped her on her back, which usually calms a chicken down, but this only seemed to make her angrier. She managed to get away, but since it was dark, as soon as she hit the ground, she froze, since she couldn’t see where she was going. I grabbed her again, and the bloody murder began anew.

bloody murder

Nobody ever whispers bloody murder.

Eventually, I got her to sit still, even if she continued to make an unholy racket. It seems Wyandottes like Steve have fancy butt feathers that are layered, so when I was able to get at them, I could see that she did have poo-caked feathers under her butt, but they would just tuck back up under other ones after she had pooped. This explains why I’d see them, but then they’d be gone in the blink of an eye. I took out some scissors, and tried to cut the matted feathers off with one hand, while holding her in the other. This was proving to be more difficult than any other chicken I had dealt with. I almost walked up to my son’s bedroom window and asked my wife to come outside and help, since I knew she was in there. I stuck it out on my own though, and got most of the feathers removed. You can theoretically soak a chicken in a bucket for 20 minutes to ungunk the feathers, but I have never been able to get one to sit for more than 3 minutes before we both have enough. Steve had already shown her feisty side, so bathtime was not going to happen. Snip snip, and then the next step began.

chicken haircut

We’ve all had bad haircuts before.

I brought her inside, where I had a mixture of 1 ounce of water with 1 teaspoon of epsom salts mixed in. This was to be administered orally to the chicken. This has always been the worst part of the treatment, usually leaving me soaking wet, since chickens don’t like being made to drink from a dropper. You gently pull on their wattles, and it’s supposed to open their mouth so you can squirt a little of the solution in. It does get their mouth open, but you usually have a nanosecond before it closes again. Steve, being a Wyandotte, doesn’t have much of a comb to speak of, but her wattles are quite large and luxurious. So much so that getting her mouth open was the easiest thing I had done all night. I got all the epsom drink down without getting any on myself, and briefly sat there amazed. Then I realized I still had an angry chicken to deal with, and brought her back to the coop.

If only I could convince them it's a trendy cocktail.

If only I could convince them it’s a trendy cocktail.

I’ll need to do this again. It usually takes two doses to work, so after the first dose, you get to spend a few days thinking about how much fun it will be to do again. I’m still dreading it, since she’s such a firecracker, but hopefully the wattles will work in my favor once more. I can’t handle an epsom drenching. Not when it’s humid like this.


(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Whistling Rufus by Heftone Banjo Orchestra)

Guess What? Chicken Butt!

Friday, April 3rd, 2015

Every night I stick my head inside the coop door and say goodnight to the chickens before I lock them in. This is not just because I am a nurturing chicken owner. I also do it to make sure they’re all there, as Boss Chicken once spent the night outside in freezing weather because I hadn’t noticed she was missing. I can also often get a better look at them while they’re roosting than I might normally while they’re running around. Of course, when I stick my head in the door the chickens use to enter and exit the coop, I am right at butt level. This isn’t always the place you want to be. However, on more than one occasion, this view has allowed me to save the day by noticing something was wrong with a chicken. The butt can often be the window into a chicken’s health. In the past, I’ve been able to spot vent gleet, thanks to its telltale symptoms that give it the nickname of “nasty butt disease.” Your grandparents possibly frequently asked you if you had had a bowel movement. They probably would have been good with chickens, as what comes out, or does not come out of a chicken’s butt is something you need to keep an eye on.

They'd ask anyone, anytime.

They’d ask anyone, anytime.

It’s always a surprise to peek in and see something amiss, and sometimes, given the way the chickens like to sit on top of one another, I don’t always get a good look. But sometimes I do, like the other night when I stuck my head in and got an eyeful of Henny Penny’s alarmingly featherless hind end. I had been a little worried about her anyway, since she had had really long molt this winter. Long enough that it made me paranoid. Like months. She’s seemed fine otherwise, but here was some evidence that maybe things weren’t great. My first thought was that she had been getting pecked there, since my mom had been calling me about problems with her own chickens pecking butts. I figured if this was it, I should put some Bag Balm or something on the raw area, so I’d need to grab her. The small door my head was in was too small for me to get at her, so I had to go around back where she would be farther away. I had no good options, but the need to protect her kicked in, and I managed to get her with one quick nab. She made an unholy noise, but I flipped her on her back and she calmed down. I took her inside, and realized the Bag Balm was deep inside the house. A house full of cats. Then I remembered that I had some Blu-Kote, which I had just recommended to my mom, in a catless part of the house. I brought her there, swabbed her with some dark blue antiseptic goodness, and brought her back to the coop. Then I remembered why you’re supposed to wear gloves with Blu-Kote. Luckily, my hands weren’t too Smurfy, and I put them to work on the computer, checking on any other possible causes for this feather loss.

smurf hand

Gotta keep my Smurf hand strong.

Feather loss can also be caused by an egg being stuck inside the chicken. We have had days where we get 5 eggs in the coop, but there are 6 chickens in there. That doesn’t mean anything really, but this created enough doubt in my mind that I knew I was walking into another “I stuck my finger in a chicken’s butt” story. I got my rubber gloves, grabbed poor Henny Penny again, and once again stuck my finger in a chicken’s butt. I didn’t feel an egg, which is good. I wasn’t sure what I was supposed to feel, but there certainly wasn’t an egg right at the threshold. Still, I figured I should keep an eye on her, so I brought her inside and put her in the dog crate Boss Chicken spends the winter in. She walked normally, so that was another egg bound symptom dismissed. I put her to bed, and went to bed myself.

Egg Bound For Glory - The Woody Guthrie Chicken Story

Egg Bound For Glory – The Woody Guthrie Chicken Story

The next morning, as I was getting the chickens’ breakfast ready, I was debating bringing Henny Penny back out, or if I should keep her quarantined, just in case. Then I opened the door and got hit in the face with the smell of the Chicken Butt Apocalypse. I went in, and not only had she pooped, but it was enormous. I knew then that no egg was blocking anything, and I brought her back outside. Maybe she’s getting pecked, maybe it’s something else. I’ll continue to monitor the situation. But that smell left no doubt in my mind that there were no clogs in this bird, and she was o.k. to rejoin the flock. At least one problem is ruled out, and time will tell what the cause of this actually ends up being. In the meantime, I’ll add another notch to whatever it is I use to track my exploratory chicken probings. That seems like the best euphemism for this.


Coming soon to a theater near you.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music bed: Fluffy Ruffles by All Star Trio)

The Return of Vent Gleet

Friday, October 10th, 2014

I’ve apparently been doing this chicken stuff long enough that I’m beginning to forget some of the things I’ve experienced. I mean, you never forget the first time you stick your finger up a chicken’s butt, but some of the less glamorous  problems may begin to fade from memory after a while. Because of this, I almost missed a nasty disease that snuck back into my flock. The following account may be considered shocking to some listeners, but if you have chickens, you know how gross they can sometimes be.

gross chicken

They know how gross they can sometimes be, too.

On one of my nightly egg checks, I opened the coop door and found that there was a chicken sitting in the nesting bucket while all the others were roosting for the night. This is never good. I figured if I was lucky, she was just broody, and I’d separate her from the others until the urge to hatch an egg subsided. But when I reached in to move her out of the bucket, she got up and ran away, and there was a real mess left behind. An egg was cracked in the wood chips inside the bucket, and her rear end looked really bad. I panicked that I had another chicken with a prolapsed vent, so I ran inside, got rubber gloves, and began my examination. It turns out that she merely had pooped and it had stuck to her butt because the broken egg had made everything super sticky. That was a weird thing to make me feel relief, but believe me, it was better than a prolapse. I tried to clean her off as best I could, but ended up trimming the soiled feathers, since it would not just wipe away.

chicken barber

At this rate, I’m going to open a chicken barber shop soon.

This happened right around the time I had put our new chicks in the run, with their chick food, which the adult hens kept eating. I thought that maybe she wasn’t getting all the nutrients a hen that lays eggs needed from eating baby food, so I added more calcium chips to the run to try to compensate. I figured that would be the end of it, but about a week later, the same exact thing happened. Broken egg, stuck to butt, combined with poop. Nice. I again trimmed the feathers as best I could, and thought about how to stop them from eating the chick food, as I was convinced this was the culprit. I then made a mash of layer food mixed with yogurt and calcium chips, figuring the novelty would attract the refined adult hen’s palate. They did eat it, so I kept doing it, figuring once she got her good nutrition, all would be well.

recipe for a mess.

Recipe for a mess.

Until the night she came outside and laid a brittle egg in the run, which she also sat on. I was now really beginning to worry. Then I remembered my run-in with vent gleet from last year, and it all started coming back to me. Vent gleet is a fungal infection of the vent, a.k.a. the chicken’s butt, which can cause strange chicken behavior, and egg problems. I hadn’t considered it as a possibility because I give the chickens apple cider vinegar in their water, as well as yogurt every day, both of which should ward it off. She also didn’t have the diarrhea that you usually see, but I was pretty sure this was what her problem was. Luckily, I wrote about this last time it happened, and I now suspect I have a chicken that just may be prone to it. The chicken having issues now is a Mandrell Sister, and the chicken who had it before was also a Mandrell Sister. Of course, I can’t tell them apart, so it might not be the same one, but for now I’m thinking it is. I brought her inside and began the treatment.

The doctor is in.

The doctor is in.

The first thing I did was clean her up as best I could. It’s not easy. When the poop gets mixed with egg, it’s like cement, but I trimmed the dirty feathers again. You can bathe them to break it up, but my attempts to do that before have ended with me blow-drying a chicken in my front yard, and I’m not going back. Once she was clean, I gave her butt a quick spritz with athlete’s foot spray to kill any bacteria. Then the real fun began.

blow dry a chicken

They may have enjoyed the blow drying more than I did.

The best method to cure this is to give the chicken a dose of epsom salts and water. Getting it in their beak is not easy, or enjoyable. You can get the beak open by gently tugging on their wattles, and then you drip a little of the solution in there, and repeat. It takes a long time to give the suggested amount. Also, I do this while straddling the chicken. When you miss the beak because the chicken moved, you then spray your crotch with epsom salt solution. The chicken will move a lot. Then you go back into your house and everyone wonders what you’ve been up to. Your explanations do not help your case.


Honesty is the most embarrassing policy.

Anyway, I got her to drink as much of it as I could. You’re supposed to keep the sick bird away from the others for about a week, but much like last time, she wouldn’t eat or drink while isolated, and after the epsom salts, she should really drink a lot. After a day of her rejecting a mash of water, apple cider vinegar and yogurt, I put her back with the others. She seems to be doing fine, but I know she’ll probably need a second dose. They usually do. Maybe I’ll put on some waterproof pants next time. But regardless of my pants, vent gleet is going to be something I remember from now on.

(CREDITS: Theme music: Chicken In The Barnyard by Fireproof Babies, Music Bed: Frog In The Well by Lucas Gonze.)

Don’t forget, you can subscribe to Too Many Chickens! on iTunes.

What Are You Feeding Those Things?

Friday, November 15th, 2013

(Broadcast 11/15/13)

Thanksgiving is quickly approaching, which means it’s time for two things. The first will be the beginning of news reports about people burning down their houses while trying to deep-fry a turkey, and the second will be the features on the horrors of the Turducken, which you may or may not know is a chicken stuffed into a duck stuffed into a turkey. These two things have become as much a part of Thanksgiving as anything else. I will not be eating a Turducken, nor will I be eating my chickens for Thanksgiving. I’m certainly not stuffing them into each other to make a Chichichichichichicken. No one in our household eats anyone else, and I aim to keep it that way. However, with the talk of what everyone’s having for Thanksgiving, it’s gotten me thinking about what I feed the chickens and how that changes with the seasons.

chicken centipede

It would be kind of like this.

There are a few constants. I always give them “layer feed,” so they have plenty of that if they want it. It’s basically corn pellets with vitamins added, though you can get it in “crumble” form, which looks like someone stepped on the pellets. It’s more a tiny nugget thing, whereas pellets are obviously pellets. I have a feeder hanging under the coop, so they can pick at this stuff any time they want. An interesting thing about layer feed is that it’s basically the same stuff as some types of natural corn-based cat litter, but way cheaper. A few times in a pinch we’ve dumped some chicken feed in the litter box and gotten decent results. Though, I don’t recommend giving it to the chickens after you’ve done this, no matter how mad you are at them.

litter and food

Two different things. Don’t mix them.

In the warmer months, the chickens can feast to their heart’s delight on bugs and worms and anything they can dig up out in the yard. Of course, in the winter months, there are a lot fewer of these things to choose from. We did just go through a Wooly Bear caterpillar explosion, so maybe they loaded up on those, and aren’t feeling too snacky right now. I don’t think that’s likely. They’ll always eat something else, and they’ll spend hours digging around in the leaf litter at the edge of the yard in the hopes of a treat no matter the time of year. Even it’s buried in snow, which I’m sure is not far off. It’s not the super buffet it used to be, but they must be finding something in there, or they wouldn’t keep at it, right? Maybe they’re just eternal optimists.

bug buffet

Coming soon to a Denny’s near you.

They’ve been getting a lot of bread ends lately, as my son generally is sent to school with a sandwich for lunch, so we go through a lot of bread. No one likes the ends, except the chickens. I would offer the ends to you if you like them, but the chickens called dibs. Greens from the garden have just dried up, but the bread ends will continue. We do eat other vegetables through the winter, but probably not as many as we had growing, so the flow of veggies to the chicken run has slowed. The bread ends are forever though. At least until my son realizes he can complain about what we’re feeding him. Hopefully that’s a little ways off. We’ve been getting good mileage out of this whole sandwich deal.


Please learn all the parts by Friday. This is on the test.

The newest addition to the chickens’ diet is yogurt. There’s a lot of information out there that much of our health may be influenced by gut flora, even mental health. I want to make sure the chickens aren’t feeling depressed in the winter months. What makes me depressed is when they get vent gleet, aka “nasty butt disease”, and yogurt can go a long way towards preventing that. Every morning I put a bowl of yogurt out for them, and they go nuts for it. One morning, as a test, I put a cucumber next to the yogurt to see which they would go for, and not one chicken touched the cucumber until the yogurt was gone. It’s also hilarious to watch them eat it, as it tends to get all over their faces, and they chew it with their little beaks. So it’s good nutrition as well as entertainment. They just get the plain stuff. No fruit on the bottom, fruit on the top, or memories of fruit from a summer program you were in back in college. The cheap stuff is the best. The chickens don’t even care what kind it is, they just dig it.


Yogurt fans unite!

In the colder months, the main thing they lose is some of the variety of treats they can forage on their own. They still get plenty to eat, and if I’m worried about it, I can spend vast amounts of money at the feed store buying all sorts of other treats for them. I think they’ll be fine without tons of treats. Waiting will let them build up their appetite for ticks and ants, and at the first sign of spring, I will release my chicken fury on the insects of the yard with renewed vigor.


More Gardening Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Garden Guys Green Revolution on BlogTalkRadio

My First Goose Egg!

Friday, October 25th, 2013

(Broadcast 10/25/2013)

Raising chickens has been full of milestones. There’s the excitement of the day I brought them home, the relief of finishing the coop (and the worry of their first night sleeping in it), and the thrill of the first egg. Not all milestones are happy ones, though. There was my first sick chicken, which now looks more like it should be counted as my first chicken to have a stroke. There was my first run in with the horrors of vent gleet, and as a result, my first time standing in the yard blow drying a chicken. I suppose if you think about it enough, anything can be a milestone. I happen to like thinking about it.


When the chickens first started laying eggs, it was December, and you’re probably aware of the fact that December has pretty short days. The amount of light chickens get has a direct influence on how many eggs they lay. Or that’s what I was led to believe. As soon as they all started laying, it was half a dozen eggs a day for a good long time, darkness be damned. We weren’t prepared for such an ovoid onslaught, but it was cool to be finally getting eggs, and nice to see the chickens all pitching in. The fact that they were really sticking it to the darkness tickled me as well. I like the underdog, or perhaps in this case, the underchicken.


Underchicken, of Saturday morning cartoon fame.

As time went on, the six-eggs-a-day rule seemed to be getting more relaxed. If a chicken isn’t feeling well, they won’t lay, and it’s even pretty normal to not lay an egg every day. Sometimes, the eggs would be there, but would be one of those creepy “rubber eggs” I’ve talked about. There are a lot of factors involved in egg production, and it’s unrealistic to think they’d operate at maximum capacity forever, or even for very long.

egg factory

Summer came around, and some days we’d get three eggs, some days more. Some days they’d lay them in the nesting buckets, sometimes next to them, and in the last few weeks they’d taken to laying them on the far side of the roost, which is very difficult for me to reach. I know when I’m being screwed with, but everyone likes sticking it to the Man, and I suppose I’m the Man in this scenario. I put a plastic easter egg in one of the nesting buckets, and they eventually got the hint. And the number of eggs we got continued to fluctuate. The vent gleet episode took one chicken out of production for a while, so I knew we wouldn’t be hitting six then. The only one I can reliably even keep a tally on is Boss Chicken, since she’s in her own coop (or rabbit hutch, really) due to her handicap. She seems to be easing into an every other day routine, but again, not always. There’s fluctuation, but always eggs somewhere.

egg journal

I keep a journal of how many eggs each day.

So the other day when I went to check the eggs and Boss Chicken didn’t have one, I figured it was one of her days off. Then I opened the coop, and there were none in the buckets. I felt around in the shavings, since they sometimes like to bury them, but still nothing. So then I climbed into the coop to check the far side of the roost. Nothing. Nada. Zilch. Zero. It appeared everyone had taken the day off. It was close to Columbus Day weekend, so maybe they felt it was a state chicken holiday or something. The only thing I do know is that the only egg I got that day was a big goose egg.

goose egg

Listen to the goose.

I was initially a little worried that maybe their egg laying days were behind them, but they’re only a little over a year old, not even a year and half. They’ve got more time. I think the erraticness of their laying schedules was bound to align eventually, and there we were. The next day, we got more eggs. Next summer I may need to start thinking about what’s going to happen to our egg supply, but we should be good through the winter. That’s not to say I’m not going to start obsessively hoarding the eggs, but you might as well hoard them while you know they’re still coming, right? Right?


More Gardening Podcasts at Blog Talk Radio with Garden Guys Green Revolution on BlogTalkRadio

Giving Chickens A Bath

Friday, October 11th, 2013

(Broadcast 10/11/2013)

There comes a time in everyone’s life when they find they need to give a chicken a bath. Wait, what? You say that’s not actually true? Most people haven’t ever bathed a chicken? Well, this is certainly unexpected. Regardless, I recently found myself in a position where I had to give not one, but two chickens baths, and I lived to tell the tale. I may die of embarrassment once the tale is told, but you know, I’ve had a good run. To keep the embarrassment to a minimum, I’ll only discuss the first bath today.

chicken hot tub

In the 80s, even chickens had hot tubs.

Remember my discussion of “vent gleet,” aka nasty chicken butt disease, from a couple of weeks ago? Maybe not. The gist of it is that I have a chicken that had a problem that involved really nasty tail feathers due to, let’s say cloacal issues. I did everything the internet said to do: I cleaned the feathers (opting to trim off the nasty ones), I administered an oral dose of epsom salts, I put apple cider vinegar in the water, and I dealt out lots of yogurt. She seemed to be doing well, until a week later when I stuck my head in the coop to say goodnight, and I noticed her tail feathers were befouled anew. You notice these things when the coop door is righ at their rump level. I shook my fist at the chicken butt gods and angrily approached the internet for guidance.

soiled rump

The look on my face upon seeing the soiled rump.

Upon rereading the article about vent gleet that had originally guided me, it did mention that sometimes two treatments were necessary. In my lust for success, I guess I missed that part. But at least it could still be vent gleet and not something worse. I redid all the original treatments, and hoped that this time it would stick.


Treat, and retreat.

Then I got to thinking that the one thing I hadn’t done was give the chicken an epsom salt bath. This was suggested partly to help soften the nasty feathers for cleaning, but also to help with the affliction itself. Vent gleet can be caused by fungus or parasites, and the epsom salts can help to defeat both those things. As a good chicken dad, I began to think that maybe I should give this a shot.

The problem with giving this a shot was that the time I had to dedicate to bathing a chicken was time that I was the only one home besides my son, who I was supposed to be watching. I thought I could interest him in helping out as a father/son project, but he was already annoyed with me because I told him he needed to come outside instead of watching TV all afternoon. So taking away something he liked and offering to supplement it with something that actually sounded kind of awful was not appealing. He opted to sit in a chair out in the yard and occasionally glare at me while the rest of this went down.

stink eye

The old Stink Eye

I got the only bucket we had, and hoped a chicken would fit in it. I added some epsom salts and water, and took it outside. I thought once more about if I really needed to do this. I had trimmed the chicken’s dirty feathers again, but maybe there was more going on in there that I wasn’t getting with the trimming, or couldn’t be trimmed away. Yes, I should do this just to be safe. I took the chicken and proceeded to the bucket.

chicken equation

An equation.

She kind of fit. I could at least get her butt down into the water. I called to my son to look at daddy, he’s doing something ridiculous. He grunted in response. The chicken squirmed a little and looked around, as if to see if anyone was watching. No one seemed to be, though we can’t rule out NSA spy drones. She sat still for about 3 minutes, and then the attempts to escape began in earnest. There was squawking and kicking, which means there was also splashing. I had a good grip on her wings, so she couldn’t flap them, but this was becoming more unpleasant by the minute, and it was never really very pleasant to begin with. I held on for a couple more minutes, then finally let her out. She was in there for a total of five minutes, tops. The instructions said to keep her in there for 20 minutes. No chance of that happening without me having a team of chicken wranglers.

I let her out in the yard, and figured since it was sunny and warm, she could dry off in the sun. At that moment, a cloud came by and somehow managed to blot out any sunlight for half an hour. I knew what I needed to do. I went and got our longest extension cord, and a hair dryer.

hair dryer

The cord was long.

I’m not sure if you’ve ever stood in your driveway holding a wet chicken like a baby while blow drying it, but it’s certainly an experience I never anticipated having. Cars were going by, but no one seemed to notice. The chicken lay there on her back, seemingly content. The smell of hot chicken feathers filled my nose, and I realized I had gone to a place most people never go to. I am still wondering if this is a good thing. But the chicken was dry, and so far we haven’t seen any more dirty butt feathers on her. We also haven’t seen any of the neighbors. But if we do, I suppose we’ll find out very quickly which ones saw my foray into chicken hairdressing.


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Vent Gleet? Vent Gleet!

Friday, September 6th, 2013

(Broadcast 9/6/2013)

Sometimes things just seem to happen at the right times. One of the chickens had been acting a little odd every so often, and I was keeping an eye on her to try to figure out if she was just being weird, or if something else was up. The problem was that she was one of the Mandrell Sisters, so I wasn’t really able to tell which chicken was acting weird, just that it was a Buff Orpington. Then I happened to notice that one of them had, for lack of a better term, a “racing stripe” down her butt, so at one point in recent memory, there had been some digestive upset. I didn’t see any evidence of that as an ongoing thing in the coop, but I was now paying extra close attention, and also had a way to distinguish this one from the other two. What brought it all together was a blog post by one of my former writing students. She has chickens, and writes about them, and mentioned that she had had a run-in with something called “vent gleet.” As I read the symptoms, I realized that one of my chickens might have this same issue.

Hot new website

Not too long ago, if you had said the words “vent gleet” to me, I might have figured it was a city in Holland, and pictured canals, lots of bikes, and people so liberal they make Massachusetts look like Texas. This image is now gone, thanks to the fact that vent gleet is also known as “messy butt disease,” among other things, and if you do any sort of research on it, you will see things that cannot be unseen. It’s a fungal infection of the “vent,” aka the “cloaca,” aka the chicken’s butt (which is also where the egg comes out for one stop shopping!). Diarrhea is a symptom, which is how the feathers in the butt area get so messy, but if you don’t treat it, it can spread internally and cause lowered egg production, or even death. Once I saw all the symptoms tied together, I knew this was probably what this chicken had going on. Luckily, that chicken that had been acting weird acted weird again right around that time vent gleet came on my radar. Nothing huge, just things like sitting in the shavings rather than on the roost, but when encouraged to go on the roost, she’d then just wander outside into the run in the dark. Maybe she thought it was actually morning, but it seemed wrong to me. I shined the light on her hinder, and lo and behold, there was the aforementioned racing stripe. I knew it was time to treat this chicken.

vent gleet

Van Gogh’s Vent Gleet landscape

One of the main ways to cure this affliction is to put apple cider vinegar in the chickens’ water. I do this anyway, so I was a little miffed that she still managed to rock the gleet. But these things happen. I brought her into the quarantine pen, and began stronger treatments.

The big one people recommend is to give the chicken a bath. This may sound ridiculous, but you have to get the dirty feathers dealt with. An epsom salt soak is how many people do it, since this will also kill the fungus, but I didn’t think I had a large enough bucket or the patience to do this. I went the brute force route and snipped the dirty feathers off with scissors. I then gave her a dose of an epsom salt solution, which I had to administer a few drops at a time. I had the chicken wrapped in a towel as I hunched over her, trying to get her beak open to get the magic potion in. It took about a half an hour, but the humiliation I felt will last a lifetime. You can just leave this solution out for them to drink if there is no other water, but that seemed like an invitation for it to get dumped in the shavings. She eventually got her full dose, and then I put her in a dog crate with food, water, and some yogurt. The probiotics in the yogurt also help fight the fungus.

chicken bath

They love bubble baths, really.

I initially put the waterer they used as chicks in there with her, but she wasted no time in spilling that everywhere. Since we’re trying to fight fungus, it seemed counterproductive to have a moist chicken. I took that waterer out, put in dry shavings, and attached a hamster water bottle to the crate. After a day or two, I noticed two things. 1. There was no diarrhea to be seen, and 2. she didn’t seem to have figured out how to use the water bottle. She had also been away from the rest of the flock for five days at this point, and I was worried about having to reintroduce her if she stayed out much longer. Most people seem to think they need to be quarantined for a week, but I felt that since she seemed to be on the up and up, maybe I could put her back in after five days, at least so she’d get some water. I put her back in the coop the next morning, and she fit right back in as if nothing was wrong.

butt toupee

Next on QVC.

The good news is that the weird smell in the coop has disappeared. There’s a sickly sweet smell that the fungal stool gives off, and I realized in retrospect I had noticed an odd aroma and just chalked it up to humidity. I’m not smelling it anymore, so that’s a victory. The bad news is that she still sometimes sits in the shavings and goes out in the run in the dark if I try to put her on the roost. So maybe it’s not the gleet, or maybe she needs more treatment. Whatever it is, she’s missing a big chunk of butt hair, so for now I can keep a better eye on her until I figure it out.

(There’s an update to my vent gleet treatment here. There’s an easier way!)

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