New Shoes? Blue Shoes!

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Lily is not in the pink….in fact she has turned blue, and it has nothing to do with the beautiful colour of her eggs. Unfortunately, it has everything to do with her bright blue Vet Wrap foot bandage which she is currently modelling in this season’s electric blue. As my vet said as she brought her out from clinic last Friday “She’s wearing some  Nike Air Max trainers – for chickens!”

The Blue LegI was very impressed. The receptionist was very impressed too.  However, I am not sure that Lily  was as smitten with her new mitten. She would probably rather that she hadn’t needed expert medical attention. She may well regret having injured her foot in the first place, or that it subsequently swelled up rather unpleasantly and probably painfully.

In fact, we all regret the onset of Bumblefoot, or whatever lurgy is now infecting poor Lily. This is the first case I have had to deal with and I am already in trepidation, having heard from more experienced friends how hard this is to eradicate and how willing it is to return.

I had not noticed that anything was wrong, a fact about which I now feel mortified as she must have been brewing the infection like a strong cup of builder’s tea. It was certainly well-stewed by the time I realised she needed some serious hen-chiropody.

So much so that I noticed two nodules, a bit like peas, protruding from either side of her central toe. They looked like tiny cysts and gave the impression of  her having webbed feet – not at all the proper  footwear for hens!  Lily didn’t mind about them, she was pottering about the Hen Garden as usual, although now I think of it, I did notice a slight limp the day before. But as she was still trotting around perkily, eating well and beating everyone to any goodies like worms, I didn’t have a clue there was a serious health problem brewing.

At the vets, she was given some jabs to reduce the infection and bring down the swelling, and the following day we picked up a course of oral antibiotics for her as well. It sounds so easy, doesn’t eat, when you read the little labels on your hen’s medicine: “Lily: give 1 ml daily for 10 days”. Easy peasy chicken feedy. No problems there then.

Until you try to do it, that is! Hens are worse than small children to dose. Children can be bribed. Hens can’t. The  “just take this and you can have a…” approach just doesn’t cut it. What you can do though is to add the medicine to something they really, really like,  such as mealworms, or sweetcorn, or in Lily’s case, tuna fish in spring water!

Yes, Lily had just discovered that this was her new favourite titbit, so that was my weapon of choice for delivery of her Baytril.  A sort of Trojan Horse approach – put the fighting force (in this case not the Greek army but some antibiotics) inside something that will be innocently received as a gift.

Initially, this worked well as she saw the tuna (in a plastic cat bowl) and guzzled it all before the other hens had realised she was snaffling something delectable. But by day 2 or 3 all the others  wanted some too, so getting it exclusively to Lily was proving more difficult. I tried rolling bits of tuna into pellets and lobbing them in her direction  which worked most times but occasionally another chicken got a bit, which was not the plan. In any case, Lily was becoming increasingly suspicious of  my oddball approaches and decided to beware of geeks bearing gifts….

So this mode of attack was dropped and a new strategy initiated. This time I waited until bedtime when Lily went up to roost with the other hens. I don’t like doing this as it must be terrifying, but sometimes it’s the only way to catch them. A dusk raid was duly conducted and Lily  extracted from her duvet. So there we were, Lily and me in the dying light, waltzing briskly into the utility room which had just morphed into a Hen Outpatients Unit. (Sadly there is not yet a HeN HS).

With my invalid hen comfortably standing on a pink towel and having offered some mealworms to relax her, I somehow managed to hold Lily firmly with my left arm, squeeze her beak open with my left hand whilst simultaneously  releasing the pre-loaded plastic syringe with my right hand. I am not quite sure how I did this, but to my amazement, Lily blinked and then swallowed, and the deed was done!  I wiped the dribbles from her chin, syringe successfully emptied and its missile deployed. I also got a good look at her tongue, which I had never seen before, and this was a bonus since I had that week done a Google search on “Do hens have tongues?”  I hadn’t expected to find the answer so directly.

Anyway, after  a week-plus of these sort of bedtime games, and with no real progress in Lily’s condition, I rang the vet and we discussed our options.

Surgery (effective but relatively expensive)

Vet to lance and clean the pus out.

Me to lance and clean the pus out

At first option 3) was rather tempting, in a spot-squeezingly gruesome-but-compelling sort of way. I even acquired a sterile surgical blade off a friend who happened to have one in her first aid kit, possibly put there by her surgeon husband. But then I looked at Lily’s swollen, pustulent growths, and realised this was not a DIY event. There was risk to both hen and human – staphylococcus was NOT going to become my new best friend.

So Lily went back to the vets  for a proper, professional vetty sort of job and the pustulent lumps were lanced, the scab removed and the whole lot flushed through and then injected with antibiotics.

……Hence the need for her electric blue bandage, and her rather fetching end-of-season look. Not exactly blue suede shoes, but definitely blue-swathed toes! Eat your heart out, Manola and Jimmy……

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