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  • Sue


The name was new to me and I have kept hens for most of my life, but another family member identified it immediately. One of our little Pekin bantams ( the pale grey one in the main photograph) had a limp, and it would not go away.

Betty Banana, Mrs Pookie and Bertie Rooster take a stroll round the garden

Eventually, and armed with a torch, I opened the hen house one night and lifted her out. Richard held her and I shone the torch on the foot in question. This little swelling under her foot may look innocent, but it was the start of something more sinister....bumblefoot, which is a bacterial infection in the foot. If left it can swell into a horrible abscess which may need lancing or even removal of the infected tissue. The poor chicken is then left to hobble about on a bandaged foot for days until recovered. If she can't get about she can't eat and can weaken and die - if she has not already died from sepsis. It is surprisingly common and Luci, the family chicken expert, identified it from this photograph immediately.

I Googled what to do next and the results were horrible, detailing surgery, infection control, strapping the foot up and basically hoping for the best. We chickened out (sorry) of doing that and waited for things to get better. Of course they didn't and a nasty abscess started to develop between two of her toes. Her comb went very pale and she stopped laying eggs. We went to the vet. He recognised it at once (the French for "bumblefoot" is "bumblefoot" it seems) and prescribed strong antibiotics for 10 days morning and night.

Mrs Pookie (the hen in question) was remarkably tolerant, given that she had to be removed from the hen house each morning before we let them out and again at night while she was trying to sleep. Richard then held her on her back while I prised her beak open and delivered two syringes of antibiotics into her mouth. She nearly drowned on only a couple of occasions and we do remain on friendly terms (I can only assume hens have short memories and very forgiving natures).

At the end of the ten days the abscess had dried up a bit, but was still there. I ordered scalpels, bandages and antibacterial cream via Amazon. A week later - no limp was evident and she was back to her usual bossy self. (Mrs Pookie is head bantam and hatched a clutch of eggs for us this year). I disturbed her sleep once again to turn her upside down and inspect the foot. The abscess had gone. Three cheers to our vet who knew what he was talking about despite a degree of scepticism from me and my GP brother in law who, as a next step, was being lined up as our medical consultant while I attempted radical surgery.

They say trouble comes in threes and sure enough it did. A few days after her recovery we found that one of our five bantams was missing (Oreo Cookie - a little black and white Pekin, and one of Mrs Pookie's hatchlings this year). Worse.....there was a scattering of Oreo Cookie coloured feathers in a corner of the garden. We didn't see her all day and assumed the worst. Next morning, when I opened their hen house up all five bantams came out. She had hidden all day and then, as it started to get dark, she must have crept back to her hen house to join the others. She is fine, but has a bald bottom, which is better than being a hot dinner for the local fox.

Mrs Pookie and her chicks, Oreo Cookie is the one in the hen house.

The third event was not so of our standard laying hens, a lovely brown one bought at St Foy market a couple of years ago (and called Chicken), disappeared a day later and has never been found. The fox - or whatever it was - must have come back for a second try. Sadly she had a best friend, Egg, a hen we bought at the same time, who is distraught. Hens are sociable creatures and they need friends. We must buy another hen and hope that she and Egg can hit it off.

RIP Chicken, you will be missed.

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