Cleanliness is Next to…Part 2
In a previous post, so titled, I discussed why I did not permit the dogs to wander into the chicken side of the fence. It was less about security and much more about sanitation. It’s one thing for the chickens and I to deal with their poultry poop. It’s quite another to deal with the unfortunate intersection of chicken beaks or feet and dog poop.
For some odd reason, I did not logically associate the same potential problem when the chickens began hanging out on the dogs side of the fence. That is, until a couple of days ago during a warm spell, when much to my despair, I observed the mud caked chicken feet of Helen of Troy Boy and Esther… only it wasn’t mud and it wasn’t chicken shit.
Now wait. Before you grossly envision canine caca deposited all over my yard (I mean I do have 6 dogs, after all.) It’s not quite as stenchy as it seems. For the most part, number two’s are picked up on a regular basis. That’s not to say that a few aren’t missed, now and again. They obviously are and I had 2 chicken feet (one foot per chicken) to prove it.
So after much hand wringing AND nervously following the chickens around trying to get close enough to wipe their feet, AND desperately hoping that the caked doo-doo would miraculously fall off, I realized an intervention was necessary. I needed to wash those chicken feet. And it wasn’t going to be a routine task. Nope. It sure wasn’t.
I have not physically handled my chickens since the week I purchased them in August. Something about the running away, the screeching, the squawking, the pecking of beaks, flapping of wings, kicking of feet…After several attempts, one gets the distinct impression that human handling is not much wanted nor appreciated – kinda like… no means NO. And I have never ever cleaned chicken feet.
Several bloggers here have shared successful stories of intensive scalpel wielding kitchen table-top chicken surgery for conditions like bumblefoot or impacted crop. All I needed to do was wash and dry some dirty chicken feet. Nonetheless, I sought out those posts for a little moral support and chicken handling tips. I knew there was no way I was going to bring filthy chicken feet into the house, so I needed to bring warm sudsy water to them. I also noticed that nearly everyone had wrapped their chickens in big, fluffy spa towels, chickens oriented on their backs, chicken legs relaxed and extended, eyes nearly shut, and wings flayed open, as if they just finished a loving-kindness meditation and were now preparing for a full body massage.
These chicken whisperer bloggers said that a towel helps to control and calm the chicken, so I got an old beach towel and attempted to catch the filthy footed chickens by tossing the towel over them – absolutely to no avail. After about 1/2 hour of running around wildly, tossing the towel here and there and trying to catch one or the other, I finally decided to corral them, one at a time into the small chain linked fence area, where I could shut the gate, corner them, and do the dirty deed. I took my towels, sudsy water bowl, rinse water, old toothbrush, and paper towels to the fenced safety area and then spend another 1/2 hour running around trying to corral one of the birds into it. I managed to scare Esther in first, and after some squawking, wing flapping, and running around crazily, I finally caught her and sorta wrapped her body in the towel.
There was nothing spa-like or meditative about the ordeal. My deep plastic bowl of warm sudsy water was on the ground in front of me and so I basically knelt down with both legs behind me with the wrapped, stressed bird standing stiff and pissed, with doo-doo feet firmly planted on my upper thighs. I then managed to grab hold of the filthy foot and dipped it into the soapy water. With my other hand wrapped around the toweled bird, I managed to use the toothbrush and paper towel to cleanse her foot of all traces of doo doo. I then smelled her foot, just to make sure. It smelled pretty nice. One thing I noticed was that Esther was not giving me a hard time, relatively speaking. I think once I plunged her foot in the warm water and began softly scrubbing it, she figured out I was getting the crap off her foot. I mean, the chickens knew they had something disgusting on their feet, which they were not going to peck off – thank God.
Once I washed her other foot and dried both feet off, I gently placed her on the ground and opened the gate. She ran out to the flock, who proceeded to smell? her feet…I think they were checking out her feet in any case. Next up: Helen of Troy – Boy. New water, new towel, rinsed toothbrush and I started the entire endeavor anew.
I won’t lie. I am actually just a bit cautious with HoT Boy. He is a bit protective of the hens and one day, he spurred the back of my leg – enough to cause a little bruise. In any case, I knew I had to clean his foot, so I took control, corralled him into the fenced area, and caught him. Surprisingly, he was OK with it all. Before I knew it, his feet were clean and out the gate he went.
My chicken’s feet were clean (my jeans – not so much) and for some reason, I felt a real sense of accomplishment for doing that. Cleaning their feet. I could do this – take care of my chickens on some very basic physical level – but probably…no, definitely not surgery.