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Leg conditions in backyard chickens, poultry
7:15am Tuesday 26th June 2012 in Poultry
Our helpline regularly receives calls from owners who have a bird that has gone lame, writes Richard Jackson.
Firstly it is important to determine whether or not the bird has had an accident causing damage to its legs.
Initially handle the bird very gently, look for bruises, bleeding and feel for heat swelling and pain in the birds legs.
Any evidence of severe bleeding or broken bones needs immediate treatment from your vet. Place the bird in a dark box which will reduce its movements hopefully stopping the injury from getting worse. If there is severe bleeding from the leg apply pressure with a clean towel rather than attempt to make a tourniquet.
With minor strains and sprains keep the bird in a confined space for a week or 10 days but ensure the bird is still in site of its flock mates so that when he/she is introduced there is no fighting.
If you can feel hot swollen painful joints it is likely the bird has a joint infection usually caused by either Mycoplasma synoviae or Staphylococcus. Joint conditions can be serious and sometimes fatal, again a visit to the vet may be necessary for a course of antibiotics.
Check the foot for any abscesses (bumble foot). This is caused by Staphylococcus bacteria and often enters the foot via an abrasion. This condition is best solved by the abscess being lanced by your vet and then flushed out. Ensure you have no rough un-sanded perches which can cause splinters allowing bacteria into the foot. Likewise sharp shavings can penetrate the foot. High perches mean the bird hits the ground harder when flying down in the morning again increasing the chances of damage.
Check foot pads for ulcers as they can be associated with wet bedding. Often occurring if your bird’s have diarrhoea, if so put down extra bedding.
Scaly leg is perhaps the most famous condition of chicken legs and is caused by a burrowing mite (Knemidocoptes mutans). The mite burrows in between the scales of the leg causing irritation and thickening of the skin. The mites feed on the fluid that oozes from the damaged skin. They leave a small tunnel to the surface for breathing. It takes months for the thickening to appear on the legs of affected birds and as such the condition is often seen in older birds.
When treating scaly leg the first step is to use baby shampoo and a soft toothbrush to clean the legs and to begin to soften the rough scales on the leg. I recommend that this is done weekly for four weeks.
After washing the legs and drying them the bird’s legs can be dunked in surgical spirits to kill the mites. Again repeat this weekly for a month.
Vaseline can be applied to the legs daily for a few weeks to soften the thick scales and to block the breathing tunnels used by the mites thus suffocating them.
If you a really struggling to control scaly leg mites then talk to your vet as there are products such as Ivermectin one per cent spot on drops. These drops are not licensed for use in chickens (food producing animals) and should therefore only be used under the guidance of your prescribing vet.
They also come in different strengths, the ones we use for our clients are accompanied by a warning that you must not eat any eggs for a minimum of seven days following treatment however your vet may suggest a longer egg withdrawl.
Because the scales on the legs grow slowly it will take several months to see an improvement.
For more information visit the Chicken Vet website at www.chickenvet.co.uk
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