My Tiny Brood of Backyard Chooks

chooks, hens or chickens?

Bumblefoot, Scaly Leg Mite or Just Dirty Chicken Toenails


I had my three chickens locked up for two and  half weeks to make sure that Hannah Hen didn’t run away back across the road to where she used to live all on her own in a paddock. Last weekend it was time to let them out to free range, hoping very much that I would still have three chickens at the end of the day.

As I was letting them out and giving Hannah a lecture about staying with us and not going back across the road, I happened to see that she had something wrong with her toes. One toenail on each foot had some sort of dark lump attached to it. I quickly looked to see if the two Barnevelders had weird things on their toes. But no, their toes were perfectly fine. Maybe it was just dirt lodged under her toenails. She seems well enough and she isn’t limping.

If it is just dirty toenails, the dirt should dislodge while free ranging among the bushes and trees.

So after they had been out about an hour or so, I brought out the purple treat tin. I shook it and called them and all three came running with their funny little side to side gait. While all their heads were busy in the treat tin picking through the grain I checked out Hannah Hen’s toes. Oh No! The dark lumps are still there. It can’t just be dirt. She must have something wrong. The first thing I thought of was scaly leg mite but her legs didn’t seem to have raised scales. Or maybe she has bumblefoot (an infection).

I didn’t want to pick her up to inspect her as she is still getting used to living with us and I didn’t want to frighten her. She might run off back to that paddock. But as she walked away from the treat tin, did I see swelling under her foot? Maybe it is bumblefoot.

While the three chooks continued their scratching and pecking oblivious to my angst, I searched the internet for diagnosis and a cure. I didn’t want it to be bumblefoot as the cure is too difficult for me to administer (I won’t bore you with the gory details) so scaly leg mite it had to be. The cure was to dip her leg in cooking oil for a length of time to drown the mites or to smother her legs with Vaseline. I didn’t want to do either of those. So I rang Haitch who was out at the supermarket to ask if he would go to the pet store and get some spray for scaly leg mite. That might be easier.

Haitch got back from the pet store with no spray and a suggestion from the pet store to use cooking oil or Vaseline! So I put them to bed that evening worrying about when to do the oiling. Not tonight. Maybe tomorrow night.

The next morning when I let them out I was hoping that her toes were miraculously better. No such luck. Off they went free ranging for the day while I debated when and how to drown her scaly leg mites.

At treat time later in the day I checked out Hannah Hen’s toes again. They were clean and normal! No black lumps. Dirt! Was it just dirty toenails all this time.? Had I given myself all this angst for dirty toenails? Permission to laugh very loudly at me.

Today I found a wonderful post on a blog called Tales of Keeping Chickens and Living by the Sea. The post is called Worrying About Chicken’s Health. I think the post is apt and timely.


3 thoughts on “Bumblefoot, Scaly Leg Mite or Just Dirty Chicken Toenails

  1. I had a similar thing with one of my golden pheasants and had to take him to vet – glad your problem is resolved. Now I just have to cut the two alpacas’ toenails – wanna come and help?

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