For most of last week we shared the house with a chicken in a cage. Cochen spent her days in the dining room listening to Radio 4 and her nights chirruping to herself in the guest bedroom. I spent my days cleaning up poo from the cage, her food bowl and her water bowl (her aim is good), replenishing her food bowl and water bowl, administering vaseline to her sore legs and antiseptic cream to her wounded toe, and carrying her from bedroom to dining room to utility (and temporary treatment) room. Teri spent her days staring fixedly at Cochen's cage and her evenings staring fixedly at the closed bedroom door behind which Cochen and her cage had disappeared. When you're a dog for whom continuously following and rounding up chickens (bob-bobs in dog speak) is a daily routine, to find one in your house is a mind blowing experience. The mental struggle to maintain normal (for her) indoor obsessive compulsive behaviours while simultaneously guarding a chicken was plain to see in her furrowed brow and crazy eyes. Just one more day of this and there's the very real possibility that we would have witnessed the first spontaneously combusting collie.
So why was Cochen in caged isolation? Bumble Foot. Or rather suspected, internet diagnosed Bumble Foot. Cochen has always been missing the end of one toe and, on the same foot, with the middle toe bent upwards, pretty much at an angle of 90 degrees to where it should be. I suspect she was trampled on as a chick as when she came to us at about 24 weeks it was clear that her foot had been like that for some time. The deformity has never been a problem to her, not preventing normal scratching behaviour or causing any obvious discomfort. Until now. It started with a Ministry of Silly Walks style gait, followed by standing on one leg more often than on two legs. An inspection revealed her bent up toe to be warm and slightly swollen. A foot wash revealed a small dark scab on the pad of that toe. Browsing poultry forum photos suggested this was typical of the onset of Bumble Foot. Great name for what is essentially an infection under the skin as a result of a wound from a thorn or similar such pointy item. I don't know if the name derives from the fact that the swellings are similar to those caused by bee stings or because chickens with big swollen feet bumble about. Maybe a little bit of both.
Cochen appeared to enjoy the warm Epsom Salts foot baths. She was less happy about the minor foot surgery to remove scab and generally dig around the little hole (sounds grim but I swear that was the advice of the poultry forum gurus and believe me, there are plenty of photos online to back this up). She was completely unfazed by life in a cage under the intense stare of a collie. She failed to make the connection as we sat nearby eating eggs for lunch. Now she's back with the flock I miss having the chirruping, clucking, bob-bob-bobbing and thud-thud-thud of furious pecking as the soundtrack to my day.