The Scout, hatched October 28, 2014
Katie's reaction to seeing her chick peek out. "Gramma, I SAW him!"
Our granddaughter Katie named him Scout, because he was the first one hatched and a friend said he was the "scout" sent out ahead of the others. But there were no others. He was the sole egg to hatch out of the 15 we put under Katie's chicken, Agatha. Katie was so happy to catch her first glimpse of him when he peeked out for a split second!
Agatha is an Easter Egger who went decidedly broody at only 8 months old. It was still warm, so we thought we'd order some eggs for her. It was the 4th of October when they arrived, and knowing our Wyoming weather patterns we thought he'd have plenty of time to get feathered out before winter set in. We were wrong.
The first time Scout decided to tempt fate was the day after he hatched. Agatha was still sitting on the remaining eggs, and somehow Scout got out from under her and couldn't get back. When I found him he was laying with his eyes closed, legs and neck extended, and so very, very cold. I was sick. One chick and we'd lost him. I laid him on top of the broody cage and went in for a glass of warm water, planning to water candle the rest of the eggs. I was about halfway through when I thought I detected a slight movement from Scout. I grabbed that baby up, stuck him in my bra, and ran to the house, yelling at Ken to set up the brooder. Scout showed no signs of life, but I started working on him. I rubbed him with a warmed washcloth until the light had heated the brooder a bit. Then I put him under it. There was nothing else I could do until he'd warmed up a little bit, so I went out and finished candling the other eggs. There was no life in them, so I disposed of them and went back in to see how Scout was doing. When he'd warmed a little I gave him a drop of PolyViSorb and dipped his little beak in some sugar water. Within an hour, he was up and walking, none to steadily, but walking nonetheless. By the end of the second hour, he acted as if nothing had ever happened.
Recovering from his first brush with death.
Reunited with his grateful mom, Agatha.
Scout did very well, Mom took care of integrating him into the flock. She was doing a wonderful job with him and he was thriving. Oh, he got himself into a couple of other minor scrapes - finding a hole and squirting out, separated from Agatha and protesting loudly, trying to fly into the coop instead of using the ramp and clocking his head - but all in all he was fine. And then the weather turned, and it turned quickly and hard! Temperatures plunged from the 60s to the 20s one day to the teens the next and they just kept dropping until we ended up in the negative numbers. I worried about Scout, but every time I went out there he was running all over the run, copying Mom and the other big girls, then dashing under her for a quick warm-up.
Out in the run with Agatha and the other girls.
And under Mom for a quick warm-up.
But on Wednesday, the 12th of November when the cold was miserable, I went out to check. Scout was over against the wall of the run, cheeping loudly and Mom was paying him no mind. I watched for a minute or two (and it was -4 so it was a cold wait) to see if she would cover him. His peeps got weaker, and he started leaning to one side. I didn't wait another minute. I picked him up. Have you ever held an ice cube in the palm of your hand? That's what his feet felt like. So back in the house he came. We set up the small brooder again, warmed him, I gave him some PolyViSol and sugar water, then put him in to rest. He got stronger as the day went on but wouldn't walk. He did eat well if I put his dish in front of him, he drank water, and he was pooping normally. He was just miserable. Later on I picked him up and I was shocked by what I saw. Blisters - big, ugly frostbite blisters on his feet. Katie came over to see him, either that night or the next, I can't remember. She stroked his little head and said, "Do what you can, Gramma, and let God handle the rest." Have I mentioned how much I love that little girl?
Poor Baby Scout. Blisters like this on both feet.
All my searches on BYC returned posts about frostbitten wattles and combs and one post on frostbite blisters on a hen's legs, but nothing concrete about what they did for her or what the final outcome was. So I was winging it, and decided to share and chronicle what I did no matter what the outcome might be, on the off chance that someone else faces frostbite in a chick's feet. While I soaked a needle in alcohol, I started to look for something to soak his feet in. I spotted my glass jar candles. The lid! It was perfect. I mixed up some warm Epsom Salt water and filled the candle lid. Scout had a hot tub! I popped the blisters on his feet, but while I worked on one blister the one I had already done begin to refill. So each blister had to be opened twice. I got clear, yellow fluid out of them. I then put him in the water. The plastic rim of the lid held his body up out of the water, and he sort of hung there, dangling his legs and feet. Have you seen the cartoons where the character's hiney is on fire and he plunges it into a pond or barrel of water? That's how Scout looked - "Ahhhhhhhh"! He protested loudly when I took him out, but as soon as he was wrapped in his warm spa towel (a washcloth run through the dryer for a few minutes) he was happy again.
Scout's first time in his hot tub.
And wrapped in his warm "spa towel".
Blisters popped, spa treatment done, and wounds coated with Betadine. He tolerated this so well.
He was also relaxed enough to begin the next part of the treatment. I covered the blistered areas with the only antibiotic ointment I had on hand, Betadine. He was pretty good while I did this - it seemed to soothe him. The bottom of the brooder has large pine shavings in it, covered with paper toweling. The shavings give him a softer surface, and the paper towels are easy to change so he's not walking in poop with those open blisters. It also made it easier to see if there was any drainage coming from his feet and kept the shavings from sticking to the ointments. I put him back into his small box under the heat lamp, he ate a little and got a drink then laid down in one corner. But he never did really settle down. He was in pain, away from Mom and under that hot light. While he warmed up in the brooder, I came back to BYC and did a more intensive search, with the same results as before. I did reach out to Beekissed, and her help and calming attitude was invaluable.
When time for the next treatment rolled around, I did everything as I had done before, but instead of putting Betadiine on his feet I used raw honey. I did the hot tub/medicate treatment twice a day. Raw honey has antibacterial properties (thanks Suzie!) and pain relieving properties, so it was the logical choice. Then I bandaged his feet to put pressure on the blisters and try to keep the blisters from refilling.
The fluid that came from just one blister.
Modeling the latest in winter footwear.
The next day, Thursday, we went to Cody, a 50 mile trip one way, to pick up a few things that Bee had advised. I got him some Castor Oil and I picked up a heating pad with a feature that will allow me to bypass the auto-shut off feature. I got that because I needed to put into place a spot for him if he was strong enough to join the others. Formed over a bit of folded fencing, and surrounded by warm straw, it would give him a spot to get to if Mom wasn't covering him. The goal was to get him out with the flock as soon as possible so he didn't have to be reintroduced to the rest. I planned to put his broody pen back in where it was when he was hatched, make the heating pad nest, and see how it went.
But when we got home from Cody Scout was in trouble again, this time due to my own stupidity. I had deliberately put Scout into a small tote. I reasoned that the less walking he had to do to get to his food and water the better off he'd be, at least until there was some sign of healing. But it was too small, and he couldn't get away from the heat. He was laying with his stubby little wings stretched out and panting. So I modified the heating pad for indoor use. I wrapped it in a towel and formed it into a tunnel. That worked, but I needed to be sure it wouldn't collapse on top of him under its own weight. I ran a wire through the top of it (think A frame tent with the top ridge) and secured it by forming hooks in each end of the wire.
Scout's suite...the wire runs through the top on the inside and hooks on top. There is a hole in the tote that the wire loops through.
Safe and content under "Mama Heating Pad".
When I did his next treatment, I put the honey just on the opened blisters on his feet, and rubbed Castor Oil over his legs to the point where the honey started. The Castor Oil was to increase circulation to his legs and feet. Then clean bandages went back on for the last time. By now he was hobbling around all over his brooder, eating great, drinking water regularly, pooping and cheeping at us when he wanted something. I use a horizontal nipple waterer in the coop, and he was used to that so I put one in his brooder. But he walked and stood on his hocks, not his feet, so it was difficult for him to keep his legs straight out in front of him, lean forward and trip the mechanism on the nipple. So when he'd go over to his waterer, I'd trip the trigger with my finger and fill the little catch thingy - he drank out of that. Sounds like a pain, but at least I knew that he wasn't at risk of dehydration because I was watching how much he drank. He'd eat, drink, and then hobble his way right back under Mama Heating Pad and snuggle down to sleep.
Friday night was a tough one for both of us. I was so discouraged. I was second guessing every decision I made, from hatching a chick so late in the year to the treatment routine. His feet looked terrible....there were spots discolored greenish/blue. He was sluggish, but still eating, drinking, pooping, and hobbling back and forth between Mama Heating Pad and his food and water. But he looked...well....just kind of "off": I wondered, was I doing this for him or was it some kind of perverted ego trip for me? Was I prolonging his suffering even knowing that by now integration with the flock was going to be next-to-impossible? Would he end up losing his feet and having to be put down anyway? It was the most "down" I'd been since this happened to him. It was at this point that I seriously began to consider humanely putting him down. I decided to sleep on it. If I had put him down that night, it would have been a decision made on emotion, not facts.
Friday, legs and feet swollen and very dark in color.
Notice the swelling in the toes, in addition to the greenish wounds on his feet. The bottom picture of his left foot is blurry, but he wasn't happy about being held upside down.
We were both pretty low at this point, and I almost called it.
Saturday morning I woke up to this demanding cheeping sound coming from his brooder. I dreaded what I might see, but I went in to check. The little stinker had gotten himself into another scrape - he'd climbed up on top of Mama Heating Pad and couldn't get down. Well, this showed me in no uncertain terms that we were in this for the long haul...if he wasn't giving up then neither was I, and that was that. We had to go to Billings, so I took out the nipple waterer and put another candle lid in there with water for him. It was heavy, couldn't be tipped over, and shallow enough that he could drink without drowning. I mentioned earlier that he couldn't lean forward on his hocks and trip the metal trigger on the nipple. It's almost a 2 hour drive up to Billings, we had to do what we needed to do, and drive home 2 hours. He couldn't go that long without water. We came home and opened the door to hear his demanding "cheep......cheeeeep.....CHEEP, DOGGONE IT! I'M THIRSTY" .He must have thought that we'd left his hot tub in his brooder - instead of him drinking from it there were little wet footprints everywhere on the paper towels. Yep, I said wet footprints. He was walking on his feet, not his hocks. And the bottoms of his feet looked great!
Saturday morning, trapped on top of Mama Heating Pad.
The bottoms of his feet on Saturday evening. What an improvement! Swelling is down, those greenish pockets are almost gone, and the color is much better. I think we've turned a corner here.
Check him out - he's standing on his feet in his hot tub!
As of now, he's doing fine. Still eating well, doing his little chicken things, and demanding our undivided attention. We've had to take him out of the little brooder and we brought the dog crate/brooder pen into the house for him. It's bigger, covered, and he can't get out because the sides are covered in hardware cloth. His not being able to get out is critical. You see, Sunday he got himself into another pickle - he flew out of the little brooder and got stuck under the couch! His favorite place to roost is on top of Mama Heating Pad, where he sits and yells at us if he can't see us. And he sits quite contentedly with us when the mood hits him.
One contented - and healing - little chick.
Scout is 3 weeks old. He has packed an awful lot of stuff into those 3 weeks, I must say. He still has an uphill battle. If you know anything about burns and frostbite, you know that sometimes it takes awhile for the deep tissue damage to appear. I'll continue to update this site with his progress, treatment changes, and the ultimate outcome.
We have figured out how he managed to get frostbite in the first place. We have a 5 gallon bucket with horizontal nipples in the run for the girls. It has a heater in it. We put a brick next to it so that Scout could jump up and get a drink. He would hit the waterer when Agatha did, and when she finished he'd drink the water in the little cup part. It overflowed, and his feet got wet and froze. We're pretty sure that's what happened, given the ice rink on the brick where he would stand to drink, There were actual icicles running from the nipples to the ground, and that's the only thing that makes sense.
Ken using a heat gun to thaw the little ice spot where we believe Scout stood when his feet were frozen.
Much improved.....and hoping improvement continues.
UPDATE November 20, 2014 - one week and one day after frostbite.
It's been a roller coaster with this little chick over the past week! We've gone from ice cubes for feet, to blisters and open sores, and serious swelling. There was a night when I even considered just culling him.
What have I learned? I've learned how risky it is to let a young, inexperienced broody try a hatch so late in the year, especially when the chicken owner is also inexperienced. There are always lots of variables when dealing with a first time broody - adding sub zero temperatures into the mix is just foolish, at least for me. I know many others have had late season broods hatch and do very well. This is what can happen when it doesn't go so well. I've learned how to treat frostbite - doing nothing is not a option. His feet were soaked in Epsom Salt water twice a day. I started by opening the blisters, soaking, and applying Betadine. For his second treatment on the first day I switched to raw honey, which is a natural antibacterial, anti fungal, pain relieving substance and it seemed to soothe him when I put it on. Castor oil was added to the mix on the second day - rubbed into his feet and legs it increased circulation to the injured areas. We are now down to a once-a-day soaks, and I could probably stop that now, except that no matter how careful I am, poop accumulates in his pen and he manages to step in it instead of walking on the clean spots. <sigh> Preventing infection is much easier than treating infection and he still has a couple of open sores on his feet.
So every evening, around 9 pm, he gets into his hot tub (which he still enjoys) then has his Castor Oil rubdown, cuddles under Mama Heating Pad and we hope he goes to sleep! He is now flying all over inside his brooder. He flies up to his favorite roosting spot - the top of Mama Heating Pad - and he flies back down. And he's walking on his feet - not on his hocks - and that's saying something! I really thought that at the very least he'd lose a toe or two. I've also decided that there is no better way to artificially brood chicks than with the gentle, adjustable, and safer heating pad system. He goes in and out just as he would under Agatha if he was still outside. He is in control of his comfort.
When Scout finds an open door, anything is likely to happen!
I am very pleased with how normal his feet look at this point. I think the worst is over. Now I have to figure out how and when to try to put him back with the flock.
His favorite roosting spot - he's tried the branch a couple of times as well, but I think it's too narrow. I'll leave it in there, though, because Katie found it under the snow and brought it in for him.
The end of a long day.
Update Nov. 23, 2014
The weather has been much more along the lines of "normal" for this time of year here....in the low 40s on Friday and 48 on Saturday. So Scout got a couple of supervised visits with the flock. We took him out on Friday and put him down in the run. He ran for Mom, and "just chickens" or not, it was a story book reunion! One of the Marans got a little too close and pecked Scout hard on the neck. Mama Agatha nipped Cora's wattles and flapped both wings in her face - while Scout huddled under Agatha for protection. It was as if Scout had never gone into foster care - Agatha stayed close to him, covered him, and he sure seemed to be enjoying himself with all that space and stuff to explore. But when he started picking up one foot at a time and tucking it up next to his body we knew that was enough time for now. We brought him in and he immediately ran under his heating pad and took a nice nap.
Look how well he stands up on his feet, despite the chill of the bedding! And Mama Agatha is on high alert. This photo was taken on Friday, his 1st visit out.
On Saturday he was out there for almost 2 hours, without incident. Agatha ripped off bits of food and dropped it in front of him, joined him in a dirt bath, defended him if the other chickens got too close, and covered him when he'd scoot under her to warm up. He could probably just stay out there now, but we are leaving town for a week starting tomorrow and would rather keep him in a place where his chances of getting into more trouble are far less. Still concerned because I know that once his feet have been frostbitten they will be more susceptible in the future and we have some pretty cold temps coming back during the week. Katie knows exactly how to care for him in his brooder pen, so we aren't worried.
Update December 2, 2014
We went back home to visit my family for a week over Thanksgiving. Katie was left in charge of taking care of Scout. She did her usual thorough job, and it looked like he'd grown a ton during our absence. But......yeah, always one of those, isn't there? His feet have deformed so badly I'm not sure what to do with them - if there even is anything that can be done. And I'm not sure what his chances are of making it with the adults out in the coop/run with them like this. He has a piece of 4x4 wood in his in-house brooder and he gets up on there just fine, and he can also fly up to the top of Mama Heating Pad to roost. But I'm not sure how well he'll be able to roost on the regular roost out there. He can probably sit there okay, but I worry about his landings.
Such a dramatic change in a week. <sigh>
Changing angles of the photos doesn't help much....they still look terrible. A friend on another forum believes there may be some lymphodema in those feet as well.
But then you look at him - he still has his "hot stuff" attitude. He's come so far and gone through so much.
Poor little fella.
Thursday, December 4, 2014
I just ran across a thread about straightening toes. I don't know if it's too late for Scout or if it would even work since his curly toes are from such a severe injury. We had decided to cull him, waiting until next week so that Katie wouldn't associate her care with his death. She is mildly autistic so she tends to put events together a little differently than other kids do sometimes. So why not try to straighten them while we wait? Then if we do put him down, at least we tried everything first! And if it works, then he benefits!
So I just now put Bandaid straighteners on Scout's feet. Um, not a process he was thrilled with, I must say. I didn't try for a totally natural position. I think that would be too extreme as a place to start. I just straightened them as far as they would move without force and I'll adjust them as I need to. He spent the first few minutes back in his brooder pouting and trying to pull them off. Good luck with that, Scout. The two pieces of Bandaid that I accidentally got stuck together didn't budge apart no matter what I tried to do.
Well, it doesn't look very pretty but I'm hoping we get at least some straightening.
Poor Scout - the ultimate insult for a chicken is becoming a duck!
Update, December 10, 2014
The first set of bandages came off a couple of days ago and I was impressed with the amount of correction in them! He's walking almost normally and his shoes were off for over an hour while I cleaned his pen and prepped new shoes.
An amazing difference in 3 days!
Sporting his second pair of shoes. I increased the degree of straightening just a bit this time.
Then yesterday we decided that it was time for him to go out and join the flock. Due to concerns about re-injuring his feet, we opted to rig up his entire broody pen out there - complete with Mama Heating Pad. We made a wire frame, wrapped the heating pad in a towel, then draped it over the frame. We added straw above and below it and made Scout his own "man cave"......not that we are sure if he's a he or she yet! He loves it. We have the door rigged so during the day there's enough room for him to get in but not the big girls, and at night we close it completely. Of course, Scout being Scout he's got to be in with the bigs, so he spent almost all day exploring and being a chicken. And yep, when he gets cold he's smart enough to go back under Mama Heating Pad once we showed him where it was. Last night it was 20 degrees here. He was up bright and early this morning, feeling fine and ready for his door to be opened.
It's all set up and ready for him - if he ever decides to come inside from the run! We put a 4x4 in there right after this shot was taken for his food, chick grit, and treats, and hung his nipple waterer from the top. That comes in at night, though, because it's just a powdered iced tea container and I have no way to keep it from freezing.
He likes it! And I love it because it means that we're almost at the end of Scout's story........he's back outside where he belongs, the flock is tolerating his presence well, and he's growing and thriving. Unless something extremely drastic happens, culling him is officially off the table! We have a little more straightening to do on his feet, and only time will tell if they stay straight or not. But they are better than they would have been without treatment, and he's beaten all the odds. His place here on Oleo Acres - and in my heart - is secure. Watch his video and see if you don't agree.
February 7, 2015
Scout is growing up - she'll be 16 weeks old on Wednesday. She's still living out in the coop, being a chicken and holding her own very well. You may notice that we've changed our minds about "his" gender....the general consensus is that Scout is, indeed, a little pullet.
She hates me. That's okay. I was the one who was always catching her and doing things to her feet. While she loved the hot tub, she wasn't so fond of all the gooey ointments I was rubbing into her sensitive feet, and she certainly didn't like the bandaging one little bit! Now that she has full run of the coop and the run, she can get away easily and she exercises that ability regularly. She will let Ken hold her, but I can't get within yards of her.
The broody cage was removed shortly after Christmas. She started staying out of it more and more, eating with the big girls and investigating every inch of her home. When she stopped crawling into her Mama Heating pad cave and began flying up to roost with the big girls at night, we took the broody pen out. These photos were taken about that time frame - between Christmas and mid January. It was cold, but she doesn't mind the cold at all.
We didn't get much straightening when all was said and done, but it doesn't stop her one little bit. Those have to be the ugliest chicken feet ever, but they work.
Comfy on one of the outdoor roosts.
But even more comfy when she flies up to Ken's shoulder. He puts up the hood when she sits there - she's fascinated with the bows of his glasses otherwise.
Little Miss Big Shot up on the indoor roost. She sleeps here every night, right between Agatha, her "mom", and Cora, one of the Marans who was taught her place by Scout. A few well placed pecks on the head and Cora relinquished her usual spot on the roost.
We reached a milestone this week, as well. Scout is no longer peeping like a chick. She's got a pretty loud bawwwk - bawwk of her own now. And at 16 weeks she's beginning to explore the nest boxes more. She's a long way from laying yet, but can it be far behind? She also loves being outside of the run with the others. She watches every move they make and is usually right in the thick of things. She doesn't even mind the snow!
Scout as she appears now. I think she's just lovely!
Growing up. She has a dignity about her. Well, unless she running like crazy trying to stay away from me!
Those hackle feathers look pretty rounded to me!
Scout and Mathilda out in the snow. I was very surprised that she hasn't suffered more damage to her feet when she does this, but she's just fine.
Looks like she's calling Gladys over to see what she's found!
I've ordered this year's chicks. I will use a lot of what I've learned from taking care of Scout for the new babies. They'll be brooded outside in a similar, although larger, broody pen, and they'll have Mama Heating Pad for warmth. They'll be able to explore, eat, drink, and be chickens in full view of the bigger girls, but will have the ability to pop under the heating pad for warmth and bedtime. I won't have the dust and mess in the house. Yippeee! Integrating them into the flock should be far easier when they can do what Scout did - head for the brooder pen when the big girls get a little pushy. And just think - this year Scout will be "one of the big girls"!
March 4, 2015
Well, look who had one more surprise for us! I should have stuck with calling Scout "he", I guess, instead of getting all jazzed about him being a pullet.
Guess I won't be seeing Scout on a nest leaving me a nice little blue egg! Where did those lovely rounded hackle feathers go? When did that tail develop like that? Why did his beautiful black and white coloring start taking on a yellowish/brown cast on his back and wings? Well, Ken said it didn't matter. Even if he'd turned out to be a roo he was staying. I'll let you know when I hear that first crow.
March 7, 2015
Wonder of wonders! Scout was out with the girls today and actually allowed me to approach him and talk to him. Normally he runs like a roadrunner when I get close! He gets around pretty good...he does all the chickeny stuff he should be doing. He's so special!
April 8, 2015
Scout is now 5 1/2 months old. Where has the time gone? I've had another batch of chicks, raised out in the run from the get-go with Mama Heating Pad, and if I wasn't convinced before that this is the best way to raise chicks I sure am convinced of it now. Like Scout, these chicks have been able to see the Bigs and the Bigs can see them. They are now almost 6 weeks and almost 5 weeks (one week age gap between the first 11 and the added 4) and Scout is fantastic with them. We've been integrating the Littles with the Bigs, and Scout hs taken the new additions in stride.
He's becoming a gorgeous rooster, and he takes his job as flock male very seriously. He's now trying to breed the girls, but with no usable feet he has a lot of trouble in that department. But typical of Scout, he's figured out that if one way doesn't work, he just backs up and tries his own way.....the girls' combs are suffering for it but they have all of their back feathers intact!
Feet don't work well but his wings are just fine!
Scout investigating the Littles' pen the first time we opened it and let the chicks out.
Frostbitten Feet: The Adventures of Scout
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I have kinda become known as a "natural chicken keeper", applying common sense to raising chickens.Abriana likes this.
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What a great learning journal!
Thanks for taking the time to document this challenging experience with Scout.
His spirit and your determination and dedication made me smile.
I so appreciate the photographs throughout, Blooie, even though your writing is excellent and descriptive, I always need to see things to fully understand them.
Example: the blueish-green of the bottoms of his feet.
And the comparison of the way the swelling went down in his toes.
How you fashioned the mama heating pad.
Even what KIND of candle jar lid!
All so very helpful.
Thank you for putting the time into this article so others could learn.
Rest In Peace Scout.