Help! My chickens are getting their toes cut off!

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by christy777, Oct 19, 2009.

  1. christy777

    christy777 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 2, 2009
    Hi all, I have had 2 chickens (they're about 2 months old) within the past couple of days mysteriously lose the end of their middle toes. The only thing I can think of that might be happening is I have their pen totally enclosed with 1/2 " hardware cloth. I have seen them try to climb up the walls and I'm afraid they may have got a toe caught and then ripped it off. I really don't know but I can't think of any other possibility. I used to have chicken wire, which proved to not be raccoon proof. I lost my first flock of young chicks when a coon just ripped my stapled chicken wire off. I redid my pen and used all hardware cloth secured with screws and washers. It should be predator proof, but now I'm afraid it's maiming my chicks! I don't know what to do. Will it kill them to be missing toes? One stump is bleeding now. Has anyone else had this happen? Any ideas on what I should do to help the chicks or to keep it from happening again? Or any other possible ideas for the toe loss? Thanks so much! I've learned so much here.
  2. Cackling Hen

    Cackling Hen Just Scratching Around

    Apr 21, 2009
    Port Angeles Wa
    I have read that rats will bite off toes is that possible???? You could have rats??
  3. horsejody

    horsejody Squeaky Wheel

    Feb 11, 2008
    Waterloo, Nebraska
    Mice and rats will chew the toes off chickens.
  4. MissJenny

    MissJenny Chillin' With My Peeps

    May 11, 2009
    Cincinnati, Ohio
    OMG, I am so sorry this is happening. You try to solve one problem and end up with another. I guess it is better to lose toes than heads.... Is it possible to cover the hardware cloth with very thin plywood. I buy sheets of oak plywood all the time at Lowe's for around $27. They have different grades -- I think their cheapest 1/4" plywood is $19.

    I don't know how your coop is set up -- if you can get in there now, with roof and doors and all. If you can't fit an entire side or bottom with 1/4" plywood then perhaps you can do it in sections. And by the way, Lowe's will cut your plywood if you have dimensions with you. Of course they won't cut a whole sheet of plywood into 30 little pieces, but if you need just a few squares then they can do that.

    As for tending to your chicken toes, I would think an antibiotic ointment (nothing with the word caine in it) and a bandage would be in order.

    Do you have pictures of your coop. I am pretty good at building things and could walk you through it.

  5. Kittymomma

    Kittymomma Chillin' With My Peeps

    Sep 9, 2009
    Olympia, WA
    If I'm understanding this right a couple of things could be going on.

    1. If your chickens are sleeping on the wire you could have a raccoon chewing their toes off if that is all he can reach--Should be a lot of feathers around if that is the case because they're not just going to sit there while he does it.

    2. My daughters rabbits have broken toes when they've gotten stuck in the wire (we changed it) so I think it's very possible that is what is happening with your birds. Hardware cloth is makes for easier cleaning, but you may want to put down some scrap plywood in at least part of your setup so they can get off of it.

    I haven't used wire bottom cages for chickens so I'm not really sure, but I'd think it would be hard on their feet without roosts and resting boards. You might already have that stuff, couldn't really tell from your post so if you do just ignore me. [​IMG]
  6. AHappychick

    AHappychick Wanna-be Farmer

    Dec 16, 2008
    you can stop the bleeding with some cornstarch as for the missing toes I would think rats. can you set up a rat trap and see?
  7. christy777

    christy777 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 2, 2009
    Thanks so much for the quick replies already. [​IMG] I will try to answer all the questions. I have a home built chicken pen that I worked a long time on this past summer. I got tons of ideas here and would like to post pictures, but I haven't spent time trying yet. It is built on the ground so the floor is dirt with straw on top. I put a hardware cloth apron on the outside all around to keep anything from digging under. I have seen them try to climb the wire walls which is why I am suspecting that. I have about a foot or so high of wood all around the sides on the bottom, then hardware cloth makes up the bulk of each wall, then a smaller board at the top. Basically, the frame is wood, then covered in wire, even on top and tarps for the roof. I have an open coop design. I have roosts in the pen with 3 wood sides to protect them from drafts. They still tend to sleep at night on the ground, but get on the roosts in the day. They can't roost on the walls, but only try to run up and come right back down, since they are vertical. So, I don't think any coons chewed them off at night and I don't think rodents can get in since I have gone to such lengths to predator proof. It's Ft. Knox in there! I am planning to get some window screen (the extra tough pet screen) and staple it to the inside over the hardware cloth to keep the chickens from climbing the walls and possibly ripping off more toes. I want to keep it light and well ventilated so I don't want to cover it all up with plywood. I know one toe loss happened today and no raccoons or rodents were out then plus I was even out by the pen a lot myself. I tend to visit my flock often, so I know one lost a toe today. They are just right outside, but I go talk to them and take them weeds I've pulled and check their food, etc. I wasn't for sure if I should try to "doctor" the toes or leave them alone so I appreciate the tips on caring for the wounds and for all the quick, caring replies! This is where I come for all my chicken questions. [​IMG]
  8. sammi

    sammi Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 21, 2007
    Southeast USA
    what are you using for roosts?
    how high off the ground are they?

    I think I would try covering that wire...not sure if screening would do it may have to use some plywood along the bottom..
    maybe some sort of rigid clear plastic similar to plexiglass if you want to let in light.

    I'd still consider rodents..they can get in anywhere and might have dug in underneath.
    no harm in checking that out.

    corn starch or even plain flour or sugar will help stop bleeding..
    there is a blood stop powder available.
    then treat with diluted betadine or antibiotic ointment..

    best to keep a close watch..the others will peck at any red or blood they see..
    so..if one gets a cut or scratch from the wire..they (including the injured one) will peck at the foot or toe...
    something to consider that they are doing it to themselves and each other.
  9. christy777

    christy777 Out Of The Brooder

    Aug 2, 2009
    Oh, I didn't even think of them pecking at it! Yikes! Should I try to bandage it? For my roost poles, I have a collection of several 3 inch wide boards with rounded edges in a criss cross pattern. I have 4 - four foot long roost poles about 10 inches apart with more roosts going perpendicular to the long ones about 2 1/2 feet long and also about 10 inches apart. This is all about 3 feet off the ground. Then, I built them a ladder as they weren't getting on the roosts, but getting on top of the nestbox which is lower and has a slanted roof! Go figure. Anyway, the ladder has branches for rungs which they really seem to like. They will often perch during the day on various rungs and the front of my roost poles. They don't seem to get on the roosts in the back. They are still so young though, only a couple of months old. They still sleep huddled on the ground at night, not on any roost. I put a hardware cloth apron all along the outside of the pen. It is screwed to the wood base and then lays on top of the ground and is about 18 inches wide. Then, it is secured at the outer edges with landscape fabric pens and covered in straw. It should stop any digging animals. I do have wood along the bottom foot of each wall to keep straw and dirt from getting kicked out. They actually manage to stand on top of the wood's edge. It is frustrating. From everything I read, hardware cloth was supposed to be much more secure than chicken wire, and I did personally have very bad results from chicken wire. I never read anything about possible injuries from hardware cloth. Plexiglass is a good idea. I thought about maybe putting the screen over all the hardware cloth or something sturdier over more of the bottom wall. I want to keep lots of air and sunshine and since the walls are so short (four feet high), I don't have much wiggle room. I have about 2 1/2 feet of hardware cloth for walls now and the remaining foot and a half of height is wood. Thanks for more tips!
  10. sammi

    sammi Chillin' With My Peeps

    Dec 21, 2007
    Southeast USA
    the foot problem and pecking is something that needs that to be caught quick..
    as soon as they see a speck a blood..they'll go for it..and start cannibalizing.
    I'd try and get some Blue-Kote from a livestock's purple colored spray and will act as an anti-infectent and will help deter pecking, and any flies laying eggs in wounds..
    I like to use wide 2X4's or 1X3's with edges rounded off..
    this way they don't have to balance and can cover their feet in cold weather..
    I see you have some 3" boards..
    sometimes they have to be taught to roost properly when they're young.
    They could be still be injuring themselves on the hardware cloth especially if they're sitting on an edge of a board up against it..
    could be a combination of both..injury and pecking.

    sounds like the hardware cloth needs to be covered somehow..
    also check the coop well for any other source of injury...such as the nestboxes they roost on..
    sheesh...can't be having all your birds losing their toes.

    I hope you're able to remedy the situation and others will offer ideas..

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