During the wet season, if poultry are running in muddy areas, over time they can develop hard mud balls on the ends of their toes. It is important to remove them, not just because it is uncomfortable, but the mud can also harbour microbes and other parasitic insects.
If the soil is very sandy or gravely, mud is likely to hard on quicker. We found the clay from our farm yard track made it worse when very wet.
If you have a variety of surfaces with leaf matter and loamy soil, the chances of toe mud balls reduces.
Rain can stir up soil dwelling parasites as well as coccidiosis which is detrimental to chickens (watch for bloody poops).
The feathery legged variety of chickens suffer the worst as their feathers can get entangled, so the removal is slightly more painful for them. If you are planning on raising feathery legged hens, make sure they have a variety of non-muddy surfaces, particularly so that their legs are able to dry out a bit before bed time.
HOW TO REMOVE MUD BALLS
There are a few ways to remove mud balls from the toes.
- Pliers method - squeeze around sides of toe balls to break off.
- Hammer method - again, aim for the top and sides of each ball, tapping off gently
- Soaking - 15 minutes on average per hen
One of these methods will best suit you.
HAMMER & PLIERS METHOD
- Best advice is to go carefully and try not to break any toes.
- Quickest method, especially if there are more than one hen to do.
- Aim for the sides, squeezing the mud to break off.
- The soaking method is by far the longest. (15 min average) Getting the hen to stay in the water will be the challenge.
- Use an old toothbrush to help clean the toes.
- Use warm soapy water (dish detergent or baby shampoo, etc.)
- The drying of the hen will then also be essential. So have a hair dryer and old towels ready.
- Some people like to use a little olive or mineral oil with a cotton pad to clean the toes, but it is not that necessary.
May depend on how stuck on the mud is. In the worse cases, this might be very helpful.
Check for any cuts, abrasions or signs of bumble foot in the underneath foot pad.
Apply Betadine (iodine solution) to any sore parts to prevent infection.