Tuesday 13 November 2012

Brown Red Pekin

The brown red Pekin bantam is not a colour I have come across often in Perth.  It is characterised by a stunning golden and black pattern on the neck feathers, leaving the remaining feathers jet black from the neck downwards.  I first saw a brown red Pekin at the Royal Agricultural Show in Perth about 6 years ago.  I was feeling particularly keen to buy a hen, as I had been saying for a while that we needed a chicken to commemorate our wedding.  There was no commemorative wedding chicken precedent to back up the buy but all the same she was a very necessary $25 purchase to ensure marital success (and it's working out very well indeed so far).

How to Give a Chicken a Pedicure

We brought home our beautiful new girl and named her Selene.  One thing that stood out was that Selene had some foot problems.  There is a really common bug that is known by the name 'Scaly Leg Mite'.  They are microscopic but leave a very visible trail of destruction.  They burrow under the scales of the feet, lifting the scales upwards from the skin at about a 20 degree angle and produce pieces of some kind of debris in their travels which then results in the feet looking swollen, knobbly, dry, dare I say it crusty and altogether a bit scary.  It must be very itchy, painful and chronically uncomfortable for the hen.  In Selene's case she was hatched without scales on her feet.  She is also missing a couple of claws.  So the mites had no scales to work with, but went about their hideous business right on cue all the same.  She's also got quite stubby little toes so this made her feet look even more swollen and painful.  
My Vet had set us up with a good supply of liquid medication which gets applied directly to the feet several times over a few weeks.  After several weeks the lumps and bumps from the mites fell away to reveal smooth, yellow (the right colour for her breed), chubby little toes and hopefully left Selene feeling comfortable and content again. I also trimmed back some of her nails which were so long that they had begun twisting at the ends.  They may not be the prettiest little feet, but they are in the best shape possible.  Six years later Selene hasn't shown even a moment of ill health since. 


Rant for the Week

It really irks me how some owners can clearly see there is something wrong with their hens (the signs of Scaly Leg Mite are blazingly obvious) and yet do nothing about it.  It is really easy and also cheap to fix Scaly Leg Mite and if treated as soon as the hen arrives home, the hen quarantined for a couple of weeks to ensure that she does not pass it onwards, I have never seen it come back so far.  
Selene - November 2012
I've also seen apparently well meaning people apply natural remedies to treat Scaly Leg Mite.  This doesn't work for me either.  Natural remedies in this case appear to temporarily moderate the problem but don't actually kill it off permanently. 
If you or one of your children had mites crawling around your feet, burrowing away, leading to swelling, growths, ongoing discomfort, chronic itching - would you moderate it and allow the pain to go long term or fix it permanently with a simple, short term and safe treatment?  Our pets can not offer an opinion on their preferred treatment, they rely on their owners to do what is best for them.  I guarantee if a hen was offered the choice between chronic up and down painful symptoms versus some oily liquid on their feet to cure the problem - they'd go modern medicine.  

Queen Selene - one hen to rule them all

Anyway, it's more than six years since our beautiful, brown red girl has come to live with us.  She took over the position of top hen about 4 years ago and rules the roost with a firm, feisty and committed wing.  During spring each year her hormones go large and she explodes in to this huge, brilliant and stormy bird.  Her comb (red part on top of her head - see photo above) doubles in size, she has the energy of 10 chickens and she gets herself so stressed out that she approaches us daily for hugging and respite.  It's the sweetest and oddest thing.  She pecks me urgently but quite gently on the leg somewhere to get my attention and isn't settled until I scoop her up, sit her on my thigh and wrap her up in my arms for several minutes.  She's so focused and concerned about keeping an eye on and keeping in line the other hens, that she needs time out to get herself back in order.  That's the best explanation I have for it.  

Selene - Christmas morning, December 2011

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