It’s a Duck in a Box!

By Katherine Pioli


There is a duck in our tub in our bathroom. He, maybe she, is soaking its feet in a dog bowl full of warm Epsom salt water. Like many moments with our bird friends this one is extremely entertaining and photo-worthy. But, newly named Bumblefoot is there for a very serious reason.

Yesterday after being away on vacation for nearly a week we came home to find one of our ducks lame and limping around the yard. It looked stressed and cold and dirty. It rarely moved and when it did it was with difficulty.

I brought the little patient in today in a box lined with newspaper and straw. I figured if he needed to heal, the bitter cold was not helping. It brought him straight in to our bathroom and set him in the tub filled four inches high with warm water. He splashed around and cleaned himself, preened and used his little black head to smooth water-repelling oil from the gland over his tail all over his body.

When Ben came home we examined his feet and found a puss pocket bubbling under his gimpy webbed foot. In the picture above, notice the bulbous protrusion on the lower left edge of the bird’s foot. The internet told us it was Bumblefoot, an infection that starts with a minor cut and can fester into an enormous problem. We bought a recommended antibiotic for poultry but have decided not to use it because it is not powerful enough to handle a staff infection and will make eggs she lays, if it is one of the females, inedible.

Drawing the infection out with Epsom salt is our next option, a tip gathered from a backyard chicken Web site. So we dunked the duck in a dog’s watering bowl filled with Epsom-salty water. It wanted to drink and bathe in the water, so we put another bowl of water in front of it for those purposes.

Ben thinks we appear to have caught the this bumblefoot problem rather early, so we’re hopeful the Epsom salt bath and a little topical treatment may be all we and the bird need. Otherwise, there is the option of opening the wound and trying to clean it out, which by all accounts is a challenging operation.

For now, the duck seems to be having the time of its life in a warm house in a metal bowl, much better than out on the ice-rink that our chicken coop has turned into.

This article was originally published on January 4, 2013.