Yes, I have taken to washing the feet of my chickens. Not because I have too little to occupy my time, nor because I’m one of those clean freaks.
My Silkie flock has come down with a case of scaly leg mites this winter. Scaly leg mites are pretty super gross. Silkies are especially prone to them. My old rooster has it the worst, the young rooster the least, and the hens just bad enough for me to feel bad for them.
And so, the Rx is washing the feet. In tick and mite shampoo for dogs. Soften the skin adhesions on their legs in warm water and scrub them with a toothbrush, and then, cover their feet and legs with Vaseline, which asphyxiates the mites. Also, clean the coop and dust everything with a little diatomaceous earth.
In the winter, we were waiting for nighttime, then going out together, putting a toque over their heads and quickly washing their feet while they were hooded, then returning them to the coop to grumble about the alien abduction they just experienced while snagging and bagging the next bird.
In the summer, this is not practical. My birds routinely stay up longer than I want to, so if I was going to wash chicken feet at all, it had to be in the daytime.
Turns out it’s not so hard.
The capturing of the birds is the hardest part. They hate being captured, but once they are, they perch quite nicely in my hand.
The actual washing of the feet is pretty hilarious. Holding the bird in one hand with their legs between two fingers, I dip the feet in the warm water. If the water is too hot, they make a fist and retract it, but usually they obviously relax, standing in the water but sitting in my hand, and looking interestedly around.
What ladies don’t love having a nice foot bath?
The rooster gets a little too relaxed and tips forward like a narcoleptic, so I just tip him off my hand onto his chest with his legs hanging in the water.
A little less convenient for scrubbing his feet, but it more than makes up for inconvenience with hilarity.
I usually soak and scrub, wait, soak, rub their legs with my thumbs, scrub some more. Soaking is more important. Scrub too hard and it can hurt them, and they can bleed. They will let you know when it gets to be too much, making a little fist. I’ve had it!
Next comes the vaselining. It gets all over their foot feathers and seems like it would pick up all kinds of crap, literally, but it doesn’t really, and the next day there’s a big difference. The crusties are softened and wash off more easily.
Several days in a row is a good program, and then do it again after a week, and then again.