Astroturf nest pads & bumblefoot

Our veterinarian at the Texas A&M Veterinary Medical Teaching Hospital recommended daisy mats made especially for poultry for the girls’ roost to help with recovery from bumblefoot (the material is used for captive raptors with bumblefoot), so we put Astroturf nest pads on the roost and the girls love it! They understood something was different; they looked and looked, waited until one jumped on, and then all of them jumped on and settled in for the night.

It’s always fun to watch how they investigate something new. I’ve taught two of them how to choose the queen of hearts from a deck of cards and to toss a large foam die then peck the number of dots on it; they’ve taught the others by example. Chickens are remarkably intelligent creatures; I’m glad the poultry industry is finally beginning to provide for one of their basic needs with a nest. The Astroturf nest pads are already helping countless hens and hopefully millions more soon!

The material was very easy to cut into strips. I assumed it would take a box cutter, but tried a regular pair of sharp scissors first; they worked effortlessly and none of the plastic blades were cut off in the process. The space between the blades is perfect for a large-headed roofing nail to tack it down and the surrounding blades bend in slightly to cover the head of the nail; the spots with nails are hardly visible.
The only concern may be mites; they hide in tiny spaces and are a major problem once they’ve arrived. People have to pull out and replace the roosts in many cases. I hope this is easily resolved and think it can be. As long as the boards are painted, the pad can be screwed in with large-headed screws and periodically (and simply) unscrewed so the painted boards can be cleaned and the pad reattached. The plastic will not harbor mites but should be periodically cleaned like everything else in the coop. A simple brushing off should be all that’s needed on a daily basis unless there’s the occasional mess.
It could be cut to wrap around the sides, although it would take extra screws/nails and time. It would be easier to cut off two or three rows of perforations and not worry about covering the sides. With a 2×4, they aren’t wrapping their toes around anything so I think they don’t really need the sides covered. Tacking down the sides would also mean extra effort to take it off & put it back to clean the boards below. If the chickens are actually gripping a smaller roost, I wouldn’t cover it with anything. Chickens with bumblefoot need to rest with their feet on something with an uneven surface to relieve pressure. I think this can only be accomplished with a natural perch or astroturf. Mine push and peck for the same spot every night, so a natural perch wouldn’t work for them; someone would no doubt end up with an uncomfortable place.

The Astroturf pads also have an aesthetic advantage: the color will blend in nicely with any coop’s color scheme. That’s important to many people! More importantly in my opinion, I’ve read that green and blue are colors least preferred by chickens and recall the company’s research showed they preferred the gray.

It’s too soon to know if it helps their feet heal because it takes some time to recover from bumblefoot (a couple of months in some cases). I’ll keep you updated.

In the meantime, please let me know if you have any questions. I’ve spent a lot of time researching chicken behavior and welfare; I spend a ton of time with my hens and know them well. If bumblefoot can occur in my flock, it may likely be occurring in many more backyard flocks than is currently assumed. Like other birds, chickens mask their problems; by the time their people notice, the problem is often quite severe. Bumblefoot is easily preventable but difficult to heal. If I’d known simple strips of Astroturf nest pad material would help with prevention, it would have been on their roost to begin with.

  

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