Sunday, June 19, 2011

Reader submission: "I pray you never get scaly leg"

A reader is putting Papergreat to the test today!

JT Anthony is the author of a blog called A Pretty Book, which is a collection of top-notch photography of books, bookshelves, bookstores and the like. It's a great website to browse through.

Earlier this month, JT sent me this tweet:1 "I've got a barn full of books and paper. How about if I send you something random and you see if you can find something interesting?"

A few days later, the pamphlet pictured at the top of today's post arrived in the mail, along with the following note:2
Dear Chris,

You said you were interested in everything, so give this a try.
I pray you never get scaly leg.

Best wishes,
JT Anthony
The eight-page pamphlet from JT's barn is titled "Common Poultry Diseases" and it was published in April 1922 as Farmers' Bulletin 1114 by the United States Department of Agriculture.

The first thing I found interesting was the image in the center of the cover:

It looks like the early 1920s equivalent of photoshopping was used for this. Several elements were combined here. (You can click on the above image for a larger version that makes the manipulation even more clear.) It looks like the woman might have been cut out from another photo and placed in front of this background. Look at the white outline around parts of her head and also the hand that's holding the chicken's head. (In fact, that hand holding the chicken's head might not even be this woman's hand!) Meanwhile, several items are actually hand-drawn illustrations that have been added to the photo. The items sitting on the steps, to the left of the woman, are drawings. And the dropper in the woman's hand also appears to be a drawing.

Even in the 1920s, a lot of work and photo manipulation went into creating the "perfect" cover image for an eight-page, government-issued pamphlet!

And this was only the simplified version of this particular pamphlet, intended as an introduction to the topic for children. Here's an excerpt from a note on the inside front cover:
This bulletin has been written briefly and in simple terms for the beginner, and especially for members of the Boys' and Girls' Poultry Clubs. For additional and more complete information on the subject the reader should ask for Farmers' Bulletin 957, "Important Poultry Diseases."3
The pamphlet, written by D.M. Green of the Animal Husbandry Division, discusses these poultry diseases -- gapes, roup, chicken pox4 and scaly leg.

(WARNING: The remainder of today's entry should not be read while you are eating.)

I found a couple of interesting things about gapes: (1) the quack cure, (2) the even more bizarre real cure. In a nutshell, gapes is a potentially fatal disease caused by worms in the windpipe and affects young chicks and turkeys in the first few weeks of their lives. Unless the worms are removed, the chicks will die.

The Quack Doctor website discusses some "one-drop cures" of the time period that basically involved giving some bourbon to the chickens.

The real treatment, as outlined in "Common Poultry Diseases," is somewhat complicated and horrific:
"Take a long hair from a horse's tail and twist the two ends together so as to form a loop. Hold the chick's head firmly with one hand, with the neck out straight, forcing the beak open with the fingers. When the glottis, which is the little opening at the root of the tongue, is open for breathing, insert the loop end of the hair, pressing it down the chick's windpipe about 1 inch. Give it two or three turns and then withdraw it. This will usually bring out several of the worms. ... Each time the hair may be inserted a little deeper until it reaches nearly the full length of the neck, extreme care being taken not to choke or injure the chick. All worms taken out should be shaken off the hair and scalded or burned."
And then there's scaly leg, a disease that can still plague chickens today. Here's the up-close image from "Common Poultry Diseases":

According to the pamphlet: "Scaly leg is easily recognized by the enlarged, roughened appearance of the feet and legs. It is caused by a little mite5 which burrows beneath the scales and causes the formation of a yellowish, powdery substance which keeps raising up the scales until they present an unsightly appearance."

The cure at the time involved washing the bird's legs with soap and water to remove loose scales and then applying a half-and-half mixture of kerosene and either linseed oil, vaseline or melted lard. And that's not far from the same treatment that's used today. The Mississippi State University website states: "Effective treatments of the condition include weekly coating of the birds' legs with petroleum-based or mineral oils that suffocate and kill the mites."

But are people in danger of getting scaly leg?

The verdict seems to be "no." Kind of.

Different kinds of mites are responsible for scaly leg in chickens and scabies in humans. Those mites can be transferred from animal to animal or human to human. But if they go from animal to human (or vice versa), they do not survive for very long.

So there you have it.

Now, if you need to get all these thoughts of worms and mites and scales and rashes out of your head, go check out some pretty books.

1. Papergreat is @Papergreat on Twitter.
2. JT's note was written on a piece of notepad paper from the Beverly Wilshire hotel in Beverly Hills, California. Yes, I notice these things.
3. The back page lists other Farmers' Bulletins that would have been useful for members of Boys' and Girls' Poultry Clubs, including "Care of Mature Fowls," "Brood Coops and Appliances," "Lice, Mites and Cleanliness," "Management of Growing Chicks," and "Selection and Preparation of Fowls for Exhibition."
4. This is not to be confused with chicken pox in humans. The human disease does not affect poultry and vice versa. Here's more, if you're interested.
5. That mite would be Knemidocoptes mutans, according to Wikipedia.

1 comment:

  1. Upon closer inspection, I think you're right, the lady has really unusual hands if the one holding the chicken neck is hers. Very interesting though. Photoshopping, or it's old school equivalent, is the last thing I expected from a deep dive into this pamphlet!

    Thanks for taking on the challenge and excelling at it:)

    P.S. Beverly Hills was lovely, by the way.