Bumblefoot, also known as footpad dermatitis, is an abscess caused by bacteria (Staphylococcus aureus) in the pad on the bottom of a chicken’s foot.
Heavy-breed chickens that are developing are most frequently affected by this type of staph infection in 1 or both feet.
Chickens with bumblefoot often struggle to walk and limp when they do.
A chicken’s foot may also:
- Appear swollen
- Feel warm to the touch
- Contain a soft lump if the infection has just started, or
- Contains a hard lump with a black scab if the infection has existed for a while.
Scratching the footpad on hard, pointy items or surfaces can lead to staph bacteria entering the foot.
Bumblefoot may be prevented by:
- Removing high perches so that birds can’t jump down from them and hurt a foot on items like packed bedding.
- Refrain chickens from spending too much time standing or walking on:
- Hardware cloth
- Wire flooring
- Hard or rocky soil.
The occasional case of bumblefoot may be the consequence of an accident. However, if bumblefoot continuously occurs in a flock, it’s a good indication that something in the chickens’ environment must change.
Cleaning the foot, injecting an antibiotic into the abscess, and relocating the bird to a clean area may be sufficient if the lump under the chicken’s foot is soft.
If the abscess has reached the hard, scabby stage, the foot won’t heal unless the bumble (the tough central part) is removed.
You might be fortunate enough to find a veterinarian who will undertake this procedure for you, but more than likely, you’ll have to do it yourself by following these steps:
- Before treating the chicken, put on a pair of disposable gloves.
- By placing the bird in warm water with Epsom salts for about 10 minutes and gently massaging the foot to remove any dirt, you can soften the abscess.
- After a thorough soak, the softened scab should come out without difficulty.
- To encourage the bumble to come out of the abscess, gently massage the skin away from the sides of the abscess (without squeezing).
- Pull out as much as you can with tweezers. (Use a sharp tool, such as an X-Acto knife, to scrape the bumble out if it is huge and difficult to remove.)
- Use Betadine, saline wound wash, or sodium hypochlorite to rinse the abscess.
- Put an antibiotic ointment on the abscess after it has been cleaned (e.g. Neosporin).
- Cover the foot with a gauze pad and wrap it with thin strips of first-aid tape.
- Due to their staphylococci content, bandages and debris removed from the abscess should be disposed of carefully.
- After each use, disinfect all instruments, such as tweezers and X-Acto knives.
- Don’t forget to wash your hands!
While the chicken’s foot heals, repeat these steps every 2-3 days. In the meantime, provide the chicken with a warm, comfortable, clean home that also has enough water and nutritious food.
Meanwhile, house the chicken in a warm, safe, clean environment with plenty of water and adequate nutrition. Also, in order to stop the chicken from jumping down and perhaps reinjuring the foot, remove access to any roosts.