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How to Treat Bumblefoot in Chickens

Bumblefoot infection

In some cases, it’s not too late to take matters into your own hands and treat bumblefoot. But to get ahead of this nasty infection, you’ve got to be able to identify it.

The first time you see one of your chickens limping around, you may wonder if they’ve broken something, 

In truth, one of the first things you should look for is bumblefoot. 

While a broken leg is quite severe, bumblefoot, if caught quickly, can be treated and cured. 

On the other hand, if bumblefoot is left untreated, it can lead to a severe infection and eventually death for the chicken. 

So, how do you identify bumblefoot and treat it?

Well, read on, and we’ll give you the lowdown on this common but deadly chicken malady. 

What Causes Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot is a common ailment among chickens. Most commonly, it occurs in chickens who are allowed to free-range. 

In other words, the more trouble a chicken can get into, the more probable it is that the chicken will hurt itself.

With that being said, bumblefoot is caused by anything from a small scrape on the bottom of the foot to a hard landing from a heavy roo hopping off his roost onto a sharp stone. 

The truth is, any small injury can cause bumblefoot. 

And if you catch the injury before it becomes infected, you’re in an excellent position. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bumblefoot

Chickens have unique feet. They’re tough, scaly, and a little rough around the edges. 

Despite appearances, however, a chicken’s foot is extremely vulnerable to infections due to puncture wounds or other injuries. 

Bumblefoot is an infection that starts as a wound, becomes infected. Unfortunately, the chicken’s body cannot fight the condition, or heal itself, without help from its humans. 

You’ll know your chicken has bumblefoot if you see your chicken hopping on one foot or favoring one of its feet. Upon further inspection, you’ll notice a black wound on the bottom of the chicken’s foot. 

This wound is usually circular and may look like a piece of dirt stuck to the bottom of your chicken’s foot. 

If the wound was caused by a puncture, you might even be able to locate the foreign object stuck in the chicken’s foot. 

If Bumblefoot is Left Untreated

Don’t feel bad if you didn’t notice anything wrong with your chicken until the infection has progressed. Some chickens don’t show signs of bumblefoot until they are seriously sick. 

Other signs of an infection may be:

  1. Lethargy
  2. Fluffed-up appearance
  3. Decreased appetite
  4. Laying or sitting
  5. Decrease in egg production

So if you didn’t catch the bumblefoot before, you might still have a chance to save your chicken, even if the infection has progressed past the point of a superficial injury. 

How to Treat Bumblefoot

If you’ve caught bumblefoot before the infection spreads, you can simply clean and treat the wound. 

We like to call this the pre-bumblefoot phase. When there is simply a wound, it can be soaked in warm water and Epsom salt, then covered with a wrap. 

The chicken should be put into a pen to prevent further injury and keep it immobile. Doing so can help prevent the chicken from walking through dirty environments that could accelerate an infection.

When bumblefoot progresses to the point where the foot is infected, you’ll notice a black plug on the bottom of the chicken’s foot. 

This plug is, in a way, preventing the wound from healing. In fact, it is almost as if the scabbing has created an abscess, and the abscess is now infected. 

What’s worse, this infection is now at risk of spreading from just the foot to the rest of the chicken’s body and organs. In other words, it can become septic and eventually kill the chicken. 

If you suspect the infection is localized, meaning it has not spread to the rest of the chicken’s body, you can do the following.  

(be sure to wear gloves and do this outdoors, bumblefoot is considered a staph infection and can spread to other animals and humans):

  1. Soak the infected foot in warm water and Epsom salt
  2. Gently open the plug, and remove it
  3. Continue to soak the wound
  4. Apply antibiotic ointment 
  5. Wrap the wound
  6. Confine the chicken

You’ll have to monitor your chicken closely if the infection had progressed to this point. If it appears the condition is worsening, your chook will need to be seen by a veterinarian who can prescribe an antibiotic and treat the wound. 

How to Prevent Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot is one of those things that can happen even in the best environments. When it happens, it’s no one’s fault, and the most important thing to do is take action immediately. 

With that being said, keeping coops clean and free of sharp objects is an excellent way to prevent bumblefoot.

We also offer an Essential Poultry First Aid Kit that has many tools and treatments for various common chicken ailments.

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