If your chicken is limping, has lesions, brown, or black scabs on the bottom of their feet, your bird most likely has Bumblefoot. “Bumblefoot results from injury or abrasion to the lower surface of the foot, which allows for the introduction of staphylococcus bacteria. Lesions can occur on toes, hocks and the pads of the feet. Bumblefoot is a chronic disease that if left untreated can result in a 50 percent mortality rate” (Savage/Dr. Darre, 2016). You can take your chicken to a veterinarian who can perform a safe and painless minor surgery on your bird, however, if you don’t have access to a veterinarian due to financial issues or living in a rural area with no transportation to town you may need to do the surgery yourself. Scroll down to see causes of bumblefoot, signs, symptoms, treatment & pain management. Be sure to watch our featured video of Bumblefoot surgery by Will Gallagher below.
CAUSES OF BUMBLEFOOT
Staphylococcus bacteria is the ultimate cause of bumblefoot in chickens. This bacteria is present any place where chickens are raised. When something happens that causes the skin to break the staphylococcus bacteria enters the wound and can cause bumblefoot.
Most common causes:
- Improper litter management (dirty litter/bedding)
- Injury from splinters, stickers, wire floors, nails, or other sharp objects
- Jumping off a perch more than 18 inches off the floor (Savage/Dr. Darre, 2016).
“Eric Shepherd, a master’s student from Griffin, is researching with Fairchild to determine factors that affect foot pad dermatitis, a condition in which “lesions develop [on the foot pad] due to interaction with a variety of environmental factors” in poultry. He wanted to work on his thesis “in live products,” and after discussing his options with Fairchild, the “hot issue” of downgrades from the dermatitis became his focus. The research objectives are to “narrow down certain factors that affect FPD and try to find ways to fix it,” Shepherd said in an interview Thursday. FPD can range from mild, with barely discernable lesions, to severe, large black scabs” (Duncan, 2009).
See symptoms, pain management, and treatments for Bumblefoot below.
SIGNS & SYMPTOMS OF BUMBLEFOOT
- Hard pus filled abscess on the pad on the bottom of the foot covered by a black or brown scab.
- Lameness/reluctance to walk
Swelling on the top of foot
Heat (feels warm or hot to the touch)
Black or Brown Scab (Savage/Dr. Darre, 2016).
TREATMENT FOR BUMBLEFOOT
The best form of treatment is to take your chicken to a veterinarian who specializes in birds. However, if no vet is available to you treatment can be administered by you (not recommended). If the infection or injury is spotted early and is still soft and pliable the chances for a complete recovery are much higher than if a hard scab has formed. Antibiotics have been very successful in treating bumblefoot if detected early. Be sure to wear rubber or latex gloves to protect yourself from getting a staph bacteria which can be transferred to humans. It is not advisable to perform lesion removal in your kitchen sink due to the risk of staph bacteria. If you have to remove the lesion yourself there are several helpful videos on Youtube. Basically, you will need to find a place outdoors or in a well lighted area.
- Separate the bird from the flock
- Provide deep bedding to relieve stress on the foot (hay or thick towels work well)
- Administer antibiotic according to directions
- Soak the affected area in warm water and epsom salt until scab softens
- Drain the lesion
- Remove the scab and core with a sterilized surgery knife or a sterilized box cutter can be used. Cut out around the scab being careful to only cut into the dead skin surrounding the scab. Only go deep enough to remove the core. Do not cut to deep because there is tendons and veins in the chickens foot.
- Flush the cavity with hydrogen peroxide
- Pack the cavity with an antibiotic ointment
- Wrap (not too tightly)the foot to keep the cavity clean (Savage/Dr. Darre, 2016).
- Valerian root can be used to help relax chickens.
- Tea Tree Oil can be used as an antifungal treatment.
Strange as it may sound, a friend of mine told me she uses Tea Tree Oil Foot soak as an antifungal treatment on several of her chickens who have had bumblefoot and swore it works. She says she uses it on her chickens feet weekly. A neighbor of mine just happened to have a chicken with bumblefoot so I decided to try it and used it every day twice a day on my neighbors chicken’s feet (after I removed the pus and the core). The wound healed very quickly and they now use it on their chicken’s feet monthly and have had no more bumblefoot incidences. Ideal features that help the bird’s feet are soothes dry, itchy skin, smooths the scales on the legs and feet, eliminates fungus and bacteria, and has natural antimicrobial properties, not to mention the fact that it gets rid of ringworm.
PAIN MANAGEMENT FOR CHICKENS WITH BUMBLEFOOT
Butorphanol can be used as a pain anesthetic during bumble foot surgery. This is the most common pain reliever veterinarian’s use for birds. However, you will need a prescription to acquire this medication. A pain relieving topical gel can be used to give the bird some relief during treatment. You can also use herbs in addition to a pain relieving gel to help relieve your birds pain during and after treatment. You can mix the herbs or use one at a time. Mix with water and administer orally with a syringe with no needle. Be careful not to give more than 1 ml at a time on the tongue not down the throat.
- Kava Kava
- St. John’s Wort
- Valerian root
- Freeze pain relief
- Topical poultry and livestock pain relievers
1. Darre, Michael J. Dr. and Savage, Tina. Bumblefoot. Retrived on April 2, 2016 from University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension. http://extension.unh.edu/resources/files/resource000779_rep800.pdf
2. Duncan, Dallas. (April 10, 2009). It’s whats for dinner: Often Asian delicacies, chicken feet may offer insight to animal health.