Bumblefoot In Poultry: Causes, Symptoms & Treatment

by Meghan H

Published February 7, 2022

Bumblefoot in poultry of any type is a condition that can cause mild lameness. If left untreated, bumblefoot can result in the loss of toes or the entire foot, and may even lead to the animal’s death.

Causes of Bumblefoot

Bumblefoot usually starts out as a minor cut or scrape on the animal’s bottom surface of the foot or toe. Splinters from wooden roosting bars, an injury from jumping down from a high spot, or abrasions from walking on rough surfaces can all cause minor trauma to the foot. Normally, these injuries can heal with little to no intervention on the chicken keeper’s part. But occasionally, bacteria can contaminate the wound, and a more severe infection sets in. 

Bumblefoot can be caused by a number of bacteria that are found in a chicken’s environment. Staphylococcus aureus (S. aureus), E. coli, and Pseudomonas are the most common bacterial species found in a bumblefoot infection.

Bumblefoot on a chicken foot Meyer Hatchery Chicken First Aid

Symptoms of Bumblefoot

Early stages:
  • Limping
  • Swollen foot pad
  • Swelling between toes visible from the top of the foot
In later stages of infection:
  • A dark, necrotic spot may form on the bottom of the foot
  • Core or plug of dead tissue and thick pus inside the foot pad
  • Discolored toes or entire foot as the infection spreads

Treatment For Bumblefoot

When you first notice a limping bird, it’s best to examine the animal entirely and closely pay attention to the feet and legs for any signs of injury. To allow the bird to rest and recover, separate it into its own cage with food and water. Isolation away from the rest of the flock usually isn’t needed, so the hospital cage can stay inside the coop if space allows. 

For a mild infection, wash both feet and legs with a mild antiseptic soap, scrubbing the nails and leg scales with a soft toothbrush to remove as much contamination as possible. Repeat this washing once a day until the infection improves. 

bumblefoot in waterfowl duck and geese with bumblefoot Meyer Hatchery

Bumblefoot “Surgery”

For a more severe case of bumblefoot, you may need to seek the help of a poultry veterinarian. If you do not have a veterinarian, it may be possible to do the bumblefoot “surgery” yourself, but keep in mind that it isn’t for the faint of heart. You will cut into the bottom of the foot to gently remove the core or plug of tissue and infection that has formed inside the foot. To do this, first, enlist a helper and gather a few supplies.

It’s best to perform this procedure near a sink to keep things cleaner. First, loosely wrap the bird in the towel and have your assistant firmly but gently hold the bird with its feet accessible. Next, soak and scrub the bird’s feet in a diluted solution of Betadine or Chlorhexidine to remove as much contamination as possible and soften the scab and surrounding tissue. 

Wearing the gloves and using the scalpel, make an incision around the black scab on the bottom of the foot. Use the tip of the scalpel to gently tease and cut away the infected tissue from the normal tissue in the bottom of the foot. In severe cases of bumblefoot, there may be quite a large plug of necrotic tissue, pus, and scab to remove. Your goal is to remove the core of the infection, which is a hardened kernel composed of old tissue and infection that the body has begun to wall off to try to deal with the infection on its own. 

After you have removed as much of the core and surrounding infection as possible, gently clean the wound one more time with fresh Betadine or Chlorhexidine solution. Then rinse again with fresh, clean water. Apply the Vetericyn wound spray or triple antibiotic ointment, filling the wound cavity as much as possible. Cover the wound with a gauze sponge and wrap with Vet Wrap, making sure that the Vet Wrap is not pulled too tightly to impede circulation.

Chicken First Aid Bumblefoot
Chicken First Aid Bumblefoot
Chicken First Aid Bumblefoot
Chicken First Aid Bumblefoot

While the wound heals, the bird will need to stay in the hospital cage to keep the wrap from getting wet and dirty. You will need to change the dressing daily in the beginning. As the wound heals you may be able to progress to every other day or third-day bandage changes. Once the wound is completely closed, the bird can be released from the cage.

Treating bumblefoot is a long process. Be sure you’re ready for the commitment. It may take several weeks or months for a severe infection to heal completely.

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