Handling Bumblefoot in Chickens

Chickens are sweet, lively, and often an excellent addition to any backyard, farm, or ranch with the space and resources to care for them. While chickens are resilient and mostly self-sufficient creatures, they are not immune to several medical and physical conditions. One of the most common is known as bumblefoot.

While not every chicken develops bumblefoot, it is familiar enough that every chicken owner should know how to recognize and manage this painful condition.

What Is Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot, or pododermatitis, affects most birds in captivity, including penguins, raptors, flamingos, and waterfowl. As the name suggests, it is an infection that affects the bottom of a chicken’s foot. Although it begins on the skin’s surface, the condition can quickly spread to muscle and bone tissue, and if left untreated, it can be fatal.

Most bumblefoot infections result from a skin wound followed by exposure to staphylococcus bacteria, which is commonly in chicken coops due to the presence of excrement. However, bumblefoot is easily preventable with dedication and proper care

Signs & Symptoms of Bumblefoot

Early signs of bumblefoot are usually limping or hopping, but there are times when there may be no visible signs at all. This makes it essential to pay attention to any sign of leg or foot swelling or inflammation and any behavioral changes such as a reluctance to walk. When examining the foot,  you may first notice hard, puffy scabs that look like blisters. This may progress to a welt or boil on the skin’s surface, which is filled with pus. The area can then harden or become a black or brown scab, an indication that the infection is getting worse.

Best Methods of Prevention

Backyard chicken owners and ranchers alike will tell you that the best way to manage bumblefoot is to prevent it. Preventive measures such as coop cleanliness, a good diet, and routine foot checks are just a few steps you can take to limit the chances that your chickens will be exposed to this nasty infection.

  • Coop care Keeping the coop clean is the most critical component of preventing bumblefoot. A clean coop diminishes the prevalence of bacteria and reduces the risk of infection. When your chickens step in their feces, bacteria can grow on their skin, easily leading to bumblefoot. Keep fecal matter to a minimum to keep bacteria levels lower. While maintaining a coop pristine is not possible, a baseline level of cleanliness will benefit you and your chickens.
  • Creature comforts To protect your chickens’ feet, consider using sand as a base for their living environment instead of wood chips or straw. Sand naturally inhibits bacterial growth and drains better. It is also soft on feet and won’t cause skin abrasions or cuts like wood chips or straw might. Any uneven or splintered surfaces pose a threat to chickens’ feet, so inspect your coop regularly and address any issues immediately.
  • Regular foot checks One of the best methods to prevent bumblefoot in chickens is to inspect their feet regularly. You may be able to catch a small abrasion or cut and manage it before bumblefoot sets in if you are proactive. As well, it’s vital to maintain and trim your chicken’s talons regularly. Overgrown toenails can trap debris, which can cause cuts or scratches, giving bacteria a point of entry.
  • Keep the peace Fighting among your chickens is more common than you might think, and since chickens fight with their feet, this is a primary cause of foot wounds that can result in bumblefoot. Minor altercations within a flock to establish pecking order are normal and should be monitored. But any severe fighting should be prevented to minimize the chances of injury.
  • Healthy diet Chickens who are overweight exert more pressure on their feet, resulting in trauma to the skin of the feet and, subsequently, bumblefoot. To ensure your chickens remain a healthy body weight, make sure they are eating a balanced feed, and keep table scraps and treats to only 5-10% of their dietary intake.

Managing Bumblefoot

The best way to control bumblefoot in chickens is to manage and heal skin problems before infection can occur. If you see scratches or abrasions on your chickens’ feet, address them immediately.

We recommend applying Curicyn Original Wound & Skin Care Formula at the first sign of foot problems. Our non-toxic, antibiotic- and steroid-free formula soothes and reduces inflammation, and will never sting or burn your animal when applied. Simply spray your chicken’s foot to expedite the healing process with little to no scarring.

Next, spread on a layer of soothing Curicyn Wound Care Clay, a thicker solution with a bentonite clay base, perfect for applying on hard-to-bandage areas like feet. This will further aid the healing process and help prevent irritation.

Another product we recommend for bumblefoot is Curicyn Hot Spot Formula, an extra-strength gel-based solution that is beneficial for a wide range of skin disorders. Healing can’t happen if your chicken is constantly pecking or scratching at its painful foot. Hot Spot Formula provides immediate relief from the itch and irritation associated with bumblefoot while keeping bacteria at bay, allowing the skin to heal faster.

If you know one of your chickens has bumblefoot*, isolate it from the rest of your flock until your chicken can receive the help it needs. Since bumblefoot is an infection, it can be contracted through skin-to-skin contact, so to prevent the rest of your flock from being infected, quarantine is recommended for cases of bumblefoot.

Your chickens’ wellness and quality of life are important. By taking steps to keep your chickens’ feet healthy, including stocking up on Curicyn products, you can manage skin problems, cuts, scrapes, and abrasions on your chickens before bumblefoot can become a problem.

*Seek veterinary care in severe cases