How to Prevent Bumblefoot in Chickens

Here’s a quick joke for you.
How did the gum cross the road?
It was stuck to the chicken’s foot.

We know, we’re hilarious. But you know what’s not a laughing matter at all? Bumblefoot infections in chickens.This unfortunate, painful infection can have serious consequences for your pecking pal if left untreated. But too often chicken owners are unable to determine the signs and symptoms of Bumblefoot until it’s too late and the result is that their chickens have lost function of their feet.

To help combat this problem, we’ve decided to put together a brief article explaining what Bumblefoot is, what causes it, how to spot it, how to treat it, and most importantly, how to prevent it. So, without further ado, let’s get into the thick of this article – unless you’re too chicken.

What is Bumblefoot?

Bumblefoot, also known as pododermatitis, is a bacterial infection that occurs on the feet of animals. It develops when a cut or scrape on a chicken’s foot becomes contaminated by Staphylococcus aureus, E. coli, or Pseudomonas bacteria. Once introduced, Bumblefoot typically presents as a large, inflamed red area on the footpad. If not treated, this infection has the potential to spread from the footpad, where all initial infections develop, to the joints and tendons in the legs. This peripheral infection can quickly escalate and may lead to the death of the affected chicken. The severity of Bumblefoot is determined by grading the infection along a 5-point scale from Grade 1 to Grade 5, with Grade 5 being the most severe.

Bumblefoot in stages

At Grade 1, you may notice some small, shiny pink appear on your chicken’s foot. Peeling and/or flaking on the chicken’s foot may also occur at this stage. By Grade 2, any potential lesions will begin to appear as smooth surfaced, circumscribed areas located on the pads of one or both feet. Grade 3 will see the development of these lesions into ulcerations that are easily noticeable. This is typically known as the ‘abscess state’, with serous or caseous fluid draining from the lesion. By Grade 4, the ulcers’ tissue will begin to deteriorate and die. This will usually cause some pain and discomfort and may prompt mild lameness. As the infection continues developing it becomes a Grade 5, where the area around the necrotic tissue continues swelling and often leads to severe lameness or loss of function in the affected foot.

Once a bumblefoot infection is established, it tends to progress quickly, so swift treatment is vital to ensure that your chicken can retain function in the affected foot without complication.

What Are Some of the Causes of Bumblefoot?

We’ve mentioned before that bumblefoot is a kind of opportunistic infection, one that is typically only present when a cut or scrape creates a window for the infection to take root. While sometimes these scrapes or cuts are the result of chickens walking atop poorly constructed perches or in poorly-built cages, other causes may make a chicken more susceptible to developing bumblefoot.

For example, a chicken who is already suffering from mild lameness in one foot may inadvertently put excessive pressure on the other foot to compensate. This can cause the functional foot to dig into the ground which can create abrasions or cuts that are at risk for infection. Similarly, chickens who are overweight may put more pressure on both of their feet in order to comfortably walk, which can have the same effect as single-leg lameness.

How to Prevent Bumblefoot?

Prevention is the best course of action for preventing your chicken from suffering from bumblefoot. Prevention is far less costly, time-consuming, or uncomfortable for your feathered friend than treating an ongoing bumblefoot infection. At its most basic level, prevention includes routine, thorough visual examinations of your chicken’s feet and how they walk.

Visual inspection of your chickens’ feet.  The presence of small, black scabbed areas on the sole of your chicken’s foot should set off alarms in your head that your chicken may have bumblefoot. Additionally, chickens with bumblefoot may exhibit different walking behaviors such as walking with a limp or refusing to perch at night.

The quality and cleanliness of a chicken’s coop.  This plays a vital role in protecting them against opportunistic infections like bumblefoot. Any coop should be kept clean of any and all fecal matter, as chickens who step in fecal matter are exposed to a variety of bacteria which grow on the skin. You may want to replace wire flooring in your coop with solid, nonabrasive flooring, as chickens can cut their toenails and legs on wire flooring which can lead to bumblefoot.

The build of your chicken’s perch.  Evaluate to make sure it’s safe and comfortable for your chicken. Perches should be at least two inches wide and up to four inches wide to minimize the amount of pressure the chickens are placing on their feet. Adding a softer material on the outside of the perch has also been shown to reduce footpad pressure by providing a better gripping surface for the bird’s foot. Perches are one of the more popular things for an owner to build for his/her chickens.  But did you know that building this too high off the ground may set your chicken up for injury? Bumblefoot is often caused by force and too much pressure to the foot, hence activities such as jumping down from a perch place your chicken at increased risk for injury. Foot injuries caused by force, such as landing from too high a perch may present a greater threat to chickens than skin infections. Recommendations for building a perch is to have it less than 20 inches off the ground. The smaller the distance between the perch and the ground means less impact for your chickens’ feet and this could lessen or eliminate foot problems

Proper nutrition.  This plays a vital role in reducing unnecessary foot pressure. Make sure to avoid over-feeding your birds by feeding them commercial, total-mixed ration pellet or crumble feed rather than high-calorie chicken scratch. Also, remember that treats or other snacks should also be limited to no more than 5% – 10% of your flock’s daily dietary intake.

Look out for bullying. You’ll also need to make sure your chickens aren’t being bullied by your other birds! Yes, we’re serious. Chickens who are at the bottom of their pecking order are more likely to be chased by more dominant birds, which increases their activity levels and the pressure they put on their feet.

How to Treat Bumblefoot

Determining the best course of treatment for Bumblefoot relies heavily on the infection’s stage. Earlier stages are much easier to treat and may only require minor changes to the bird’s living environment. However, later stages may require surgical treatment to fully tackle the infection and prevent further complications.

Some online forums recommend that chicken owners perform a sort of at-home surgery to remove any Bumblefoot. We do not recommend this course of action. Given the fact that Bumblefoot is a staph infection that may develop abscesses which need to be drained, it is best to focus on making your chicken comfortable for proper treatment that should be administered by a trained Veterinary professional.

However, in the meantime, you should remember to quarantine any affected bird away from the healthy members of your flock. Staph infections are notoriously contagious, and the last thing you want is for a malady affecting one bird to become a problem with all of your chickens.

One way you can safely treat the early stages of Bumblefoot at home is to spray or soak the affected feet in the Banixx for CHIXX product. This clinically-proven antibacterial, antifungal agent provides immediate, sting-free, odorless relief without relying on the use of pesky antibiotics or steroids. Soak the affected foot in Banixx for CHIXX daily as they go to roost each day (that’s when they’re calmest).

To do this, first begin by cleaning the affected foot. Remember to use disposable gloves during this process, as this will protect you and your chicken. After bathing their feet, dry them and tuck them under your arm to control their wings so that your patient doesn’t leave!. Next, spray or soak sterile gauze with Banixx CHIXX and grab one strip of vet wrap. Hold the end of the vet wrap around the shank of the lower leg and bring it down and between two toes and over the top of the foot. Continue wrapping in this fashion two or three more times. Then, grab a strip of electrical tape and do the same motion, going over the bandage you’ve just created. The electrical tape will both hold the bandage in place and prevent moisture from entering the wound. You should change the bandage and re-apply Banixx CHIXX each day until you notice some healthy tissue forming.

These sessions may be enough to clear up minor infections entirely. For more severe cases, these sessions will serve the purpose of bringing the infection above to the surface, which makes them easier for a veterinarian to treat. In either case, your chicken will begin to feel profound relief just through these soaking sessions. With Banixx for CHIXX, relief really can be that simple.

As a proud pet parent, we know you want to keep your clucking companion happy and healthy, so we hope you found this article helpful. If you suspect your chicken has developed Bumblefoot, please keep Banixx for CHIXX in mind. Alternatively, we have a host of information on how to treat chickens on this page: Best Chicken Information.