Limping Chicken? It Could Be Bumblefoot

Photo credit: Flickr/Ivy Dawned
Photo credit: Flickr/Ivy Dawned

What Is Bumblefoot?

If you notice one of your chickens is limping, this could be a very serious condition called “bumblefoot.”

Bumblefoot is essentially an abscess that can occur when infection sets in after damage to the soft underside of a chicken’s foot.

It is an infection which can get swollen, and even cause an open wound.

What Causes Bumblefoot?

Chickens are constantly scratching in the ground, which can accidentally bury splinters into their feet.  Cuts can also occur with sharp edges in and around their living quarters.  These injuries are far more common with chickens that free range, and manage to cut themselves or get splinters while ranging around your property.

How To Check For Bumblefoot?

Sit down and gently lay the chicken upside down in your lap.  Gently examine the undersides of her feet.  Chicken have soft pads on their feet which should be soft and mobile.  Look for a scab or heavy callous, and for signs of infection – swelling, redness, a change in texture, and so forth.

In advanced cases, the abscess may have worked its way out, leaving an open sore on the underside of the chicken’s foot.

How To Treat Bumblefoot?

Treatment for bumblefoot is the same as for any other abscess.  You may need to lance or otherwise open up the abscess, if it is still closed. 

Clean the wound well, making sure not to leave any debris. 

Once it has been cleaned out, ideally the chicken should be isolated in a clean area for a week in order to let the wound heal.  In a pinch, a large dog kennel is a good option, since the smooth plastic sides and bottom will help prevent re-injury.  Line the bottom of the kennel with a few sheets of newspaper, and change these whenever they become soiled.

If the infection was very bad, or if the chicken seems under the weather, you may want to give a course of antibiotics.  In general once the wound has been cleaned out, the chicken’s system should be able to heal the injury quickly. 

More serious cases should be taken to the vet, or possibly culled. If left untreated, bumblefoot can cause serious injury and pain, and the resulting scar tissue can cause permanent damage.

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