fixing bumblefoot in chickens

When we brought our chickens home I did not think about upkeep. I figured they would be perfectly healthy and we’d feed them in exchange for a daily supply of eggs. We’d change their water and clean out their coop, let them free range and all would be well with them. Okay…that’s a bit naive on my part, but never having raised chickens before I did not know what to expect beyond that. It’s kind of like raising children in a way. No one can ever truly prepare you for the sleepless nights and complete exhaustion until you’ve walked the path of a mother or father with an infant in the home. I’m not comparing children to chickens in any way whatsoever, but I guess I equate it to ignorant bliss and an idealistic way of thinking … until reality sets in and you realize you have a child that needs to be fed, raised, trained in the ways of the Lord all while trying to do your best and not really knowing what you’re doing. That’s kind of how we approached the chickens…ignorant bliss. Granted they don’t keep us up at night and they pretty much tuck themselves into bed at night. We just make sure they’re all accounted for before shutting them in for the night. Other than that they’re pretty much on auto pilot. It’s been great so far.

Fast forward to a few weeks ago when Lauren comes in and tells me that Pearl (our sweet Araucana mix) has a huge scab on her foot. After looking at it and researching it, we discover that it’s a condition called Bumblefoot. It starts as a small blister on the pad of the foot and severe cases can fester into massive lumps on the top of the foot. This condition can be brought on by injury to the foot (jumping from high places or getting a cut, etc.). Due to our ignorance, poor little Pearl’s Bumblefoot had festered to this point. After a little more research and asking friends on Facebook, we tried a garlic/honey poultice to draw the abscess up to the skin.

We waited a week and didn’t really see any difference in Pearl’s foot. Pearl wasn’t limping but we figured that poor Pearl wasn’t doing so well either. So, I placed a call to my sweet friend, Debra, who has 40 chickens. I appreciate Debra more than she knows. She said she had the same problem and walked us through how to remove this infection from Pearl’s foot. She did say that Bumblefoot is basically a staph infection, so we took the necessary precautions. We performed surgery outside and sanitized everything and wore gloves during the process. 

Here’s what we did: 

  1. Lauren caught Pearl and wrapped her in a towel, covering her head. The only part exposed was her foot. This really helped to calm down Pearl and us, too.
  2. I cleaned her foot with soapy water and wiped her foot down with apple cider vinegar.
  3. Using a sterile exacto knife I thought it would be easiest to start at the top, thinking that it would “pop” out and I wouldn’t need to cut too deep. I soon realized that I needed to start where the chicken flesh met the abscess. I made a few clean slices on the abscess and loosened it from Pearl’s foot. I didn’t know what to expect, but it turns out the ENTIRE abscess was a solid of bacteria/infection that looked like corn (see the middle picture below). It was about a half-inch long and solid. It started to bleed (as Debra said it would), which is a good thing as the blood cleans out the wound.
  4. I poured apple cider vinegar over the wound and applied Neosporin ointment to the open wound. Debra suggested that we keep it open and not bandage it so that the infected area was free to weep, thereby removing any further infection.
  5. We checked Pearl’s other foot and realized she had the beginning of Bumblefoot on that one. We took care of it immediately by picking the scab and cleaning it out with apple cider vinegar and neosporin. 
  6. To clean up, disinfect your work area and throw away the abscess material that is removed from the foot. Discard the soapy water and other items away from the other chickens. You don’t want them to have access to any of these items.

Tools Needed:
1. Exact knife
2. Neosporin
3. Gloves
4. Dental pik to help remove any infection and help clean the wound
5. Cotton balls
6. Soapy water and a clean rag (to clean the chicken’s feet)

I hope this helps you if you are raising chickens. It’s not fun, but now I realize that we can do anything when it comes to taking care of our chickens. They deserve a healthy life.

It’s been four days and Pearl is doing soooo much better. She’s running around like a chicken should and her wound is healing nicely. Once we were done we felt like we could conquer the world (or at least any other chicken problem we encounter). I think that’s pretty awesome for two novice chicken owners.

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