Bumblefoot in backyard chickens

posted in: Chickens, Simple living | 6

So, Friday night we were all relaxing outside, watering the garden and playing with the chickens, when we realised that Naomi, one of our biggest birds, was limping. Badly limping. Her foot was swollen and hot, and there was a funny round scab on the bottom of it.

Naomi - bottom right. She is quite easily the biggest of the four. She is half as big again as Rebekah, seen in the middle here.
Naomi – bottom right. She is quite easily the biggest of the four. She is half as big again as Rebekah, seen in the middle here.

You guessed, that’s called bumblefoot. It’s common in chickens, caused by bacteria getting into the foot through a small or relatively minor cut that has healed by itself.

I had noticed a while ago that I thought she was limping, but then she stopped and I figured it was nothing. Next time, I won’t be so complacent.

This is not “emergency life-threatening” but is certainly distressing and painful, and will only get worse if left alone. Obviously a chicken that can’t walk, can’t eat, and will die. After much research, and soul searching, we decided to try treating it at home before an expensive, and possibly traumatic vet visit.

If you are interested, here are some of the links I found useful.

WARNING: GRAPHIC PICTURES. 

http://www.the-chicken-chick.com/2011/07/bumblefoot-causes-treatment-warning.html

http://www.backyardchickens.com/t/236649/bumblefoot-surgery-with-pics-and-how-to

http://www.kittycooks.com/bumblefoot-in-chickens.html

I won’t say I’m sorry we tried, however it took 3 of us, DH, DS1 (15yo) and myself to get through the procedure. Naomi was soooo good for it all, however we all took turns going green, white and dizzy. There is something rather disturbing about doing this sort of thing yourself. You have to have nerves of steel and a stomach of iron. Seriously. It is messy and graphic and will test you. We got through it, and got as much of the infection out as we could. However we aren’t confident we got it all out, because the wound didn’t act like all the others I’d read about. There was quite a bit of blood, however that could have been simply because it was causing the swelling.

Chicken operating theatre, all laid out and sterilised.
Chicken operating theatre, all laid out and sterilised.
Important - cotton wipes, Betadine (Iodine), Savlon (Antiseptic cream with NO painkiller, Gauze, vetwraps. Scalpel, small scissors, tweezers. Epson salts for soaking, lots of gloves and paper towels for keeping clean.
Important – cotton wipes, Betadine (Iodine), Savlon (Antiseptic cream with NO painkiller, Gauze, vetwraps. Scalpel, small scissors, tweezers. Epson salts for soaking, lots of gloves and paper towels for keeping clean.

Her dressing was on for a day and a half, we brought her in last night to change it and everything was healing up beautifully, but her foot is still swollen. So now we wait and see if it goes down on it’s own, or if it recurs. I think we will take her to the vet if a second go is needed. Although she is still hobbling, it seems to be more because she is annoyed by the dressing than any further discomfort. When she walks, she is definitely putting much more weight down on it.

Dressing after 1 and 1/2 days. Size comparison to DH, who has broad man-sized hands. She's got BIG feet!!
Dressing after 1 and 1/2 days. Size comparison to DH, who has broad man-sized hands. She’s got BIG feet!!

However, we did learn one useful fact during this. DH calls me “Chooky Mamma” since we got the girls, and “The Chicken Whisperer” and apparently that’s not far off the truth. In the 5 minutes it took to change the dressing yesterday, I had Naomi upside down, cradled like a baby. After an initial period of wriggling, she lay back and went soundly to sleep. She snored. The entire time. Which certainly added some needed levity to the situation!

If you are ever in this sort of situation, I also found out, rather usefully, that you can buy scalpels at the fodder store. They also sell “vetwrap” which is an incredibly clever bandage that is stretchy, and sticks to itself securely, but not to anything else, and has no adhesive residue. This product is da bomb in this situation!

We also took preventative measures by lowering their perch height, which can be a contributing factor, and topping up the sawdust in the coop to add to a soft landing. Naomi is such a heavy bird, that landing must jar the foot considerably, which has been anecdotally linked with occurrences of Bumblefoot.

Forewarned is forearmed folks. If you find a funny round scab on the feet of your chickens, you can treat it without surgery. The trick is to catch it early. I hope this helps someone avoid the drama we went through this weekend.

 Happy Crafting - Cassie.

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6 Responses

  1. grannysmiff

    Ouch! Poor Naomi. Good onya for cleaning and dressing her wound. I don’t suppose the hot weather is helping either? I hope she improves rapidly and is back to her old self soon.

    • Cassandra

      No, they are all feeling the heat at the moment. Thanks for your thoughts, we were terribly nervous wielding a scalpel but so far so good!

  2. Oh poor thing, I hope she is on the mend!! 🙂

  3. […] checking in to give you an update on Naomi, our poor bumbling bumblefooted chicken. 2 weeks post “surgery” at our hands and the foot had healed, but was swelling […]

  4. […] redress it a couple of times a week. She has had a dressing on her foot pretty well non-stop since here. She woke up in a very bad way this morning, limping and very unwell. Because DH was going to the […]

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