Your Cart

Secure checkout

Bumblefoot in Chickens: Causes, Prevention and Treatment

Dominion Hemp
February 9, 2024
Doctor Leigh Davidson, BVSc BApplSc

Medically Reviewed by Doctor Leigh
Dr. Leigh Davidson, BVSc BApplSc, has over 20 years of experience as a veterinarian in clinical practice.

Bumblefoot, also known as plantar pododermatitis, is a prevalent condition that affects chickens. This bacterial disease is primarily caused by Staphylococcus bacteria, leading to visible abscess filled with pus, which often causes discomfort. The infected part of the leg may also have a black scab.

The illness specifically targets the feet pad of chickens, making it uncomfortable for these feathered companions to walk. As a chicken keeper, it’s essential to identify cases of bumblefoot in your brood, their causes, prevention, and treatment.

Chickens can get Bumblefoot from dirty coops. Keep your coops clean with Dominion Hemp!

Causes of Bumblefoot

Staphylococcus bacteria thrive in unhygienic and damp chicken coop bedding. They gain entry through cuts, abrasions, or wounds in the skin of the birds, making room for Bumblefoot infection.

These cuts on chicken's skin result from the following:

  • Obesity – Excess weight places undue pressure on a chicken's feet, leading to injuries and marks.
  • Bullying - A flock of chickens always has aggressors who bully others into a constant movement that increases the chances of hurting self
  • Standing for long periods - Chickens forced to stand for extended periods, perhaps due to inadequate coop space or uncomfortable roosting conditions, may develop marks that result from pressure on the feet.
  • Limited blood supply to the feet - A knot on chickens' feet leads to poor circulation or constricted blood vessels, which quickly causes inflammation.
  • Overgrown toenails - Overgrown toenails can interfere with a chicken's movement, causing scratches and abrasions on their skin and those around them.
  • A poor diet - When a chicken's skin lacks essential nutrients, it becomes more susceptible to injuries and marks. 

Signs and Symptoms of Bumblefoot

Recognizing the signs and symptoms of Bumblefoot in your birds is crucial to intervene promptly. If you suspect your bird has contracted this disease, observe the following indicators:

Black/Brown Scab on the Bottom of the Foot:
One of the primary visual signs of Bumblefoot is the presence of a distinctive black or brown scab on the footpad of the chicken. If you observe closely, you'll notice an abscess filled with pus with the scab on top.

Bumblefoot commonly causes swelling in the affected chicken foot. The inflammation is a response to the bacterial infection and may cause noticeable puffiness.

Limping is a clear sign of pain and can be an early indication that Bumblefoot may be present. Observe the affected leg to see if there's swelling or a scab.

Reluctance to Move:
Pain and discomfort associated with Bumblefoot can lead to decreased mobility for poultry. If you observe your chicken hesitating or avoiding movement, it could indicate that there's a Bumblefoot infection.

General Inactivity:
Bumblefoot can contribute to a general sense of lethargy and inactivity in affected chickens. If your chicken seems unusually inactive or spends more time resting than usual, it may indicate an underlying health issue such as Bumblefoot.

Monitoring your chickens for these signs and symptoms is vital for early detection and timely treatment of Bumblefoot. Prompt veterinary care and appropriate interventions, such as cleaning and disinfecting the affected area, can help alleviate the condition and prevent further complications.

Stages of Bumblefoot

Understanding the stage Bumblefoot is at can help you intervene on time with the appropriate treatment. The disease manifests in several stages, or grades, with each representing a distinct level of severity:

Grade One
  • Red lesion appears
  • Might show signs of irritation and inflammation
Grade Two
  • Red spot is infected
  • Visible swelling and Increased inflammation
Grade Three
  • Formation of an abscess that contains pus
  • Pronounced infection
Grade Four
  • A deeper wound
  • May lead to other infections like arthritis
Grade Five
  • Deformed legs and feet
  • Significant pain and suffering for the bird
Table 1: The five different grades of Bumblefoot disease as it appears in chickens

Grade 1:
In the initial stage, a small lesion, typically red, appears on the chicken's foot. The affected area might show signs of irritation and inflammation, but there may be no clear indication of a bumblefoot infection.

Grade 2:
As the condition advances to Grade 2, the red spot has become infected. However, there may not be visible swelling at this stage. It's crucial to closely monitor if there are signs of mild cases of developing bumblefoot. You'll notice increased inflammation in the affected area.

Grade 3:
Grade 3 is characterized by the formation of an abscess that contains pus. This is a critical stage where the infection becomes more pronounced, and prompt intervention is necessary to prevent further complications.

4. Grade 4:
As the infection progresses to Grade 4, the wound becomes deeper, affecting the surface tissues and underlying structures. Without appropriate treatment, the infection may lead to conditions such as arthritis, posing a more serious threat to the chicken's overall health and well-being.

5. Grade 5:
In the most severe stage, Grade 5, the consequences of untreated Bumblefoot become drastic. The chicken's foot and leg become entirely deformed, losing functionality. At this point, the bird may experience significant pain and suffering. Quick veterinary attention is crucial at this stage to address the advanced stages of Bumblefoot and try to mitigate the long-term effects on the chicken's health.

Regular monitoring of your chickens' feet, especially for any signs of lesions or abnormalities, can aid in early detection and intervention, preventing the progression of Bumblefoot to more severe grades.

Treatment of Bumblefoot in Chickens

Treating Bumblefoot in chickens requires careful attention and timely intervention to alleviate pain and prevent further complications. While some cases may resolve on their own, prompt treatment is essential to ensure the well-being of the affected bird. Here are the most common methods used by chicken farmers and vets to treat Bumblefoot:


Soaking the infected leg in warm water mixed with Epsom salts is a practice many backyard chicken farmers use to treat Bumblefoot. Warm water helps soften the scab or lesion, making it easier to remove surgically. This process often alleviates discomfort and promotes healing by allowing better access to the affected area for cleaning and treatment.

Surgical Intervention

In more severe bumblefoot cases or when the infection persists despite soaking, surgical intervention may be necessary. This involves carefully removing the scab, abscess, and dead tissue from the affected area using sterilized surgical instruments. The area is then bandaged to prevent dirt from getting into the wound.

Antibiotic Therapy

To combat bacterial infection, a vet may administer antibiotics. Antibiotics help to control the spread of infection in the coop and promote healing. Following the vet's instructions regarding antibiotic treatment dosage and duration is important to ensure effectiveness and prevent antibiotic resistance.

Pain Management

Pain management is essential to treating Bumblefoot, especially during surgical procedures and recovery. Veterinarians may prescribe pain medication to alleviate discomfort and improve the chicken's well-being during treatment.

Wound Care

Proper wound care is vital for preventing reinfection and promoting healing. This includes keeping the affected area clean and dry, applying topical treatments as a veterinarian recommends, and monitoring for signs of improvement or complications.

By implementing these treatment methods and closely monitoring the chicken's progress, Bumblefoot can be effectively managed, allowing the bird to recover and resume normal activities. Consulting with a veterinarian is recommended for severe or persistent cases to ensure appropriate treatment and support for the affected bird.

How to Prevent Bumblefoot in Chickens

Prevention is always better than cure. Here are some ways you can protect your birds from catching Bumblefoot disease:

1. Provide a clean sleeping area, ensuring it's free from chicken poop and sharp objects that can harm the chicken's skin.
2. Isolate sick birds to prevent the spread of the disease, allowing them to heal before reintegrating.
3. Remove old bedding once the sickness is identified to prevent disease transmission.
4. Keep perches under 18 inches from the ground to avoid injury as chickens jump down.
5. Ensure smooth but not slippery bedding for a gentle landing from roosts, reducing the risk of foot injuries.

Avoid Bumblefoot With Hemp Bedding for Chickens

Bumblefoot is a deadly bacterial disease that can completely cripple your chickens if left untreated. The leading cause of the illness is dirty and rough bedding material in chicken coops.

It’s possible to protect your birds from Bumblefoot by maintaining hygiene in the chicken coops.

Hemp is the best solution if you’re looking for clean yet soft bedding for chickens. It also has antibacterial properties that protect chickens from bacterial diseases such as Bumblefoot.

Reach out to Dominion Hemp to learn more.


1. Wilcox, C.S., J. Patterson, and H.W. Cheng. 2009. “Use of Thermography to Screen for Subclinical Bumblefoot in Poultry.” Poultry Science 88 (6): 1176–80.

2. Poorbaghi, Seyedeh Leila, Moosa Javdani, and Saeed Nazifi. 2012. “Surgical Treatment of Bumblefoot in a Captive Golden Eagle (Aquila Chrysaetos).” Veterinary Research Forum 3 (1): 71–73.

Copyright © 2024 Dominion Hemp