Does your hen look as if she is wearing overly large carpet slippers? If so, she might have Bumblefoot.
Bumblefoot normally starts out with a small hard black spot or raised rough patch on the bottom of the foot. In extreme cases, all the toes and even the lower part of the leg can blow up like a balloon. The cause of this is usually a small puncture wound or cut from the rough edge of a perch or an accidental landing on a sharp stone.
It’s more common with barn or free-range hens where they’ve encountered rough or stony ground or an uneven perch but any hen can contract Bumblefoot in her lifetime.
The condition doesn’t seem to be painful but this can vary from hen to hen with some hens going lame if not properly looked after.
The biology of it all
When your hen gets a graze or puncture wound on her feet an infection can sometimes occur. The tissue around the wound becomes inflamed and pockets of hard pus build up, often resulting in surgery being the only way to resolve the condition. Some hens can improve with antibiotic therapy and soaking the feet in Epsom Salts. Exercise will also help to get the blood flowing around the feet and easing the swelling.
Epsom Salts or calendula bath is always the best first resort as standing the hen in warm water will help to soften the feet and can be beneficial. Make sure to then keep the wound clean by applying bandages. Where there is an infection, it might be necessary to visit a hen-friendly vet.
What can I do to prevent it?
During your weekly routines, check all perches for splintering or rough areas to reduce the risk of your hens puncturing their feet in the first place.
Ensure toenails are not too long as this can also be a cause of dirty scratches and wounds. Hens will normally wear their nails down evenly so just make sure they are not too long.
Keep an eye on your hens, picking them up and checking their feet and legs for anything unusual. The more you do this the more you will become familiar with what is normal and what isn’t. By doing this you may be able to notice bumblefoot at an early stage and prevent infection.
You can also use our Hen Health Page to help you identify Bumblefoot in your hens.