When I first started chicken keeping, bumblefoot was one of the things that really, really scared me. I saw posts in forums and in Facebook groups about cutting chicken’s feet open and digging out the infection. I’m squeamish and the idea of having to do that to one of my pets was terrifying. So naturally that was one of the first issues I had to deal with.
Daffodil wound up with bumblefoot and I was beside myself. I worried over it for days before I came across a treatment method for bumblefoot that involved using PRID drawing salve coupled with epsom salt soaks instead of home surgery. I was so excited I tracked down PRID locally and got to work same day. I soaked Daffodils foot in a warm epsom salt bath for 20 minutes while she snoozed away in my hands. I covered her foot in PRID, then gauze, then vet wrap, and changed her bandage and reapplied daily. After a week, there was no progress and I was frustrated. I took her to a vet who had no idea how to treat it (he asked me what I thought it was), and then moved on to home surgery. It was terrible for both of us.
The next time that same infection showed up (because cutting out an infection without proper training and equipment is virtually impossible), I got to researching again. There had to be another option. And low and behold, there was! Ideal Drawing Salve has a stronger active ingredient than PRID, and usually works to loosen the infection plug within 5 days. Now, my super easy bumblefoot treatment process is as follows:
Before we get started, you can find the entire bumblefoot treatment kit here with all product recommendations linked.
Prepping our Station:
- Cut 4-5 vertical slits (depending on how many toes your birds have) at the end of a 4-5″ long (depending on how big your birds are) strip of gauze.
- Repeat with vet wrap.
- Roll 1/2 of a cotton ball into rounded strip to form a “donut” shape. This will be placed at the bottom of the foot, and the bumble scab will be in the center. This will help alleviate some of the pain.
- Cut 2-3″ piece of medical tape (depending how big your birds are).
- Layout a towel with scissors, tweezers, and paper towels, along with your pre-cut gauze, vet wrap, and medical tape.
- Figure out the best way to restrain your bird. If you don’t have help, a towel wrapped around the wings can offer a lot of assistance.
- Wash the affected foot with antiseptic (Hibiclens Antiseptic Wash)
- Cover entire bumble, including scab and surrounding foot tissue, in a heavy layer of drawing salve.
- Place “donut” over bumble.
- Place the cut end of the gauze on the foot so that the vertical strips can be pulled up and in between each toe.
- Lay strips flat across the top of the foot, then wrap the rest of the gauze over the strips and around the ankle to secure.
- Repeat this same process with the vet wrap.
- Secure the vet wrap by wrapping the medical tape around the end of the bandage.
- Repeat this process every 1-3 days, depending on how beat up the bandage is. You must change the bandage once the bottom has worn through.
- On bandage changes, check to see the state of the scab. When the scabs starts to dry up around the edges and pull away from the skin, it might be time to remove the infection.
- To remove the infection, use tweezers to slide under the edge of the loosened scab and use rolling motion to encourage the infection out in one piece. Our goal is to avoid pulling straight up, as it might result in the scab disconnecting from the kernel. Instead, we want to push the scab over to try and rotate the infection out of the foot. With some luck, it will come out in one solid piece.
It’s important to keep in mind that you should not touch the scab until it’s ready to come out. The scab will be used as leverage to pull the infection out. You do not need to remove the scab in order for the drawing salve to work. Removing the scab lengthens treatment time.
If you detach the scab from the infection, rewrap the foot and begin the treatment process over. Without the scab as leverage, it’s difficult to pull the infection out in one piece. Give the scab time to properly form, and try again.
Treatment has been successfully completed once the inside of where the bumble used to be is light, white tissue. If there is still redness, swelling, or heat, treatment must continue.
Remember to either use gloves or maintain strict hygiene protocols. Bumblefoot is a staph infection which is transferable to humans. Boil any tools used in a fast rolling boil for 5 minutes.