A severe type of foot pad lesion in poultry

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Poultry Diseases


Also known as: Foot Lesions

Indoor chickens

Bumblefoot is most often associated with Staphylococcus infection, resulting in a large ball-like foot abscess

Long-standing erosions and other skin damage, such as cuts and abrasions, can predispose birds to a deeper infection of the foot pad, frequently referred to as bumblefoot. Of all the causes of foot pad lesions in poultry, the bumblefoot syndrome, with severe inflammation and swelling of the metatarsal foot pad, is regarded as the most severe type (Tauson and Abrahamsson, 1994). Bumblefoot is most often associated with Staphylococcus bacterial infection, which can result in a large ball-like foot abscess.

When infection occurs, synovial membranes in the joints and tendons of the hock and feet become thickened and oedema is seen. Inflammation occurs, and a fluid may be produced around the joints and tendon sheaths. Wounds heal on the outside, but leave a hard core of pus in the inside. If the condition becomes chronic, fibrous tissue can form around the foot.

Infection in poultry by the bacterium Staphylococcus aureus can also cause swollen hock joints, resulting in lameness. This condition is normally associated with young broiler birds and usually occurs between 8 and 16 weeks.

Whilst bumblefoot is a potential problem in extensive organic and free range systems (Knierim, 2006), there are few reports recording the occurrence and incidence. A small percentage of surveyed Swedish organic poultry farmers mentioned foot problems, mainly bumblefoot, but this only affected a small number of hens in the flocks (Berg, 2002).

Control and Prevention of Bumblefoot

Outdoor hens

Although it is expected that outdoor birds will suffer less bumblefoot than confined birds, there are additional risks. Care should be taken to ensure that all outdoor spaces are free of any materials that could puncture the foot, e.g. sharp rocks, stones and nails and other metal objects.

Although it may be expected that birds reared outdoors will suffer less than confined birds, there are also additional risks. Control should be based upon avoiding the predisposing and debilitating factors.

Wounds are an important point of entry for bacterial infection, and so it is important that any material that may puncture the feet of chickens should be minimised. For outdoor systems, this may mean sharp rocks and stones or nails and other metal objects.

Moisture, temperature and perch design are important contributing factors for the occurrence of foot pad dermatitis in laying hens. A European beech hardwood circular prototype perch with a flattened upper and lower surface has been shown to cause fewer problems than a traditional flat perch (Tauson and Abrahamsson, 1994). In addition, wet perches may contribute to the severity of such lesions (Wang et al, 1998).

Thermography has been identified as a potentially useful tool for screening bumblefoot in poultry, which in turn would improve recovery percentages and bird well-being (Wilcox et al., 2009).

Treating Bumblefoot

Although applying antibiotics may be effective, these are not always effective against advanced and chronic cases.

Applying slight pressure on the abscess can sometimes result in the abscess bursting and releasing pus. However, it may be necessary to lance the abscess with a sterile blade. The pus should be cleaned out and the wound treated with an antiseptic liquid or cream. It may be necessary to bind the wound with a sterile bandage.

Treatment procedure:

  • Wash foot, open abscess, squeeze out core, clean with hydrogen peroxide, and wrap with gauze.
  • Apply warm linseed meal poultice, lance wound, wash with hydrogen peroxide, and pack wound with gauze
  • Apply tea tree oil to cracks
  • Soak foot in Epsom salts.

Good Practice Based on Current Knowledge

  • Do not keep poultry on excessively rocky/stony/flinty soils
  • Eliminate all sharp objects that may cause foot injury from houses and range areas
  • Ensure perches are well designed

Bumblefoot References
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  • Livestock should be land-based and integrated with farm cropping enterprises
  • Animals should be provided with conditions that enable them to exhibit natural behaviours
  • Dependency on veterinary medicines should be reduced without jeopardising the well-being of animals


outdoor access

Animals having outdoor access, shade, shelter, lighting and sufficient space for them to undertake free movement and to exhibit natural behaviors.


Using breeds and strains well-suited and adapted to the prevailing conditions.

Health Plan

Implementing herd and flock planning based on sound ecological practices and epidemiological knowledge.


Undertaking good practice with regard to biosecurity.

closed herds

Maintaining animals in closed herds and flocks and at stocking rates that enables free-movement, reduces risks of disease spread and minimises environmental damage.

forage and grazing

Forage and grazing being the main source of nutrients for ruminants, and continuously available to non-ruminants.

production practices

Avoiding the use of mutilations as standard production practices.


Improved understanding and responsible usage of veterinary medicines.