Chicken foot health problems fall into a few basic categories. Common foot issues result from either dietary deficiencies, infectious agents or parasites. Providing your flock with fresh water and high-quality feed, while keeping the coop clean and quarantining any new birds can keep many infections at bay. Regular deworming and the use of miticides can make your flock relatively parasite-free.
Bumblefoot in Chickens
Staphylococcus aureus infection, commonly known as bumblefoot, often initially manifests itself as swollen feet and lameness. Formally called plantar pododermatitis, affected birds have difficulty walking because of the pain and swelling. The swollen area eventually becomes an abscess on the footpad underneath a dark scab, but lesions can cover the entire foot. While any chicken can contract bumblefoot, heavier breed roosters are most vulnerable. If caught early, antibiotics can cure the condition. Ask your vet about soaking the swollen foot in Epsom salts and warm water to help draw out the pus. When the scab opens and pus comes out, you must flush the hole with hydrogen peroxide, and treat it and wrap it according to your vet's instructions. Use protective gloves when handling infected birds. Any debris from the abscess contains staph germs, so dispose of this material promptly.
Scaly Leg Mites
Knemidocoptes mutans, colloquially known as the scaly leg mite, burrows into a chicken's feet and legs. The telltale crusty, raised scales soon appear. Chickens pick up scaly leg mite from other infested poultry. Your vet might recommend using petroleum jelly on the scales for softening. She also may provide you with ivermectin -- a common dewormer used off-label for chickens -- to rid your flock of mites. Even after the mites are gone, it can take considerable time for the skin on the feet and legs to look normal.
While commercial chicken feeds are formulated with the proper vitamin ratio in mind, that's not necessarily the case if you feed your flock a diet of your own devising. A diet deficient in vitamin D3 results in chicks with weak legs and feet, who exhibit difficulty walking. Choline deficiency can result in bent, crooked legs. Chickens with a biotin deficiency suffer from issues on the skin of the feet and footpad. Your vet can prescribe supplements to correct the deficiencies and recommend a suitable commercial feed for your flock.
The feet and legs of newborn chicks might spraddle to the sides, a condition known as spraddle leg. The chick looks as if he's performing a split. He can't walk, stand or get up on his own. Spraddle leg generally occurs because of a vitamin deficiency, or due to a slippery floor or overly warm incubator. You can prevent spraddle leg due to slippage by covering placing paper towels or nonadhesive shelf liners on the brooder floor. If a vitamin deficiency is the culprit, your vet can recommend a supplement for your chicks. She also may recommend placing a bandage around the chick's legs for stabilization for a few days.
- Poultrykeeper: Scaly Leg Mite
- University of Minnesota College of Veterinary Medicine: Diseases of Small Poultry Flocks
- Merck Veterinary Manual: Vitamin Deficiencies in Poultry
- Hobby Farms: Protect Your Chicks Naturally from 7 Common Illnesses
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Bumblefoot
- Photo Credit Christi Tolbert/iStock/Getty Images
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