If checking your chickens' feet for issues is not part of your care regime, incorporating a foot check in your routine is a good idea for the early detection and care of conditions such as Bumblefoot (plantar pododermatitis). Caused by a bacterial infection or abscess, bumblefoot causes the formation of "bumbles" or lesions on the feet of chickens. This can be quite painful for your chickens in addition to being difficult to treat and eradicate. It is acquired when a foot is injured, such as by cuts, scrapes, or frequent exposure to dirty bedding, and bacteria (staph) is able to move in and infect the foot. This results in redness, swelling, and a large, puss-filled lump that can sometimes turn black.
Preventing bumblefoot is tough to do because it seems like most cases come about due to chickens simply being chickens. As they go through their days, scratching about, they expose their feet to a lot of objects with the potential for poking or damaging their feet. Injuries to feet can also come about when chickens come down from a high perch. With this in mind, the best defense is a good offense; you may not be able to prevent bumblefoot but you can watch for it and treat it as soon as you notice something amiss. Maintaining clean bedding will also help not only in the treatment of bumblefoot but also with prevention.
If your chicken contracts bumblefoot, it must be treated immediately to avoid the infection spreading into bones and tendons and possibly even causing death. Ideally, treatment will be conducted by an reputable veterinarian, but some people opt to treat it themselves. Minor cases of bumblefoot can sometimes be treated with Epsom salt soaks and Vetericyn (I have not used this on a chicken yet but have seen it work wonders on my horse) or Betadine, but oftentimes there is a foreign object inside of the foot that needs to be removed. This sort of procedure is not for everyone and is not something that should be entered into lightly as you will essentially be performing surgery on your chicken. However, if you do not have access to an avian vet, you may need to take matters into your own hands and there is a video and more information on doing so here. Please note that the photos and videos are graphic in nature, hence posting a link to the page so you can determine if you wish to go there to see it and not the actual video that could be more than some people want to see right after breakfast. The photos accompanying this article are of milder cases of bumblefoot.
If you monitor the feet of your chickens, you are less likely to wind up with an advanced case of bumblefoot that requires surgical attention. Be sure to check feet regularly and avoid bedding that is sharp or course and use flooring such as sand in your coop. With proper foot care and preventative maintenance, your chickens are sure to thrive. Besides, what gal doesn't love the occasional foot rub?