If your chicken has a swollen foot, he has a condition known as bumblefoot (plantar pododermatitis). He may limp or not stand on the injured foot. Swelling, lameness, heat and a blackened scab may all be symptoms. If untreated, it can become chronic and your chicken may die.
Bumblefoot starts with a foot injury. Your chicken may get a cut on his foot, and the initial injury causes staphylococcus bacteria to enter your chicken's foot, causing it to abscess and swell with fluid. He can get this from rough perches, jumping down from a high perch, skin irritation or from poor litter management, which results when your chicken can pick up bacteria in his feet.
Treat bumblefoot as soon as you discover it. If the foot becomes hard, it is more difficult to cure and you need a veterinarian's intervention. Separate the infected bird and put him in a pen or cage with soft litter such as pine shavings.
Wear gloves when treating him because staphylococcus can infect you. Soak his foot for about 15 minutes in a pan of very warm water and a cup of Epsom salts, but do not let him drink it. Carefully pull the scab off -- it should come off easily, but if not, soak it again or have a veterinarian treat it. Then gently open the wound. Clean out any pus with sterile gauze and use hydrogen peroxide to rinse the wound. Then, pack it with topical antibiotics safe for chickens and wrap the foot with a sterile pad, gauze and a top bandage such as vet wrap.
Rewrap the bandage daily and dispose of the bandages, making sure to wear gloves until the wound heals.
You can treat your chicken with oral antibiotics, available at the feed store, provided you clean and dress the wound. Follow the package's directions for treating chickens or contact your veterinarian for advice.
Good coop management is essential. Keep your coop clean and dry with plenty of litter. Keep perches no higher than 18 inches. Remove wire, sharp edges and other things that can cause your birds to cut themselves. Heavier birds get bumblefoot more often than lighter ones, and roosters get bumblefoot more than hens. Keeping the litter soft, deep and dry can hold bumblefoot at bay.
- University of New Hampshire Cooperative Extension: Bumblefoot
- Raising Chickens fo Dummies; Kimberly Willis and Rob Ludlow