Always work closely with a veterinarian if one of your residents develops an issue with their feet or toes. They should evaluate the chicken to determine the best course of action. If there is infection present, systemic antibiotics will likely be needed to treat the issue, and in some cases, surgical debridement may be advised. Do not follow backyard chicken recommendations to “perform your own surgery” on a chicken with bumblefoot. Always consult with a veterinarian to ensure all necessary diagnostics are performed and to determine the appropriate treatment. Depending on the situation and how soon your veterinarian is able to see the chicken, you may need to wrap a chicken’s foot while waiting for them to be evaluated. A wrap may be advised if the chicken has a large painful scab, an open wound, or if the foot is swollen and painful. Keeping the foot wrapped is a good step in protecting the affected area and keeping the chicken comfortable, but if done incorrectly, you could make matters worse. If at all possible, we recommend working with an experienced caregiver to learn the proper technique before attempting yourself.
Common mistakes people make when first learning to wrap a chicken’s foot are:
Wrapping any area of the body too tightly can result in restricted blood flow. This may cause the chicken’s toe’s to swell and start turning red or purple. If the wrap is not removed, the tissue could be permanently damaged. It is especially easy to wrap too tightly when using vet wrap, as it stretches quite a bit and some rolls are stickier than others. Because of this, it may be helpful to unroll and then re-roll vet wrap before use. This should prevent you from having to pull too much on the vet wrap as you wrap the chicken’s foot, which could cause you stretch it and wrap the foot too tightly. By unrolling it in advance, it should not take much effort to get it to unroll during the wrapping process. Even if you are sure you did not wrap the foot too tightly, you must check the wrap at least twice a day to ensure it is still fitting properly. Depending on the cause of the foot issue, the foot could swell while wrapped (but not because of the wrap) which will turn a perfect fitting wrap into one that is too tight. This is one of the many reasons why any type of wrap must be monitored frequently.
When wrapping the foot, it’s important to wrap it in a natural position. If you wrap it in a way that prevents the toes from extending normally, this could result in discomfort and could make it difficult for the chicken to walk. A common mistake is inadvertently trapping the hallux toe in an unnatural position such as held against the foot rather than extended outwards. Be sure to watch how the chicken moves after their foot is wrapped. If they suddenly have trouble walking, look to see if their toes are being affected by the wrap.
Not changing a wrap that has become soiled or wet can also lead to serious trouble. One purpose of wrapping a chicken’s foot is to keep it clean and protected from bacteria in the environment. If the wrap becomes soiled and is not changed, it can lead to infection. Additionally, if a wrap becomes wet and is not changed, it can result in skin issues or make the existing condition worse. We recommend not letting a chicken with a wrapped foot out into wet conditions whenever possible. For a basic wrap, we typically recommend changing the wrap every three to four days, but it should be replaced sooner if it becomes wet or soiled.
Foot Wrap Protocols
The purpose of this lesson is to teach you how to perform a very basic foot wrap in the event that you need to wrap a resident’s foot while waiting to get them in for veterinary assessment. Be aware that different situations will warrant different wrap protocols- always follow your veterinarian’s instructions, as they will be based on the specifics of the situation at hand. They may provide special instructions regarding exactly how to wrap the foot and may recommend using additional wrap supplies not discussed here.
However, in the event that you need to wrap a chicken’s foot while waiting to have them evaluated by a veterinarian, you can use the technique illustrated below. This video only shows the wrapping process, it does not show how to treat the foot issue that warrants the wrap, since treatment will depend on the cause and extent of the issue. In general, gently cleaning the area with a chicken-safe disinfectant, rinsing with saline, and thoroughly drying the foot is a good start. An antibiotic ointment such as SSD or triple antibiotic ointment can be used to cover a scab or open wound. Be sure to wear gloves while cleaning and treating the foot, both for your protection and to prevent introducing bacteria into the affected area. Non-adherent pads are useful when covering an open wound and will not stick to the wound like gauze can. It can be tricky to wrap a chicken’s foot while wearing gloves, so if you prefer, once the foot is treated and affected area is covered, you may remove your gloves for the remainder of the wrapping process (though in some cases, your veterinarian may recommend gloves be worn throughout the entire process). This video is not meant to be a substitute for proper veterinary care- always defer to your veterinarian.
Supplies Needed For A Basic Foot Wrap:
* The 1-inch size usually works well, or you can cut wider rolls into thinner strips
Following Special Instructions From Your Veterinarian
If your veterinarian instructs you to keep a chicken’s foot wrapped, make sure you get thorough instructions and fully understand the protocol. There are many different types of wrap treatments each with their own protocols. Be sure to follow their instructions regarding how often to change the wrap (keeping in mind that you should almost always change it sooner if it becomes soiled or wet. Have a discussion about what you should do if the wrap becomes soiled or wet in between scheduled wrap changes). In some instances, such as when protecting a sutured incision, you may be instructed not to use any sort of topical disinfectant or ointment. In others, cleaning and applying an ointment may be an important step. Make sure you know exactly how to clean or prepare the foot before wrapping it, and make sure you know what signs of concern to be on the lookout for. It can be very helpful to take pictures with each bandage change. These photos can help track progress and can be shared with your veterinarian so they are aware of how things are progressing.