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Treating Bumblefoot in Chickens and Ducks Naturally

herbs chickens bumblefoot

Bumblefoot is an infection of the foot that chickens and ducks can get as the result of a hard landing off a roost, a cut that gets infected or even a Vitamin A deficiency.

In my years of chicken and duck keeping, I've only encountered bumblefoot twice - once in a duck and once in a chicken - and wrote about my experience treating it pretty conventionally HERE after googling and watching some YouTube videos.

In the years since, I have learned lots more about the healing power of herbs, so when I discovered one of the ducks we adopted with the telltale black scab, I decided to make up an all natural treatment plan using some herbs thought to have the power to 'cure' a staph infection - which is basically what bumblefoot is.

Note: Since you are dealing with a staphylococcal infection that can be transmitted to humans, it's best to wear latex gloves while treating a chicken or duck with bumblefoot.


1) Rinse foot well in warm water to clean off any mud or dirt.
2) Make a poultice of activated charcoal and warm water and pack onto foot, wrap in gauze and leave on for 10-20 minutes (alternatively soak foot in warm water/Epsom salts) to soften the scap and start to draw out any impurities.

3) With a clean, sharp scalpel try to scrape off as much of the top of the black scab as you can. Have cornstarch ready in case the bleeding gets heavy. A little bleeding is to be expected, but if the blood really start to flow, apply pressure and wait until the bleeding has subsided.

Suggested Dressings (choose one)

* Slather wound with honey. Dress with gauze and wrap. Repeat twice daily.

* Apply liquid goldenseal root to the wound several times a day, dress with gauze and wrap.

* Make a tincture of a combination of any or all: lavender, thyme, oregano, clove, rosemary, cinnamon and sage essential oils, apply to the wound, wrap and repeat morning and evening.

* Apply an Herbal Bumblefoot Salve. Here's my 'recipe' for a bumblefoot salve. I prefer a salve or ointment because it is easier to apply and really slather on to the foot than a liquid tincture.

Herbal Bumblefoot Salve

1/2 cup coconut oil
1-2 springs fresh lavender
1 bunch fresh sage
5-6 sprigs fresh thyme
1-2 sprigs fresh rosemary
1 ounce beeswax pastilles
1/8 teaspoon liquid vitamin E
1/8 teaspoon powdered turmeric
1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

Add herbs to coconut oil over low heat in a double boiler or over a candle warmer, ripping and bruising the leaves a bit to release the essential oils.

Steep for 45-60 minutes, then strain out herbs, pressing solids against strainer to release as much of the essential oil as possible, then add beeswax to infused oil.

Continue to heat until beeswax is melted. Remove from heat and stir in the Vitamin E, turmeric and cinnamon until well mixed.

Pour into a small covered metal or glass container and allow to cool and set.  Apply liberally to wound at least twice a day, wrapping in gauze and vet wrap.

Store the salve in a cool, dry location in a covered container. It should last almost indefinitely.

 Another option is Green Goo from Sierra Sage Herbs. If you aren't up to making your own salve, this all natural, antibacterial/anti-fungal/antiseptic salve is a great choice as well.

I prefer a multi-faceted approach as described here, treating both internally  to build a strong immune system and externally to treat the infection at the source.

Also Helpful in Conjunction with the Herbal Treatment

* Offer a 'tea' of steeped echinacea root, dandelion leaves/roots, parsley and cilantro several times a day.

* Add a fresh garlic clove and one Tablespoon of apple cider vinegar to each gallon of water for the duration to help boost the immune system. Feed fresh minced garlic alternatively.

* Add probiotics to the diet for the duration to boost good bacteria and help fight the infection.

* Add healthy sources of Vitamin A to the diet including pumpkins, sweet potatoes, carrots, cantaloupe, leafy greens, etc.

* Offer fresh thyme, oregano, lavender and sage free-choice as natural antibiotics.

Continue treatment until a new flesh-colored scab appears. Keep your patient separated if you feel it's necessary to keep her foot clean.

Although sometimes, especially in the case of ducks, separating one will cause so much stress, I feel it's far more beneficial to leave them with the flock and just be super diligent about keeping the wound clean and the dressing changed several times a day.

The beautiful thing about these natural remedies is that you can offer them to your whole flock with no ill effects to those not suffering from an infection.

That alleviates the necessity of separating the 'patient', which often puts undue stress on them, especially in the case of ducks, I've discovered.

-Neoprene booties, such as this homemade set, help keep the foot clean and dry while it heals-
If the bumblefoot isn't showing any improvement after several days, you might want to consider the more invasive home "surgery"  - which actually involves digging out the kernel of infection - or a visit to the vet because the infection can travel up the leg and cause lameness or even death, but catching the infection early on and treating it with herbs is often enough to completely heal your chicken or duck.

Disclosure: I am not a veterinarian. This is written from my personal experience, and from reading from various scientific and holistic sources. Your own experience with bumblefoot in your flock could differ based on a variety of factors, including how quickly you catch a case. If you believe the foot is infected, it is always best to consult with a professional as to the best treatment. This post is for informational use only. 

Sources and References:


  1. Could you use dried herbs if you don't have the fresh ones?

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