How to Care for a Chicken’s Feet and Claws

If your chickens are in confinement, they may need some foot care from time to time. 

Truth be told, a chicken’s foot is much more fragile than one might think. 

They look scaly and tough, and in most cases, they are pretty hardy. But did you know that all it takes for a chicken to get a fatal foot infection is a puncture wound?

So, it’s important to know what your flock’s feet need, and what you should watch for. 

Here’s a few things you can do to care for your flock’s feet. 

Check Chicken Feet Often

When checking your flock’s feet, you want to look for a few things to be sure you’re maintaining a healthy environment for your chickens.

Look for:

  • Excessive mud (or droppings)
  • Black scabs (a sign of bumblefoot) – more on this soon
  • Discoloration (a sign of frostbite)
  • Wounds (a place for infection to enter)

If you see any of these signs (poor foot health) you must act accordingly. 

Make sure the coop is kept clean, your chickens are out of cold winter winds, and always address wounds as soon as you see them. 

Other things to look for are spurs that are cutting into the flesh of the chicken. These must be trimmed often to prevent infection. 

Let’s dig a little deeper into these areas of interest when it comes to chickens and pedicures.

Frostbitten Feet

Chickens don’t have to be kept in a heated shed in the winter. But they do need to stay out of the bitter cold and kept safe from rogue winds. 

Chickens are prone to getting frostbite on their combs, and this is pretty well known. 

But what’s often overlooked are their feet. Since chicken legs and feet are not always protected by feathers, they’re at risk of frostbite as well. 

And even chickens with feathered legs are at risk due to freezing water, snow, and slush sticking to their leg feathers. 

We’ve seen chickens lose feet, and even legs, due to frostbite. So if you know you’ve got frigid temps coming your way, make sure your chickens can get out of the cold. 

And always protect their feet from the frost. 

Clip the Claws

Not all chickens can free range. But the ones that do get plenty of time to do their own pedicures as they hunt and scratch for grit, bugs, and seeds. 

When chickens live in confinement, however, they may not have access to hard, gritty, ground, and their claws may grow long enough to cause injury to themselves or other chickens. 

In cases like this, claws can be trimmed much like a dog’s claws. 

It helps to soften the claws in warm water before attempting to trim them. 

Then, simply trim them back like you would a dog. Just be careful not to cut the quick!

Mind the Spurs

Sometimes rooster spurs grow in an undesirable direction. This might even be straight into the opposite leg. 

It might even curl back into its own leg. 

Or it might curl straight up, making it difficult for the rooster to roost at night. 

There are a few different ways to de-spur a rooster. 

You can simply trim them, like the other claws. 

Or, you can look into removing spurs on a routine schedule. 

Google potato method for rooster spur removal. It’s an interesting process, to say the least!

Monitor for Bumblefoot

Lastly, and arguably most importantly, always monitor your chickens for signs of bumblefoot. 

Bumblefoot is a nasty infection of the foot. If not caught quickly, it can easily turn septic and kill your chicken. 

Bumblefoot is contracted when bacteria enter a wound in the foot of a chicken. Often, chickens cut their feet when jumping from a roost, stepping on foreign objects, or even during a fight. 

This brutal infection doesn’t heal well. In fact, the wound itself turns into a scabby plug and usually won’t heal on its own. 

You’ll know your chicken has a foot wound if they’re limping around, hopping, or simply refuse to use one of their feet. 

As soon as you notice bumblefoot, it’s time to take action. 

Clean the wound, and protect it from the elements to ensure that no additional bacteria can enter. 

In worst-case scenarios, you’ll probably need to refer to a veterinarian for treatment with antibiotics. 

As you can see, chicken feet aren’t as sturdy as they appear. It’s important to manage and monitor their feet regularly to catch any potential problems before they become worse, or untreatable. 

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