Staphylococcus in Poultry

Small and Backyard Flocks May 05, 2015 Print Friendly and PDF

Written by: Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky

Infection caused by the bacteria Staphylococcus is referred to by several names: staphylococcus, staph infection, staph septicemia, staph arthritis, bumblefoot, and plantar pododermatitis. All fowl, especially turkeys, chickens, gamebirds and waterfowl, are susceptible to this infection. Staphylococcus is found in the soil, and outbreaks often occur after storms when birds on range drink from stagnant rain pools.

Clinical Signs

Staphylococcal infections appear in three forms: septicemia, arthritis, and bumblefoot.

  • Staph septicemia appears to be similar to fowl cholera in that affected birds are listless, have little appetite, and show pain during movement. Infected birds typically have foul-smelling, watery diarrhea. Many infected birds get swollen joints and/or experience a drop in egg production. Because the bacteria is passed into the egg from infected hens, black rot might appear in eggs.
  • Staph arthritis follows the acute septicemia. Birds become lame and develop breast blisters. Infected birds are reluctant to walk, preferring to sit rather than stand.
  • Bumblefoot is a localized staphylococcus infection of the foot. It is thought to be caused by puncture injuries. Affected birds become lame from swollen foot pads.


Staphylococcus infection can be treated with antibiotics.

Prevention and Control

Remove objects that could injure birds from shelters and areas where the birds range. Isolate chronically affected birds.


Bumblefoot. Tina Savage, University of New Hampshire, and Michael Darre, University of Connecticut.

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This work is supported by the USDA National Institute of Food and Agriculture, New Technologies for Ag Extension project.