If you keep chickens for a while you’ll eventually deal with wound care. Chickens can get injured in a myriad of ways: dog/predator attacks; pecking injuries; rough roosters; hard landings on coop floors; being spooked and hitting walls or fences; getting caught up in wiring. You name it, they seem to find trouble like a magnet.
If you haven’t had to deal with injuries thus far, that’s great. I believe in being prepared – it will lessen your stress and increase your bird’s chance of recovery or survival. The most important item is a well-stocked first aid kit with enough resources to deal with a number of issues. Prevention helps too. If you pen your birds you’ll greatly reduce the chances of predator and dog attacks. Walk around their environment and eliminate obvious potential hazards.
Even when you are vigilant accidents happen and it’s important to know what to do, or not to do, when it does.
These birds were all attacked by dogs:
You may have witnessed what happened to your bird or find it with an injury and no back story. In either case, examine your whole bird carefully to assess the extent of their injuries. Figure out if treatment is required and if so, what. Stabilization in the infirmary might be enough.
Look for cuts, bleeding, broken bones or sprains. If it’s a predator attack there may be deep bites, torn skin, missing limbs/wings and internal damage. Assess if you are able to provide first aid or a visit to a veterinarian is in order.
If the injuries are serious you may have to consider euthanasia. Chickens are incredibly resilient and come back from near death experiences so my attitude is to at least give them a chance at recovery. If you don’t see some improvement in the first 24 hours, then culling might be appropriate.
- If wounds are small they may be easy to flush with saline solution using a syringe.
- If there is a lot of blood you may have to gently bathe your bird to assess the extent of the damage.
- Trim feathers around the wound.
- Wash the area with warm water and antibacterial soap. Rinse well with clean warm water. Pat dry.
- Trim away any loose bits of skin that will not heal.
- Styptic powder or pressure can stop bleeding.
- A number of products can be applied to scratches, abrasions, bites and other wounds: chlorohexidine, betadine, iodine, Vetericyn spray, unpasteurized honey, polysporin triple antibiotic or bacitracin ointment.
- Dressings and wrap can be annoying, fall off or be pecked off. If not required, leave the wound open. If it is deep and liable to bleed apply a wound dressing and vet wrap. A chicken saddle can be used to cover wounds on the back.
- Clean the wounds twice a day to avoid infection (i.e. black skin or pus).
- Gloves, gauze, compression bandage, non-adhering bandages, steri-strips, butterfly strips, vet wrap.
- Sutures and needles, needle-less syringe, saline solution.
- Chlorohexidine, betadine, iodine, Vetericyn spray, unpasteurized honey, polysporin triple antibiotic or bacitracin ointment.
- Traumacare ointment, Traumeel homeopathic pellets, baby aspirin (81mg), Rescue Remedy, Tea Tree Oil.
- Scissors, tweezers, scalpel.
Wounds That Require Stitches
- If your bird has a wound that is open, deep, or large amounts of skin are missing you should probably see a veterinarian. I realize that not everyone has access, or the funds, to do so. If that’s the case you can work with what you have.
- Steri-strips or butterfly stitches that stick to skin or liquid stitches (i.e. medical grade crazy glue) are appropriate for smaller wounds.
- I have proper suture needles and medical grade thread in my first aid kit. A sterilized sewing needle and white thread can be used in a pinch for surface stitching.
- Bites are often advisable to be left open to monitor the possibility of bacterial infection.
- Trim away loose bits of skin that won’t sit flat.
- Stitches should go through the skin: 1 mm deep and 3 mm (1/8”) apart.
- Pull skin together snugly after each stitch.
- Remove @ 5 days.
- Apply any of the products mentioned above daily to avoid bacterial infection.
- Monitor for infection. Necrotic (dead skin) may need to be cut away.
- Prescription antibiotics may be required.
When wild birds strike my window I hold them to keep them warm and quiet. It usually doesn’t take long for them to recover and I release them. Many chickens succumb to the effects of shock when they could be saved with proper care: isolation in a warm, quiet place like a dog crate in your laundry room. Separate your patient from the flock to reduce risk of pecking and bullying.
As prey animals chickens have adapted to hide their pain – that doesn’t mean they don’t suffer pain. The medication that most veterinarians prescribe for pain is Meloxicam or Metacam. If you don’t have access to it you can give ½ baby aspirin (81mg) diluted in 1 litre (1 quart) of water or give orally to ensure they get the full dosage. Do not give if there is a chance of internal bleeding as aspirin acts as a blood thinner and impedes clotting.
Food & Hydration
The first 24 hours are critical. At this stage your bird will be in pain and shock. Hydration is more important than food.
- Make sure the patient is drinking; if not, offer them fresh water, electrolytes or NutriDrench from a spoon.
- It’s better to use an eye dropper to drop water on the tip of their beak than a syringe. If you do use the latter then check out this post on how to safely administer medications or fluids via syringe.
- Offer easy to eat, high protein foods: canned cat food and canned fish (no salt) as well as whatever manufactured feed they were used to eating.
Reintegration To The Flock
- Be careful not to reintroduce an injured bird to the flock too early.
- Consider a bird that has been removed for a period of time due to illness or injury the same as a new member.
- Once added back to the flock the pecking order will need to be re-established.
- Monitor your patient carefully for bullying and pecking from your other birds.
- Blu-Kote has been banned for use in chickens in Canada. If you want to colour the area to avoid pecking injuries you can use blue food dye.
- If your patient is housed outside regularly monitor for flystrike.
Thanks to Bitchin’ Chickens followers for sharing their photos: Samantha Dowling Stowers, Frances Freeman, Julie Germyn, Susan Hearsey, Mariela Martinez, April May, Mitzi McFarlane, Star Spalek & Jessica Van Wyen.
Credits: Dummies; Poultry Keeper. Featured Image: Hawk Attack: Backyard Chickens