Beaks, nails and spurs are all made of keratin, a type of protein. A normal beak is comprised of two parts that fit together, so that the top slightly overlaps the bottom. The hard outer portion protects the inner soft tissues, skin and bone.
Chickens explore their worlds through their beaks, which function as a part of their sense of touch. There are a number of things that can damage beaks including fights, getting them caught in fencing, small spaces or rodent snap traps, or from predator attacks.
Think of a beak like your fingernails. The tips are not attached and have no blood supply if they were broken. However, injuries to the nail bed itself can be painful and suffer permanent damage (i.e. some nails can’t regrow). Similarly, injuries to the tip of a beak are considered relatively minor and are usually easy to fix, whereas those at the base can result in damage to the bone and a permanently amputated beak.
- Minor injuries may not require any treatment, just monitoring to see that the beak re-grows normally.
- If the injury is fight related, birds may have to be separated or re-homed.
- Wounds should be treated and bleeding stopped.
- Use dog nail clippers or an emery board to shape the beak, making sure not to trim too much.
- A cracked beak won’t grow together, but will grow out over time.
- Splits and chips can be repaired using a small square of an empty teabag soaked in crazy glue. Place the patch over the affected area to hold it into proper position until the beak re-grows.
- Canine nail caps can be glued over the tip of a split beak.
- Make sure your bird is able to eat properly, providing feed in a deep dish may help.
- If there is extensive damage pain medications might be required (i.e. Metacam/Meloxicam).
- Amputated or severely torn beaks can’t grow back. You may be able to manufacture a prosthetic beak, but more likely you will have to find a way to feed and hydrate your injured bird (or consider euthanasia).
- Crossbeak is usually a genetic or hatching issue, but can result from an injury to the bone structure at the base of the beak. Monitor for deformation of the alignment and ensure the bird is able to eat and drink properly.
Credit: Poultry DVM Featured Photo: Backyard Chickens