My first flock was free-ranging and fared quite well against predators. In two years I lost two to hawks. For the last decade my birds have been contained in a 30’x40’ enclosure. Although I live on a small, forested island with few threats to my birds, my biggest concern was dogs. My neighbours had a Shih Tzu that crossed our acreage on his daily walkabout. Not once, but twice, he chased and grabbed the same pullet. Luckily she survived with minor damage and a few missing feathers.
Another time a friend dropped by. I penned my birds in anticipation of her dog coming to visit. I had a broody hen that had snuck off to the hidden nest in the woods so I expected she would be hunkered down. Wouldn’t you know it, she chose the very moment we were touring the property, dogs unleashed, to saunter back to the coop for a snack. What ensued was worthy of a video: a squawking, bouncing hen, a dog in hot pursuit and me pulling up the rear, running in my clogs. Poor Simone was a little worse for wear: she was missing quite a few feathers and was traumatized, but suffered no punctures.
If you scroll through Facebook chicken groups, dog attacks are common. Most of us have dogs and some seem surprised that they have to train them, or restrict their access, so they don’t harm their flock.
Managing shock is critical in the first 24 hours. It can be life-threatening because the body is not getting enough blood flow, and the cells and organs don’t get enough oxygen and nutrients to function properly. Shock requires immediate treatment: keep the patient warm, quiet and separated from the flock in a sick bay where you can monitor progress. Hydration is more important than food in the first day or so.
After any predator attack you’ll want to do a thorough exam, checking for bleeding, punctures, bruises or fractures, and treat as needed.
Dogs can cause significant damage, both internal and external, with their teeth and clamping jaws. Another issue is the risk of infection from bacteria carried in their saliva. Monitoring for infection is important as it can hinder recovery and potentially lead to death.
One Of The Twins, ISA Hen, 8 years old
Susan is one of my Bitchin’ Chickens followers and got two of my hens in 2019.
She had the misfortune of having a neighbour’s dog squeeze under their fence and attack her hen, One Of The Twins (OOTT). She heard the commotion and ran out to save her hen thinking, at first, there was minimal damage. It wasn’t until closer inspection that Susan realized her hen had potentially life threatening wounds.
Susan contacted me for advice when OOTT was injured and I asked if she’d keep notes and take photos of her healing journey.
Day 1: A large Mastiff cross bit my girl and she has a large, very deep wound to the right of her spine. It’s not bleeding much, but I think whatever organ is underneath may be cut as well.
This was immediately after my chicken was attacked. The wound looked almost as deep as it is wide. I trimmed back the feathers, cleaned the puncture with saline and gave her Metacam for pain and Tylan 50, an antibiotic, to prevent infection. I then put her in a cardboard box covered with a towel to rest for the night.
Day 2: I’m hoping the dog didn’t damage her organs because the laceration is really deep. I gave her more Metacam and Tylan 50 and cleaned the wound with Germistat again. Fingers crossed she can do the rest.
She ate a breakfast of egg yolks mixed with water, seemed alert and had a good appetite. She is pooping normally.
Day 3: I gave her Tylan 50, cleaned the wound twice daily, and applied Polysporin antibiotic ointment to the wound.
Day 5: She’s hanging in there, no signs of infection so far. I’ve been giving her antibiotics and cleaning the wound daily. It’s still far from healed, but I think the risk of internal bleeding being a problem is probably past
Day 10: I am so pleased to see feathers coming back so soon. At this point I am just cleaning it daily and applying antibiotic ointment as there was no sign of infection.
Day 28: She just shed a very large scab revealing nice healthy tissue underneath. OOTT had big enough feathers so the mostly healed wound was hidden from the other girls. I noticed she wasn’t eating very much so I reintroduced her to the flock.
Day 30: OOTT just went back with the flock last night. She wasn’t eating much and has lost a lot of weight and the other girls are still picking on her a little. I don’t think she enjoyed being in the house.
She’s doing ok, spending a lot of time alone in the coop, but feels less thin.
Week 8: OOTT spent a few weeks just roosting in the coop, but she has gained some weight back and is now roaming around the pen with the others. 100% recovered!
Note: Susan used Metacam and Tylan 50, medications she had on hand. I asked Dr Vicki Bowes, Avian Vet/Pathologist if those were the recommended meds to have given OOTT. Metacam is the preferred pain med, but it turns out that there was a more appropriate antibiotic. Tylan is used for respiratory illnesses such as Mycoplasma or Chronic Respiratory Disease, while Amoxicillan or Clavamox should be used to treat potential infections associated with a dog bite.
Many thanks to Susan Hearsey for sharing her story and photos. And much appreciation to Dr Bowes for offering her medical know-how. Featured photo credit: bashny.net