Chicken Coop Chatter©
Periodically there may be an unavoidable accident and something happens to one of the chickens that they are injured in some way. Things happen that we simply cannot prevent.
Most incidences are treatable if time and care is taken to address first aid.
Once again we urge you to prepare your first aid kit to have handy for a variety of scenarios.
When raising any animal it is our responsibility to tend to their needs in sickness, injury and health. By having your first aid kit stocked and ready to use, you will be able to tend to the needs immediately without undo delay. The sooner the birds are treated, the better the chance of survival. Each day of delay the bird is getting weaker and more apt to succumb to shock or infection if not treated. You will find our link to recommended contents for your first aid kit.
You determine which of these recommendations suit your needs best. We've covered a number of products for a variety of possible injuries and illnesses, that you may or may not experience, however having the supplies available and handy will make the task so much easier in an emergency situation. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/1/post/2014/01/medical-kit-for-chickens.html
Observation of your flock daily will help in keeping you aware of any behavioral changes and the ability to spot an injury, whether you have 4 or 40 chickens to observe. We look for illness, but injuries are not uncommon, whether it's an injury caused by another bird or a predator, or a chicken caught in the wire fencing, there will be some indicators that something is not right. Limping, head shaking, or a bird sitting for hours without moving are all indicators that there is some injury or something is going on. Blood is of course an obvious indicator, but not all injuries bring about an open, bleeding wound. There may be a sprain, a break, a broken beak, wing, or a tear of flesh that isn't as visible under feathers.
When you notice one of your chickens showing odd behavior or inability to get around, immediately check them over for bodily injuries. Look under the wings, around the legs, on the belly, head and around the eyes. When you locate the injury, remove the bird from the flock to a prepared box, crate or pet carrier. Start them on an Electrolyte solution to bring their body back into balance and help ease any shock they may sustain. Make certain the prepared area is draft free, warm and in a convenient place for you to tend to the needs. You will find a link to an Electrolyte solution you can make with common household ingredients that you can make up as needed. http://justfowlingaround.weebly.com/1/post/2014/01/electrolyte-recipe.html
Provide food, water, bedding and shelter. Treat the injury as necessary, whether that is soaking in warm epsom salt water for wounds, sprains or breaks. Always make sure the bird is thoroughly dried after the soaking to prevent chill that may cause illness during treatment. A heavy towel to absorb some of the water and common hand held hair dryer works well. If there are feathers in and around the wound, pluck those away from the wound to prevent irritation and bacteria. Treat the wound as needed with vetericyn or your chosen antibiotic ointment. If this is an open wound, lightly cover with gauze to prevent bedding and debris from sticking to it. The use of puppy training pads for bedding will be beneficial when an open wound is the issue, which will help prevent any bedding debris from sticking to the wound. You may need to remove dead tissue from the wound to prevent gangrene, a small pair of sharp manicure scissors will be beneficial in removing that dead flesh. If the bird is in obvious pain you can give a baby aspirin to help ease the pain. If the bird is not responding to food, water or the electrolyte solution, you will need to administer the fluids with an eye dropper to make sure it stays hydrated. Open the mouth and insert the eye dropper into the beak past the nostril holes to make sure the fluid is not going into the lungs that could ultimately cause respiratory illness or drowning.
A sprain or break can usually be set using a wooden popcicle stick and vet wrap after soaking the injury in warm epsom salt water. Soak the injury a few times each day in the warm water to help ease any swelling and re-wrap the injury. If a wing is injured, you may need to position the wing as well as possible near the body and wrap snuggly with gauze around the middle of the bird to keep it as immobile as possible until it has healed. A break, or sprain can take a few weeks to heal, and the bird must be isolated until fully healed before returning to the flock. If a beak is broken, that bird may need special attention to make sure it is able to eat and drink without complication. You may need to provide a separate eating area if it is not able to eat from the same containers as the remaining flock. It may also need a special diet to allow it to get proper nutrition. This would be true of a cross beak bird as well. These birds may become special needs birds and may need to be removed from the flock if other birds are not allowing them to eat without disruption. With a cross beak, you may need to trim the beak or lightly sand it with an emery board to even it out as much as possible to make it easier for the bird to eat. This may need to be done periodically throughout the life of the bird, not just one time.
If you notice the chicken pecking at a wound, use blu kote to alter the appearance so the wound is not made worse. Some gaping wounds may need sutures. Skin will grow back over the wounds, though this takes some time. You want the wound to stay supple and moist but not oozing and never dried out. Some wounds if oozing are best left uncovered with only the use of antibacterial salve or ointment to aid in the healing. Other wounds may need to be covered to prevent pecking or debris from entering the wound. You will need to determine the best course of action.
The rule of thumb for soaking in warm water is to use water you would find comfortable as your own bath water. Soak the injury in the water until the water is beginning to cool, or for about 20 minutes. Remove the animal and dry thoroughly.
We recommend you increase protein to aid in healing. This can be in the form of scrambled eggs, plain yogurt or a slurry of softened high protein grains, cooked grains such as oatmeal and canned, frozen or fresh pumpkin pulp and even peanut butter in a slurry. Meat proteins are fine if ground up to make it easily digestible for the ailing fowl. Adding broth to the ground up meat will aid in adding not only protein but much needed fluids. There are times if the injury is critical, that we would suggest you try to prevent hens from laying by enclosing them in a darkened environment to discourage this, so their body can concentrate on healing rather than egg production.
Some injuries may take weeks of treatment to heal. Be prepared to check the bird for needs throughout the day and treat as necessary. When you determine that the injury has healed, and the bird is functioning properly, it can be returned to the flock, however you must monitor that re-integration, in the event the pecking order has been rearranged. Some injuries may cause the chicken to be a special needs bird and in that case it cannot be re-integrated and will need special accommodations where it can be tended to as needed, away from the general flock.
Having your first aid kit and supplies, general first aid information, and a plan for an area to tend to the immediate needs will all help to make a bad situation easier to deal with. There are very few vets that treat fowl and can be very expensive, they may even recommend putting the chicken down rather than treat, so the more you know and are able to do on your own the better chance of survival for your prized chickens. Remember anytime there is an injury to immediately start the bird on Electrolytes and provide a warm, clean, safe, and quiet environment that is convenient for you to tend to the needs.
We are always happy to advise on the course of treatment, so always feel free to ask us. We are not vets, however we have many years of experience dealing with animal and fowl injuries and illnesses. We can only advise you on a course of treatment, we cannot guarantee the treatment will spare the life of the chicken, nor can we control the outcome. The sooner you contact us for advice, the better the chance of survival. Either email us at Justfowlingaround.com, through the website or through our Facebook page via personal message: https://www.facebook.com/pages/Just-Fowling-Around/365743116845352
NOTE: Thank you to Elizabeth Cantillo for providing photos of her injured hen. Elizabeth came to us for advice in treating an injury that her hen sustained. The wound appeared to be oozing and muscle was exposed. We first recommended that the hen be brought indoors to a warm, quiet environment, Electrolytes solution be provided, and an Epsom Salt soak to aid in healing and to clean any bacteria from the wound. After drying, the exposed flesh was treated with a generic triple action antibiotic. We did not advise covering the wound unless the hen was pecking at the wound or unless bedding material was sticking to it. The feathers were missing or we would have advised plucking them away from the wound to prevent further irritation. Some of the dead flesh has had to be removed to aid with healing. We advised Elizabeth to put her hen on high protein food which was in the form of scrambled eggs. With Elizabeth's care, her hen is now showing signs of healing and is laying eggs, though it will still be awhile before the hen can be released back into the flock. Because of the severe tear in the skin, the new flesh will be more tender and more easily torn, so we have advised she wear a saddle once she is integrated back into the flock to prevent tearing of the flesh in the future. UPDATE: One week after treatment was started, Elizabeth was concerned about the healing process. We discussed a course of action. Elizabeth took a swab of the affected tissue to work and tested it under the microscope, the findings were clear of bad bacteria. Elizabeth did debrid the white tissue around the wound that is dead flesh and can kill the new flesh developing, in addition she also added oxytetracycline* (antibiotic) to the treatment program to promote further healing. On day 8, as you'll see in the slideshow, the new skin is continuing to grow and can almost watch it growing. The feathers are growing back in. The hen is active, eating and drinking well and healing nicely. Though this wound was large enough to warrant sutures, it is healing over as evidenced by the nice pink flesh visible in the photos. Treatment will continue until the wound is completely grown over with the new tender flesh. Once again we thank Elizabeth for taking the time to photograph her treatment program and share with us her lab findings. 3-5-14 UPDATE: The skin is filling in nicely, feathers are growing and the hen is now outdoors in a protected pen before release into the general flock.
*NOTE: Anytime an antibiotic is used follow instructions carefully. You must mix a new batch each day, and you cannot eat or sell the eggs for consumption for at least 5 days after the last dose. Read the labels carefully, some will require up to 14 days after the last treatment.
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(For Chicken Saddles and Chicken Diapers, that may be needed while treating, refer to the links below)