Standing at the kitchen counter, early on a Saturday morning, I caught a glimpse of a white blur, closely followed by a large black blur. Turning to look closer, I saw a black dog, not belonging to us, attacking my flock. I lost three to that attack, including our rooster.
Thankfully, one wise hen that was attacked did escape by taking refuge with our farm dog. She had a deep wound under her left wing that healed quite nicely after being cleaned and treated with ointment from our first-aid kit.
From frostbite to predator attacks, our flock has experienced a lot in a few short years. Having a basic first-aid kit — and the knowledge to use it — is essential on the homestead. Chickens will be injured from time to time. Sometimes they hurt each other, sometimes it is a predator attack that can leave them wounded, or perhaps it is just a routine illness.
Below you’ll find a list of basic supplies that any first-aid kit for chickens should have. As always, use caution when using any type of antibiotic or other medication and carefully read the instructions.
1. Disposable gloves
Protect your hands while keeping the wound area free from contaminants by having a supply of disposable gloves readily available. They also prevent infection from spreading and make clean up much easier.
2. Rubbing alcohol
A small bottle of rubbing alcohol is perfect for cleaning wounds.
Be careful not to get the liquid near the bird’s eyes. Hydrogen peroxide also can be used; however, it also kills healthy cells surrounding the wound, so it is best to use it for the initial cleaning.
Cornstarch, styptic powder and Wonder Dust are all useful for stopping bleeding due to broken nails or minor wounds. A small pair of nail clippers to trim broken nails on the spot also should be included to keep them from being further torn.
4. Triple antibiotic ointment
5. Petroleum ointment
Useful as a protectant, petroleum ointment is helpful to fend off frostbite on combs and wattles during extreme cold snaps. It also can be used to treat scaly leg mites. To do this, simply coat the leg with ointment once or twice a week until the leg scales once again lay flat.
An antiseptic spray, Blu-Kote masks the wound to prevent other hens from pecking at it. It also stops infection and can be used in combination with a triple antibiotic ointment for serious wounds. Carefully spray on affected area as needed. It may take multiple applications each day before the wound has healed sufficiently enough to deter pecking.
7. Oral syringe
For dispensing any liquid medications, an oral syringe is a must. Electrolyte solutions can be easily administered to aid ailing chickens with an oral syringe. For crop issues, specifically a compacted crop, a few drops of a vegetable oil can be given with an oral syringe to loosen and soften the mass, allowing it to pass freely from the crop.
8. Gauze wrap
Occasionally, a wing will be broken and need to be secured. Position the broken wing in a natural position on the bird’s side and wrap the body and wing with gauze to secure it in place. Broken legs can be splinted and wrapped with gauze as well. It is best to isolate the chicken to prevent further injury due to pecking.
Along with these specific supplies, general supplies such as cotton balls, small gauze pads and small scissors are all helpful in emergencies. Keeping all first-aid supplies in a portable kit allows you to easily treat injured chickens on the spot.
What items would you add to our chicken first-aid kit? Share your advice in the section below: