By Kelcie Paulis, Chickenlandia Presidential Advisor
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Wounds are bound to happen at some point in your chicken-keeping experience. Whether it’s from fighting, predators, something in the environment, or simply a mystery, chickens can be a bit thin-skinned. Luckily, chickens are also surprisingly resilient creatures. I’ve seen them heal from all manner of injuries and wounds. Most minor wounds can heal quickly with a little TLC and some savvy First Aid. If your chicken is wounded right now and you’re trying to decide what to do, let’s break it down in a few easy steps.
Note: In Chickenlandia, we aim to use natural products whenever possible. Some of the suggestions below aren’t totally natural, but in an emergency situation, it’s really important to have options. To see The President of Chickenlandia’s mostly natural first aid kit, click here.
Step 1: Wash Your Hands
Recently, we’ve learned a lot about how germs spread. To prevent new or further infection to your chicken or you, make sure you wash your hands before and after treatment.
Step 2: Stop Bleeding
When you have discovered a wounded chicken, it’s important to assess the damage and clean the area. But you must stop any active bleeding first. Some wounds, like combs, waddles, and toenails, will bleed far more than others. I use Kwik Stop to stop the bleeding but any styptic powder will work. If you don’t have any styptic powder in your chicken first aid kit, don’t worry! Cornstarch or baking flour works as a good alternative. Sprinkle the powder over the area and press it into the point of bleeding. Allow time for it to clot and dry before cleaning the wound.
Step 3: Clean the Wound
Cleaning the wound and surrounding area is important for both preventing and healing infections. If you do nothing else, don’t skip this important step. It’s the best thing you can do to help a chicken with a surface injury.
It’s not a completely natural product, but a good old soap and warm water rinse with classic Dawn Dish Soap is my first step in wound cleaning. It is safe and gentle, and for small surface wounds you can simply use it with a washcloth. For larger scraps, I rinse the area right in the sink, while being careful not to get the chicken completely drenched. You don’t want to give them a full bath and stress them out. Just get them wet enough to clean the dirt and germs away from the wound.
Step 4: Apply a Topical Treatment
There are lots of good topical wound treatments that are safe for use on chickens. Here are my top recommendations for this step:
Veterycin – Veterycin is my number one go-to product for wound care and cleaning. It kills 99.9% of germs. Veterycin is incredibly safe and has amazing disinfecting and healing properties. It can be used for virtually anything, anywhere on the body. Veterycin is readily available for purchase at most pet or feed stores, as well as online. And don’t worry about which formula to buy; while they make many species specific labels, all Vetericyn Plus products are safe to use. Generously spray on and around the wound. Repeat daily throughout healing.
Raw Honey – We like to lean natural in Chickenlandia whenever possible. Raw Honey has great antibacterial properties. It also helps things heal up faster. Any Raw honey will do. Drop on a glob and gently spread it across the wound. Make sure your chicken is separated from their flock when using honey topically.
Hydrogen Peroxide – Many people have this readily available in their home first aid kit. It is a mild antiseptic used on the skin to prevent infection. You can use this on chickens for minor cuts, scrapes, & burns. However, peroxide should not be used on puncture wounds or bites. I apply it to the wound area with a cotton ball.
Neosporin – Just about everyone has a tube of Neosporin around the house. As long as it doesn’t have any painkiller in it, it’s perfectly safe to use on a chicken wound. Since it’s a triple antibiotic, it can help to prevent or treat infection during a critical time. Simply slather it on minor wounds and rub it in gently.
Blue Kote – Blue Kote is another one of my go-to products. It is an antiseptic, germ-killing, fungicidal wound dressing and healing aid. It works to protect animals against common infections and pus-producing bacterias. Blue Kote is for surface wounds and abrasions, but is also effective for fungal infections and ringworm. Blue Kote contains Gentian Violet, which is an antiseptic dye that dyes the area a dark blue color. This dye is very helpful for “covering up” a wound and preventing picking from their flock mates. Anytime I notice a bird with a wound that is being picked, I apply a spray of Blue Kote to the area (be careful, it WILL dye your hands blue for a few days and it does stain clothes).
Step 5: Repeat
Depending on the severity of the wound, you will likely want to repeat the cleaning and topical treatment process for as many days as necessary. For larger wounds I treat 2x a day for the first 3 days and then once a day until they are on the mend.
Frequently Asked Questions
Does my chicken need stitches?
Most surface wounds do not need stitches, but some may be large or deep enough to require closure. I usually don’t worry about stitching wounds that are smaller than a US Quarter. If you feel your chicken may need stitches and the wound is still fresh, seek a veterinarian for sutures. The open edges of wounded skin will dry up in the first few days of healing, thus leaving the skin unable to be remedied by stitches. If this is the case, continue to clean and treat. Chicken skin has amazing healing powers and it may still heal up on its own.
Should I use a bandage?
This really depends on the severity of the wound, but I generally do not bandage wounds. It often bothers the birds more than it helps, causing them to pick at it or scratch it off entirely. It’s also nearly impossible to effectively bandage some wound locations. I do use bandage wraps when dealing with Bumble Foot or Splay Leg. If you do feel the need to bandage a wound I recommend Vet Wrap self adhesive bandages.
Should I separate my chicken?
Many wounds will require separation from the flock for a healing period. For small surface wounds I may just apply a layer of Blue Kote to dye the area and prevent flock members from picking at it, but for larger, more exposed wounds, I recommend temporarily separating. A smaller, quiet space will help the chicken destress and heal.
Most wounds will be caused by an event that was likely stressful for the chicken. Managing stress is an important part of wound care as well. I recommend following the R.E.S.T Method for situations where a chicken has been through trauma. You can also give your chicken some Rescue Remedy and/or the homeopathic remedy Aconite in a 30c potency to help calm them down. Click here for more on using homeopathic for chickens. For more information on the R.E.S.T. Method, click the play button below!
A warm & quiet place to rest with some electrolytes and a tasty meal can do wonders for the body’s ability to heal. Once your chicken has successfully recovered they can be reintroduced to the flock and go on living a happy life. You may need to slowly integrate them, as illustrated in the video below.
The content of the Welcome to Chickenlandia website, blog, vlog, and all social media are for informational purposes only and is not intended to be a substitute for professional veterinarian advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Dependence on any information appearing on the Welcome to Chickenlandia website, blog, vlog, and social media sites is entirely at your own risk. Please do your own research and make your own informed decisions regarding the health of your chickens.