How to Check and Triage an Injured Chicken
2 of 12 in Series: The Essentials of Tending a Sick or Injured Chicken
Raising chickens is not without its difficult moments, such as finding a wounded chick or discovering a sick bird. Sick or injured chickens need immediate attention — and special handling. If a chicken has been wounded or you suspect it was in a situation where wounds may have been inflicted, you need to check it over carefully.
Gently catch the chicken. Do not chase the chicken!
If the chicken is still up and walking and you want to examine or treat it, try to catch it without too much more stress. Sometimes chickens run to their shelters when scared, so try to shoo the injured bird into a safe area where you can close it in. Rather than chase it, which can hasten bleeding of wounds, let the chicken settle down first. Then catch it as calmly as possible.
Gently examine the entire chicken with gloved hands.
Feathers can hide some wounds that don’t bleed very much, including deep puncture wounds. Part the feathers, remove loose clumps of feathers and sponge off bloody areas so you know the depth and extent of the wounds. Use gloves when handling injured birds in case a disease is also present.
Determine the next step. If injuries are extensive and dirty, as from a predator attack, it’s probably kinder to euthanize the chicken rather than to try to cure it.
If you decide that you’re going to try and treat the bird, begin treatment quickly or proceed to a veterinarian. Do everything you can to minimize shock when transporting a bird to a vet or when treating at home.
After treatment, put the bird in a safe, darkened, isolated place.
A comfortable place will soothe a recovering bird and keep it from going into shock at home. Also, injured chickens are subject to abuse by their flock mates, so isolation prevents injury.
Unless the weather is hot, provide an overhead source of heat, such as a heat lamp.
Hang the heat source about 18 inches above the bird. Put your hand under it at the level of the bird’s back and leave it there a few minutes. Your hand should feel warm, but not uncomfortable or burning. Check frequently to make sure the chicken isn’t too warm, especially if the chicken cannot move easily on its own. If it’s more than 90 degrees Fahrenheit and humid and the chicken is panting, you don’t need additional heat. Try to move the chicken somewhere a little cooler.
Offer water at once, but do not feed for a few hours.
You can dip the beak of a chicken into shallow water but you shouldn’t do any more than that to get the bird to drink. Never force food down the bird.
If you are caring for sick birds, care for them after you have cared for the rest of the flock and wash your hands between locations. If your birds have been diagnosed with a highly contagious disease, you may want to change your clothes and shoes after caring for them.
Don’t use the same tools or containers to carry food and water between locations without disinfecting them. Don’t let children or anyone else handle a sick bird without gloves. If many birds appear ill, you may want to remove those that don’t seem ill to another location instead of moving the sick birds. Handle them with gloves also.