Wound Care
The Easy Chicken
for beginners
This page was last updated on: January 15, 2010
This site was constructed by me, Scott Shilala, with help from the poultry hobbyist community, and support from my wonderful wife, Kelly Jo.
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As poultry owners, we're very familiar with the proverbial "pecking order" and the fights that result from it. Too often those chicken wars, or others, will cause injuries in the flock - flesh wounds - and we're left to take care of our injured birds. Here are some hints that I hope will help you in the moments where you have a flock in need of nursing.

Since many poultry wounds are caused by a peck, a spur, a claw, or something else dirty, germs often get deep into the wounds during the injury time. We try to get them all out during the cleansing of the wound, but sometimes we're just not as good at it as we'd like. The result is a weepy wound. But it's necessary for the healing of the wound that we do our best to prevent that situation.

Iodine is great for initially cleansing most wounds because of its strong antibacterial benefits, but in the case of deeper wounds one has to be careful. A good habit is to cleanse the wound with hydrogen peroxide (which bubbles out bits that we can't see), then follow that with what I call "Iodine Tea". Iodine Tea, a solution used frequently at vet clinics to irrigate (wash out) wounds is just enough iodine mixed into warm water until it's a tea color. You then use that in a syringe without the needle to strongly squirt into the wound several times. That ensures that the iodine is getting deep into the wound to kill bacteria.

After cleansing the wound thoroughly, it's best to dry it out so that the dressing you use next will adhere to the wound better.

I recommend keeping a wound open and dry (especially in the summer time) so that the air can get down into it. Most of your bad wound bacteria are anaerobic (in other words, they hate air - love the lack of air) and they thrive in closed conditions.

There's an old addage "dry wound-wet dressing, wet wound-dry dressing" that applies. Especially with chickens in the winter, one normally has to be wary of using wet ointments because the birds can chill easily. Small spots of it are certainly acceptable, however. Because of the nasty nature of chickens, most wounds are wet (weepy) so we do dry dressings like Furox spray (yellow powder, otherwise known as furoxazone) or blue lotions like Anti-Pick lotion, or other livestock lotions which dry to a blue film.

Some people are concerned with the openness of a wound and consider stitching as an option. The problem with SOME stitching, however, is that it creates a pocket and closes the wound up from air. Because of that, it is always best to let a veterinarian or someone experienced do that work. Often a vet will leave a drain tube in a deep wound so that the resulting pus has an outlet. In any case, stitched wounds require a very careful watch.

Often when skin dies, the resulting dead (necrotic) skin has to be abrided (cleaned off) because there's really no need for it and it begins to break down. It is also common for there to be infection inside the wound that isn't obvious from the outside. If that happens, you have a serious situation which can result in blood infection and death of the bird. So, you can see, that if you are dealing with an injury of that magnitute it would be best to get a vet or experienced stockman involved.

When a wound is open, you have the chance to be able to examine it more easily and less chance of anaerobic infection. Actually, you would be surprised just how large a wound can heal with feathers and all!

On a personal note, I once saved a hen from the jaws of a chow. She had a wound so deep on her back that you could see the entirety of one side of her spinal cord wrapping (I'll never forget the silver sheen). She was a lucky girl, but it was a large wound.

When using wet ointments, flies found the wound and left their eggs deep deep in the ointment. When they hatched, I had a nasty surprise and an even nastier task. When the wound was recleaned, I took the old standard vet advice and used a dry would dressing instead, aerosol furox so that it would get deep into the wound, and from that point onwards the wound healed fantastically.

This wound was a good 2 inches long, 1.5 inches wide, and at least an inch deep. The hen feathered up completely and led a very happy chow-free life til her last days here at the house. Chickens heal from wounds remarkably!

You can do the same with your injured chickens. It doesn't take a surgeon or a master-poultryman to take good care of a wound. It just takes a little understanding of how wounds work, a close watchful eye, and a willingness to take the bird to a vet if you intend to keep it and if the wound is more than you can handle easily.

Hopefully with these tools, now, you'll be able to face a poultry wound with more confidence and more success. I wish you all the best with your flock.

Nathalie Ross
Houston, TX