Chickens are resilient creatures and can recover remarkably well from significant injuries or illness. There are steps you should take to properly care for an injured chicken. Isolation, quiet, warmth, and easy access to nutritious food and water, are the most basic and important things to provide for an injured or otherwise sick bird.
Things You'll Need
- Medium-sized dog crate
- Soft towels
- Water bottle
- Food dish
- Caloric supplements
- Heating pad or red lamp
- Hard-boiled eggs
- Cooked brown rice
- Romaine, melon, oranges, grapes
- Hydrogen peroxide
- Antibiotic cream
- Non-stick bandages
- Tape or vet wrap
Catch the chicken. Never chase the injured bird; try to gently move it toward its shelter where you can more easily close in on it and catch it with the least amount of stress.
Examine the entire chicken. Use gloves and carefully move feathers away from skin all over the bird. Feathers can hide some injuries.
Care for wounds. If the injury is a wound, wipe it clean with gauze drenched in hydrogen peroxide. If the wound is on the head, avoid getting peroxide solution into the bird’s eyes. After cleaning, coat the wound with antiseptic salve or cream. Wounds on legs or feet may require bandaging. Use non-stick bandages and use tape or vet wrap to loosely cover the wound. Deep lacerations to the muscle or bone should be seen by a vet.
Isolate the injured chicken. A medium-sized dog crate is an ideal hospital kennel for most chickens. Place clean, soft towels in the crate for bedding. Confinement will calm the bird, minimize stress to the injury, keep other birds from further injuring it, and allow you to accurately monitor its food and water intake and evaluate its droppings. Change bedding and clean droppings with a tissue at least twice a day.
Place a hook-on water bottle on the kennel and place a food dish inside that won’t spill or soil the crate.
Heat the crate. Place a heating pad under the kennel or place a red light over top to keep the injured bird warm. Temperature should be maintained between 80 and 85 degrees Fahrenheit.
Place the kennel indoors and preferably where you can monitor the bird regularly and provide it company. Chickens kept alone can quickly become depressed. The dog crate can easily be carried with you from room to room.
Test the chicken for hydration. An injured bird may not have adequate fluid intake. A 4-lb. bird needs to drink at least half a cup of water a day. Slightly pinch loose skin or waddle. If the skin doesn’t spring back immediately, it may indicate dehydration.
Offer electrolytes instead of plain water. If the bird is dehydrated, supplement its water with an electrolyte solution. Ready-mix solutions are available, but you can also add electrolyte-rich drinks like Gatorade or PediaLyte mixed half and half with water. Electrolytes can be added to the drinking water or dripped in droplets on top of the beak. Take care not to drip it into nostrils; fluid in the airway could be fatal.
Add NutriCal-type caloric supplement paste to regular bird feed. Stir caloric supplements into the food, mix with water or squeeze it out of a syringe in front of the bird to provide concentrated nutrition. Supplements squeezed out of a syringe can resemble worms and are sometimes irresistible to birds.
Offer foods high in water content such as romaine lettuce, melons, grapes, oranges and cucumbers. High-protein foods also are helpful, such as hard-boiled eggs and cooked brown rice.
Monitor the bird’s crop — the food sack on the upper right side of the chest — by palpating it regularly. Within two to three hours after eating, the food should have moved from the crop into the digestive tract. If the crop is still full, you should be able to move the contents around with gentle pressure. If crop contents feel hard like a tennis ball, it’s a sign of dehydration. Give the chicken fluids and massage the crop. If the situation hasn’t resolved in 24 hours, see a vet.