Lesson 546 – Basic first aid for chickens

Tonight I’ll be giving my Chickens 102 workshop in Concord. It follows Chickens 101 where we talk about how to get chicks, take care of them, and then transition them to the outdoors.

Tonight’s talk will be about how to maintain a flock. We’ll be talking about:

  • Winter care
  • Warm weather care
  • Henhouse care
  • Flock behavior
  • Poop
  • Food
  • Eggs
  • Infections
  • Body problems
  • Bio-security
  • Harvesting using a cone

I was talking to a reporter last week about chickens (I’ll link to the article once it is published) and she asked me what I would do if a chicken got sick.

The short answer is that I would do what I could (the operative word here is, of course, I.) I have no illusions that chickens are anything but farm animals (even our all-time favorite hens like Simon, Morganne, and, especially, Charlie.)

Although I would certainly do everything in my power to help one of my birds (have you read Charlie’s story yet?) I’m not sure that I would take a very ill bird to a vet.

First of all, there aren’t that many vets that are familiar with chickens and so I doubt they would be helpful.

Second, like it or not, there is a cost factor to consider. If you are willing to pay anywhere from 30 – 80 dollars for a vet visit for a chicken, be my guest. That’s just not something I could justify.

Which is why I have taught myself a certain amount of chicken first aid.

In my chicken first aid kit, I keep things like:

  • A razor blade – I haven’t had to use it yet but it is there if I ever need to lance a boil on one of my Chicken’s feet. (clean the foot, lance the boil, apply ointment, and keep covered.)
  • Tubes of antibiotic ointments (not cream) – to put on raw skin that may be looking infected.
  • A bottle of Gatorade – to have on hand if I have a sick chicken who needs a little bit of a pick me up in her water

Medical procedures don’t freak me out – the dentist on the other hand….  I don’t have a problem lancing anything or even doing minor surgery. If you can’t do procedures like that, get to know someone who can.

I also survey the flock each day. If I see any sneezing or general flock illness (I haven’t to date) then I’d treat the entire flock with medication gotten from the local feed store. (throw the eggs out while you are doing this.)

I inspect the poop each day. If I see worms (I haven’t to date) or if it looks like something is not right, again I would deworm the entire flock. (again, no eggs during treatment.)

Lastly, I inspect the henhouse. If I see mites (I haven’t to date) I would treat the entire area.

Preventive treatment is the most effective treatment.

When I say that I wouldn’t take my chickens to a vet, please don’t confuse that with me not taking good care of them. I  love my chickens and will do what I can for them – within reason.

It is the responsibility of a chicken owner (or any animal owner) to see that those in their charge are well fed, watered, and cared for which includes basic medical care. To do any less would simply be inhumane.


To find basic medical care and procedures, you can ask questions over at backyardpoultry.com or you can contact your state’s Cooperative Extension (the UNH coop has been incredibly helpful with my chicken questions.)


This information was left in a comment but I wanted to make sure it was captured in this post. Here’s another good link for getting advice on sick or injured chickens:

“Chickens seem to be tough nuts when it comes to injuries but drop like flies when it comes to respiratory infections.  Prevention is the key with disease.

Another place you can go for medical advice is www.poultrymatters.com.   The medical mods and member vets are the same people.”



Filed under chicken care, Personal, Resources

4 responses to “Lesson 546 – Basic first aid for chickens

  1. Hey sis–I hear that when birds actually look sick they are pretty much done for. They try desperately not to appear ill–part of the survival instinct. Our cockatiel became sick with a fever. We were told to give her antibiotics and keep her in a 90 degree room–we used the upstairs bathroom. She recovered from the first round but we put her back too soon and she relapsed. She didn’t like the taste of the second batch of antibiotics and didn’t make it. We tried and almost beat the odds. However the odds of helping a sick bird are low.

    • Wendy Thomas


      I think you are right, birds are particularly difficult to diagnose and treat (tell me does it hurt here?…) in any event, my philosophy is not to ignore but to pay attention and treat within reason.


  2. Chickens seem to be tough nuts when it comes to injuries but drop like flies when it comes to respiratory infections. Prevention is the key with disease.

    Another place you can go for medical advice is http://www.poultrymatters.com. If one is quiet try the other. The medical mods and member vets are the same people.

    • Wendy Thomas

      Thanks for this comment, Poultry Matters is a great resource and I’m going to update the post to include this link.


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