Sometimes in chicken-keeping, things happen that no one expects. It could be a sudden disease, a squabble between birds causing injuries, or even a predator attack that leaves your birds wounded and weak. For your birds, having certain supplies on hand could make the difference between a recovery and a loss.
The compiled list below is as extensive as I could make it, having used them all at one time or another. I do suggest that anyone keeping chickens, whether as livestock or as pets, keep at least the supplies for emergencies on hand where they can find them.You will also notice an absence of prescription medicines and antibiotics these you will need to consult a vet to obtain. The Backyard Chicken forum has a ton of information pertaining to dosages and uses for those that have access to these medications.
Protecting Yourself and Your Patient
Vinyl or Latex Gloves
Gloves can protect your bird from anything on your hands, and prevent you from getting anything on your hands that you might carry out to healthy birds. For the queasy, having a protective layer on may help as you work in an emergency, and it makes cleaning up afterwards a little easier.
Protective Eye Wear and Mask
If you are performing a procedure (such as a bumblefoot surgery), having protective gear for your face can be valuable to prevent anything from getting on your face. It will also prevent you from breathing anything into your bird’s wounds.
When performing any sort of surgery, it is important to clean the area on the bird first. Rubbing alcohol is an effective way to clean and disinfect the skin, but should not be used near the bird’s eyes. Rubbing alcohol can also be used to disinfect minor cuts and scrapes, but should not be used for deep wounds.
Pain Relief Aspirin is used to alleviate pain. Avoid using aspirin if the bird is bleeding, as aspirin causes the blood to thin and can make bleeding worse. The ideal dose of Aspirin is 25 grains or 1625 mg per gallon of water.
This chart from Chicken Health for Dummies explains how to prepare and administer an Aspirin solution. Note that Aspirin is difficult to mix into water and sometimes won't mix completely into a solution, and so it should be changed at least daily. Enteric coated aspirin is not preferred for mixing into water.
Hydrogen peroxide is useful for cleaning wounds initially. Dilute it in a solution of equal parts hydrogen peroxide and water before applying. Rinse the wound out after the solution has done its work. It is recommended that you only use it for the initial cleaning of a wound, as it will continue to kill healthy flesh.
Chlorhexidine solution is a wound cleaner that does not kill healthy flesh as Hydrogen Peroxide allegedly does. This can be used in the initial cleaning of a wound instead of hydrogen peroxide or used in any following cleanings after the use of hydrogen peroxide.
Triple Antibiotic Ointment (Neosporin)
Triple antibiotic ointment is used to prevent infection and promote healing in wounds. There are many posts on BYC that state that you should not use the ointment that has pain relief. However, other posts say that as long as the pain reliever in the ointment is NOT a “caine” type (like benzocaine or lidocaine), it is okay for use in chickens. I purchased the kind without pain reliever for my first aid kit, just to be safe. Triple antibiotic ointment should be applied to a wound after it has been cleaned.
Vetericyn HydroGel Spray
Vetericyn comes highly recommended as a wound covering. Use to cover clean wounds instead of ointment, spraying wounds at least twice a day. Safe for all animal species, and safe for ingestion.
Non-Stick Pads, Gauze, Waterproof Tape, Self-Adhering First Aid Wrap AKA Vet Wrap (my favorite, sticks to itself not the chicken)
These products are all to cover and protect wounds, especially if the bird will be going back outside after treatment. Large non-stick pads are very convenient in case of large wounds, and can be cut to size for smaller injuries. Gauze holds the pad in place and waterproof tape prevents water from getting in. The self-adhering first aid wrap can be used to cover the bandage if the bird or other birds are picking at them.
Dog Crate, Carrier, Large Box, or Small Coop for a Hospital Pen
Once a bird is cleaned up and seems to have stabilized, they could go back out to the flock, but if a bird is weak, in shock, or sick for another reason, they may have to stay in a hospital pen. If you prefer not to have a chicken in your house, a small coop works for the job(like a bunny hutch); just keep it very clean and make sure that the bird has plenty of ventilation, no drafts (sometimes a heat lamp is needed) WARNING: Teflon-Coated Light Bulbs are Toxic to Chickens , and predator protection. If you think it necessary, a small dog crate or carrier can be used inside for a bird to stay in and heal. Be aware that any bird that is away from the flock for a long period of time may be forgotten by her flock and have to be carefully integrated back in.
Lubricating Jelly (K-Y Jelly) and Hemorrhoid Cream (Preparation H)
These two supplies are in case of a prolapse. The area should be cleaned with mild soapy water before beginning. Hemorrhoid cream eases swelling and hopefully makes the bird more comfortable. Lubricating jelly allows the prolapsed tissue to be gently pushed back in.
Vitamins & Electrolytes (Sav-A-Chick)
Vitamins and electrolytes give birds a boost in extreme heat and can help them if they’re in shock from a predator attack. Sav-A-Chick is at many feed stores and comes in pre-dosed packets—one packet per gallon of water. There are also pouches of Durvet Vitamins & Electrolytes sold at feed stores for use in any livestock. The dosage I use of Durvet Vitamins & Electrolytes for my chickens is 1/2 teaspoon per gallon of water.
Handy to Have Around
Blu-Kote is an antiseptic wound spray that is blue or purple in color to disguise wounds from the other birds. There has been recent mention that Blu-Kote can actually slow healing, similarly to Hydrogen Peroxide, and so I only recommend keeping it to apply to bare skin from feather picking, not to actual wounds. BE CAREFUL when applying Blu-Kote—it permanently stains clothing and takes a lot of scrubbing to get off of skin!! It appears using Purell hand sanitizer makes Blu-Kote come off skin easier.
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
ACV is a worm preventative, reduces slime buildup in waterers, and has many healthy benefits to birds. It is typically recommended that you buy the unfiltered kind with the ‘mother’ still in it. Store-bought, filtered ACV will have no ill effects on your birds, but may not have as many benefits as the unfiltered kind. Dosage is usually between 1 and 3 tablespoons per gallon of water.
NEVER, EVER, EVER use ACV in galvanized waterers! The acidity causes corrosion of the metal, which can lead to zinc poisoning in your birds.
Various Syringes and Feeding Tubes
Syringes can be used for administering medicines or forcing a bird to drink. They are also handy if you need to tube-feed a bird that is refusing to eat. I keep syringes from 3 mL up to 60 mL, and with oral, Luer slip, and catheter tips for dosing medicines and wormers, and feeding or getting water into birds. Consider keeping needles (and, if you prefer, Luer lock syringes) for administering medicine via injection as well.
Cotton Swabs (Q-Tips)
Cotton swabs allow you to apply ointments and clean wounds with relative ease. It’s a good idea to keep some with your first aid kit to be safe.
Pet Nail Trimmers and Nail File
These are good for clipping overgrown beaks and nails, and filing them down to prevent them from snagging on things or breaking. While they may not be needed often in a free-ranging flock, they are good to have at hand in case you really do need them. I recommend the scissor-like trimmers over the guillotine-like kind for better control and visibility of what you’re working with.
Flashlight or head lamp (my favorite)
A small flashlight will help you find and clearly see the wound that you’re treating. A bright desk lamp can be used in exchange during treatments that require the use of both hands.
Scissors and Tweezers
Scissors are all-around useful to keep where you can find them easily. Use them to cut gauze or tape, remove old bandages, clip poopy feathers out of a hen’s vent, or even clip wings to prevent flighty hens from flying over fences. Wash after use! Tweezers are the tool of choice when dealing with fly strike.
A scale allows you to keep a close eye on a bird’s weight to make sure it is at an appropriate level. If you’re force-feeding or tube-feeding a bird, this can let you know if you’re giving the bird enough to eat or not.
Old Towels,Shirts and Pee Pads
These items can be used in multiple ways and are really handy to keep with your first aid kit! Use them to wrap birds to hold them still for treatment. Fashion a sling for a bird that is having trouble walking, or make saddles for birds whose feathers are getting worn out. Use them for quick floor covering for hospital pens; clean by wiping or rinsing off any droppings and throwing them in the washing machine.
Flour or Blood-Stop Powder
Flour and blood-stop powder, as you may have guessed, help to stop bleeding in minor wounds. Use if you have accidentally cut a bird's toenail too short or if they have minor bleeding such as with broken nails, blood feathers, and small cuts or scratches on their combs. Sprinkle the wound with a little flour or powder and apply pressure until the bleeding stops. These are not to be used on deep wounds, so I am putting them in the 'Handy to Have Around' section.
Zipper Baggies or Small Jars and a Permanent Marker
Zipper baggies of assorted sizes and small jars like baby food jars can allow you to store medicines and powders in a resealable container. Use the marker to clearly label what is in each bag or jar, and don't forget to add the date it was opened!
I have spent many many hours researching chicken ailments, symptoms, cures and medicines because I swore I would never pay to take a chicken to a vet. However, I have broken down on more than one occasion when I knew my best efforts would not be enough. Let me say that every dollar I spent was well worth it and necessary. That being said I have dealt with a number of issues successfully on my own. The advice of well seasoned poultry keepers on the Backyard Chicken" forum has been extremely helpful not just for information but emotional support as well. Many of us get very attached to their flock and it helps to have a forum of like minded individuals to reach out to.
My advice to everyone is to be prepared. Make sure you are familiar with chicken ailments and have a plan. Find a local avian vet, familiarize yourself with the forums available on-line and have the necessary supplies on hand.
Be diligent in choosing the advice you want to practice, not everyone knows what they are talking about. Keep in mind there are backyard chicken owners that consider their chickens pets and their are backyard chicken keepers that consider their chickens livestock. The opinions of both can vary considerably.
Keep in mind the following information if posting about an emergency or disease you need help with.
1) What type of bird , age and weight (does the chicken seem or feel lighter or thinner than the others.)
2) What is the behavior, exactly.
3) How long has the bird been exhibiting symptoms?
4) Are other birds exhibiting the same symptoms?
5) Is there any bleeding, injury, broken bones or other sign of trauma.
6) What happened, if anything that you know of, that may have caused the situation.
7) What has the bird been eating and drinking, if at all.
8) How does the poop look? Normal? Bloody? Runny? etc.
9) What has been the treatment you have administered so far?
10 ) What is your intent as far as treatment? For example, do you want to treat completely yourself, or do you need help in stabilizing the bird til you can get to a vet?
11) If you have a picture of the wound or condition, please post it. It may help.
12) Describe the housing/bedding in use
Links, Videos and Information for Chicken Enthusiasts