Must-Have Items for a Backyard Chicken First Aid Kit

chicken first aid kit

I did an interview for Carhartt’s women’s clothing last year, centered mainly on why I wanted backyard chickens in Ferndale as well as the struggle around getting the ordinance changed.  However, as we talked about keeping & raising chickens, I kept coming back to one topic that most people don’t think through often enough:  what do you need to have on hand if your chickens get sick or injured?

I’m a negative, paranoid person who tends to think in terms of worst-case scenarios, and it’s served me well.  In the few years that we’ve had chickens, I’ve run into several times when my negative outlook and adamant stance on keeping a first aid kit around has come in handy. Such misadventures include:

  • When Bossy got a persistent yeast infection
  • Little Girl’s mysteriously cut & bloody comb and wattles
  • Little Girl’s slight case of being egg bound
  • Bossy ripping her entire toenail off
  • Multiple cases of extreme feather picking, to the point of hens being bloodied
  • Multiple cases of broken/cracked beaks
  • Chicks from TSC having a respiratory infection
  • Hens overheating from 100+ degree humid days in summer

There was also the time Partridge got killed by a hawk- obviously there was nothing I could do by the time I found her, but the looming danger has ensured that I’ll always have bandages and a treatment plan in my head in the event that a hawk injures them without killing them.

Every time someone asks me what they should know before getting chickens, I tell them to put together a first aid kit.  Here are my basic recommendations:

  • Wazine: a wormer, for emergency purposes.  Some people recommend worming twice per year, but chickens often develop a natural resistance to these pests- use this only if necessary after a fecal test.
  • Tetracycline Hydrochloride: an general antibiotic for use primarily when you notice respiratory issues or ‘headcold-like’ symptoms
  • Sav-a-chick Electrolytes:  crucial for when weather gets very hot, or when dealing with an ill bird
  • Flexible/vet wrap: get the kind that sticks to itself, for use in holding bandages in place if a bird gets injured
  • Gauze pads: for injuries
  • Wound wash: be sure to get one without pain relievers, as those are toxic to birds
  • Activated charcoal: for symptoms of poisoning
  • Providone Iodine ointment: a substitute for things like neosporin, for injuries–great antibacterial ointment
  • Blu-Kote: germicidal fungicidal wound dressing.  Crucial for a chicken kit- when chickens see red or blood associated with an injury, they will peck at it, and can turn cannibalistic if they’re not stopped.  BluKote turns the wound area dark blue-purple, which immediately stops the other hens from picking at an injury.
  • Rubbing alcohol: sterlizing
  • Hydrogen peroxide: wound cleaning/debriding
  • Styptic powder with no pain relievers: for staunching blood flow, but be sure it does not have pain relievers in there, as most that are used with dogs do
  • NuStock: ointment used for burns and skin disorders, also can help prevent feather picking- just be aware that it stinks!
  • Medical scissors: for cutting dressings and feathers around a wound site
  • Epsom salts: for soaking when the hen is egg bound or needs a site cleaned
  • Superglue: for repairing a broken beak (it does happen)
  • Tweezers: for pulling splinters
  • Nutrient drench: for sick hens to revitalize and regain energy
  • Probiotics: for use after antibiotics
  • Gloves:  for when things get messy
  • Book: The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, contains tons of information on disease, illness, and malnutrition including symptoms and treatment
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