BackYard Chickens › Member Pages › ~Common Chicken Practices ~ How to do so, why, and preventions

~Common Chicken Practices ~ How to do so, why, and preventions


No matter how long you've been in chicken keeping, you're bound to run into a chicken who needs to be dubbed or trimming of some sort.  The reasons can vary a lot, but lets look at the preventative reasons first. Here will be the instructions to trim nails, beaks, spurs and dub your chickens comb, earlobes and wattles.



Preventing beak and nail trimming is quite simple. Let your chickens have access to something rough such as some cement, or wood, or brick. Then when a chicken scratches on one of those surfaces, the nail or beak will be worn. Ever had your chicken do the cute act of rubbing their beak on you? They'll also do this to the hard surface which will prevent the beak from overgrowing. When it comes to spurs it really depends on the breed and age. An Old English game rooster would grow much larger spurs then a cochin rooster, in the same way a 5 year old rooster will have larger spurs then a 8 month old rooster. There's really no"Sure fire ways" to keep a rooster's spurs from growing or naturally keep them down, but there are a few ways to keep them temporarily down. When it comes down to combs there aren't really any ways to keep them from growing other then getting a pea combed bird for cold climates.



Lets start with nail clipping. Maybe your chicken has overgrown nails, or you're showing them and may want them a bit shorter. Regardless of the reasons, here's the steps.

Grasp your chicken's legs firmly.


And flip him upside down


The best way is to snug them between your legs.


Once they are still, grasp the foot firmly so you have control of the finger


I used human nail clippers here, but dog clippers work as well. As you can see the nail isn't revealing the kwik. (See below, its a dog toe nail but the concept is the same)


In a couple of days I would go back and re-cut the hen's nail since its too long that way but if I cut any more it'd result in bleeding.

If you see blood, STOP!


Do you see the blood? Yes, stop there!



A person will come across a chicken with an overgrown beak every now and then,so keep this in mind, you may need it. wink.png

Trimming a beak is the same as a toenail, but takes more will power.

Simply look at the beak. Is it too long for the chicken to eat with? Can it be worn down naturally without intervention? Take these things into account.

Also you should know what a chicken with a good length beak should look like, in case you don't know. For example, this chickens beak perfect.

However this chicken's overgrown beak could cause eating issues


What you would do for an overgrown beak is take a pair of human nail clippers, and cut little bits at a time.

If you ever see blood, stop. If the beak isn't badly overgrown, or you'd rather, use a file and file down the beak. The concept is the same, and is better for the weak hearted ones.




Spurs can be a pain. Most roosters have spurs of this size or slightly bigger

Overgrown spurs can injure your hens, cause walking problems, and even injure you.

 A common way to trim them is wrap your rooster in a towel firmly, tuck him (or her! hens can have spurs however they don't grow as long but they can) in between your legs so you don't have to focus on holding him.

Hold it so his head is faced down so that less blood in his feet.

Take dog nail clippers (since typical human nail clippers won't fit over them), and began to clip.

You want to clip at about 5/8 of an inch from the base of the spur.

If you can't manage to cut the spurs with the clippers get a small, finely toothed hacksaw. It can vary if you need this depending on the thickness of the spurs.

Another home remedy is sticking a hot potato on the spur.

Cook the potato then stick it onto the spur.

Grab pliers, or a rough cloth, and twist. The old growth will come off revealing the newest growth. It's another temporary method however it works well.




If you've NEVER dubbed a roosters comb (wattles are easier), then I suggest getting a vet or someone who has dubbed a chicken before to help you. If your chickens comb is ESPECIALLY fat, then I suggest getting a vet to do it for you, period.

Dubbing is pretty easy. It's where you cut the wattles,comb,or earlobes off a chicken. The reason typically is due to a person living in a cold climate and not wanting to let their chicken get frost bite, but a few breeds of chickens require dubbing of their comb and wattles to show.

So here's the steps to do so.

Grab your surgical scissors (SURGICAL, make sure they are surgical scissors, they crush the blood vessels instead of a clean cut. It'll keep the bleeding low)


And grab some flour or 'Quick stop bleeding powder

Wrap your chicken firmly in an old towel.


Set the chicken between your legs, hold the chicken firmly with your legs.

Grab your scissors and line them up with the natural line on the chickens comb.


Do you see the black line? That demonstrates where you should cut, however your scissors, of course, this can vary depending on how thick or large the comb is, but this is the average spot to cut.


Set some flour / quick stop bleeding powder to prevent bleeding.

When you cut the wattles, do not pull them down. If you do, only pull them slightly.


See how I am holding it? I have a firm grip, and can cut, but not holding it down.

If you pull them down too hard, then cut, you will cut open the chickens neck. Don't worry, it'll be fine, it looks worse then it is, simply keep it clean and wrap it up.

For earlobes pinch them and then cut them.

The next day the cut area will be scabbed over and should be healed in roughly a week. It has been said that a rooster who has been dubbed seems healthier and more robust.


Well, there you go. Hope this a interesting, and factual article you will someday have the need to use smile.png

Comments (36)

Cochin, you are a very gifted writer, and this is an excellent article!
You can also use a pair of pliers on spurs. Grab the spur and gently twist, the old growth will come off and the new spur is underneath.
Mamawolf - Yes but if you don't soften it, you might accedidently rip out the spur, which would be extremely painful. But I'll add the potato method (if its not there already)
That is a very interesting point, but we have never had to soften a spur to use this method. We have always used a hack saw or the pliers. And we have never pulled out a spur doing so.
Did you dub that rooster?
I'd love to see a pic after you dubbed the crown or waddles. Have you got any? Doesn't that hurt the bird? I've seen torn crowns bleed like crazy! Good article and very informative.
Great job on this article.
Congratulations! Your article is now featured on the homepage carousel! Thanks for submitting it to our BYC Article Writing Contest.
:D OMG! I would have NEVER imagined my article being featured!!
Phyrst : Sadly, I do not. I may be able to add some, but not for a bit. My mother won't dub the chickens combs, and my friend refuses to help me. These are techniques I've found from friends and others (:
No I have not dubbed the rooster, no one will help me
AWESOME ARTICLE!!! Congratulations on getting it featured.
Why would one want to cut the comb off?
Thanks Chicken Fan!
Betsy :
Chickens can get frostbite, and if you dub the comb it won't get frostbitten in colder conditions ^^ Also for OEGB's, you need to dub their comb to show
OEGB's? For chicken shows, one has to cut their comb off? My goodness. I would think that would surely bleed like crazy and hurt. What covers their head then? It will scab over and then heal? I've never seen a picture of a chicken without one I guess.
I have not heard of cutting a Roos comb off to show. That really does not sound right.
Rules and regulations don't always sound right, but if certain breeds of chicken are not dubbed before a competition, they will be disqualified.
I'm glad to find an article about nail trimming but the dubbing is just to much for me... I would have to imagine it would be similar to someone cutting your earlobe off... :{
Dubbing sounds awful to me. Surely not painless for the chicken. To me there would never be a good enough reason.
Thanks for the article!
I have made it a regular routine to clip nails and trim beaks and spurs, I use a dog nail clipper for all of this - with the beak, at first it was scary but now I just hold the bird under my arm gently, wait until he/she is calm and trim it, making sure the bird is not trying to "lick their lips" or stick out the tongue for whatever other reason. It works just fine.
With the spurs too, I just trim down the really dead and sharp part with the dog nail clipper, leaving there rest there and making the tip really blunt. We've had a rooster that kept mating the same hen and made a hole in her side with one of his sharp spurs, it was awful (she did live, we used the magic Blue Spray on her).

I had never heard of dubbing, but I can imagine once situation where it may be necesary - we have some mixed breed roosters with a comb covering one eye because it's not designed to stand straight up, and I wish I could do something about it. Also we had an old rooster with a very large, straight comb which had started to tilt due to his age and was getting infected at the base on the side where it was leaning over (not enough air I assume for ventilation). Wish I had made it smaller too.

I'll have to ask my veterinarian about dubbing at home, I always thought the combs looked SO meaty and full of blood that it would be very painful and a loss of blood might occur. I sure don't want to harm them in any way.
I don't see how you can use clippers for spurs. My rooster's spurs are like bone; no clipper is going to take care of that. I use a dremel and file them down that way. Makes quick work of it. They're not in a "position" to cut my hens but his nails are so the info on how to get the quick shorter is very helpful. Thank you. I'll try that.
I used garden clippers to trim my silkie roo's spurs as they curl up and pierce his leg if I leave them. The spurs were too tough for dog nail clippers and the garden ones did the job fine.Don't like the dubbing idea, I know they used to do this in fighting birds.
BackYard Chickens › Member Pages › ~Common Chicken Practices ~ How to do so, why, and preventions