Anyone perform minor surgery on a hen?

Lil Mucket

12 Years
Jun 23, 2010
A week ago one of my hens was picked up and carried around a bit by our dog. The dog wasn't intending to hurt her, but she's an American Bulldog and doesn't quite know her strength (and is now no longer allowed in the backyard).

Anyway, so the damage that was done to the hen was at the nape of her neck to her shoulderblades the skin was torn away. Initially when I dressed the wound I thought that the dog had bit it off, but a few days later I realized it had been balled up a bit to the side where I didn't notice it. I've been bandaging it, and treating it with diluted iodine and bacitracin ointment, and she's got a nice big box in the back bedroom to herself.

So anyway, she's been healing up fairly decently for all of her skin having been torn away. My sister came over today, she's a Vet Tech and she was looking at her and said she was pretty sure that the skin that had been torn away was becoming necrotic. I imagine I need to just cut it off completely. I wish I had seen it when she was first injured, she was in a daze and I wouldn't have felt as bad about cutting it away then... but she's back to being her energetic self (even laid me an egg 3 days after the event).

So, if I need to do this, I wish there was some way I could just put her out for this minor surgery. Or numb her up a bit. Or should I just DO it? I've butchered chickens before so I know I could probably do it but I'd feel BAD because it would make her continue to be in pain. Or should I just see if I can find a vet? I'd hate to pay a vet bill for a $20 chicken... but I am pretty sure if I can get this fixed she'll be fine.
How much skin is it? If it was just a little, I would clip it off. Or you could try a wet to dry dressing. You put gauze soaked with saline on the bottom layer, then dry gauze on top. As the water wicks up to the dry gauze, it pulls away dirt, dead cells, ooze, puss and other gunk out of the wound. As the water travels, the bottom layer dries up, and sticks to the dead tissue. When you take the dressing off (8 or 12 hours later), it pulls off the dead tissue (so it hurts, but it's a good thing because it's taking out all of the bad stuff so it stays clean and healthy).
If it's a lot, I would cut it off, it might actually feel better to have it gone after the moment of pain. Or, as long as you can avoid an infection, you could leave it and it should dry up and fall off at some point.
Ooops, I was so busy writing about dressings and stuff I forgot to say, I hope your hen pulls through!!!!
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We performed minor (major?) surgery on one of our hens, she had a crop impaction. We did not use anesthesia - some people would consider this cruel, but I will tell you, we put a sock on her head, and she conked out immediately. This was out of desperation, I did not want to pay a vet $150 for something that wasn't even for sure. She only moved once during the 30 minute procedure, it was pretty amazing. She was very tired after and we let her rest. Within a week she was back out with the others. I feel like using an anesthetic would slow recovery and could even cause death, but that is just my (self educated) opinion from just one chicken.
I would just keep the area as clean as you can with betadine, we used a razor blade that had been dipped in alcohol and flamed and you can even use sutures if you can get some from your sister - if needed. We used small sutures for the skin and super glue for the crop. I'm off to bed now, but can answer more questions for you tomorrow if you'd like. Good luck!
Less is more. These guys have amazing abilities to heal and less is more in general. If the skin is becoming necrotic then it should go. The body will normally contract the dead stuff in to a ball or ridge and slough the dead part off. If it is kept bandaged and moist, the dead stuff will basically rot (become necrotic) and bacteria grow best when its nice and moist, too. Trim off anything thats not viable. I would use sharp scissors, myself--less likely to poke them if they move. If its really dead then the nerves will be dead too, so don't worry too much about causing more pain.

It needs to heal from the inside out.

I would strongly advise against suturing anything at this point. If any wound is old and not fresh, then it needs to closed by what's called second intention. If you try to close an older wound you will trap bacteria and tissue under the skin and cause all sorts of prolems unless you do real surgery and cut away ALL exposed tissue until it bleeds and that would hurt.

You have done a good job by keeping her separated and nursing her and keeping the naughty dog away from now on. Good Luck!
I'm sorry folks I shoulda posted these yesterday!

Not very good pics but it will do. I took these the night of the incident. I really wish I had cut away all the feathers in the area that night because I think I should now, and she was so out of it that it would have been a lot easier than now when she's alert and trying to wiggle out of my arms when I mess with her. I would have seen the skin ball at that point too and could have dealt with it sooner.

I'll try and take some better pics of what it looks like now and get them posted too. In the background of the first pic you can see an egg on the floor - it was a shell-less egg that just fell right out of her as she laid there in my arms.


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Yeah it's probably too much to do that, it's probably the size of a walnut. I think for sure I will need to cut it off.
I wish my sister could get me the stuff! But she's an unemployed vet tech lol

Thank you for posting about the sock trick - I knew that if you flip them upside down they kind of conk out but I can't really do that since it's on her back. I do have razor blades so maybe we'll just do that. I just feel so bad about cutting it off without any anesthetic, but if I can use a sock to make her go "out" then I'd be happy with that.
I've taken the bandage off permanently so I think that would keep it from being too moist but I think it's probably too late. I don't think I have any suitable scissors though, the only sharp ones I have are for cutting hair and I can't use them for this.

Interesting about the sutures. Makes sense though... I don't think I'd want to mess with that, and I don't want to undo the healing that's already happened.
No, I don't think this is the time for sutures. But you never know what will pop up and it always seems to happen on a Saturday night when everything is closed until Monday.

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