How to t feed a sick chicken and give subcutaneous fluid

jennismith2

In the Brooder
7 Years
Nov 9, 2012
11
25
34
Ok,

I am not a chicken medical expert, however I am a (human) ICU nurse with a sick chicken (not eating, runny stools, listless). After trying a few days of home care, I took my chicken to my local vet. He's a board certified avian veterinarian who owns eight chickens of his own (I'm lucky to have an expert in my town).

Anyway, he put my chicknen on antibiotics and gave subcutaneous (SC) fluids. He showed me how to do it. My chicken inproved for a bit, but then relapsed. We put her on flagyl and started tubefeeding her with a crop tube. My vet showed me how to do that as well (it's not hard). Hopefully my chicken will slowly get better. But I figured I'd share what I've learned from my vet in the hopes that it helps someone else.

How to administer tubefeeds:

1) Purchase a crop tube, 60 ml syringe, and tubefeed powder for birds. IT"S BEST TO ORDER THESE THINGS AHEAD OF TIME, BEFORE YOU HAVE A SICK CHICKEN. A crop tube is simple a thin, plastic tube that's about 10 inches long. The tubefeeds my vet gave me are designed especially for seriously sick birds/parrots. Your local vet or a veterinary supply store should have these items. In any case, you could always puree some soft food/baby food, dilute it and administer that if you had nothing else. Mark on your crop tube with a sharpie so you know how deep you should insert the crop tube into the chicken. My vet took the crop tube and held it up to the chicken to measure the length. He put the tip of the tube at about crop (just above the breastbone) level and put the mark at the point on the tube where it would exit the beak if it were inserted (this is the same way we measure tube length when giving tubefeeds to people).

2) My vet told me to mix 2-3 tsp of powdered feed with very warm water, enough to make a thin gruel (think thin pancake batter). Fill the big syringe with about 25 ml of the food mixture. Then use the syringe's plunger to push air out of the crop tube.

3) Now, either have someone hold your chicken or wrap a towel around her (not so tight she can't breathe, though) and tuck her under your left arm.

4) The trick is to stretch her neck out straight as you administer the tubefeed. If her neck is straight your tube will go right down her esophagus (food pipe) and not her trachea (wind pipe). With her tucked under your left arm, use the fingers of your left hand to gently but firmly stretch her neck (be careful not to press on the front of her throat). In your right hand hold the tip of the crop tube (let the syringe dangle). With the first two fingers of your right hand, gently open her beak and slide the tube down, keeping her neck stretched. She won't like it, but it should slide down easily and your shouldn't have to use force. Quickly advance the crop tube until the mark you made on the tube is at her beak.

5) Now, push the plunger on the syringe to administer the tubefeeds. If at any time she starts coughing or all of a sudden seriously struggling, STOP pull out, and try again (you might be in the windpipe). Once the tube is in, your chicken shouldn't be uncomfortable, and you should be able to administer the feeding without any difficulty.

6) VERY IMPORTANT: Before you pull the tube out, fold the crop tube over on itself. Crimping/pinching the tube before you withdraw prevents residual feed from tricking into the chicken's lungs.

7) My vet told me to give tubefeeds twice a day for as long as my little Rhode Island Red wasn't eating/drinking. He said that the water in the feeds should be enough to hydrate her, as well. Once she was eating a little I should cut back to once a day until she was eating normally and active again. He told me to feel her crop before feeding her it make sure that it wasn't distended and full (meaning the last feeding hadn't passed through into her GI tract). If her crop felt full/hard or she vomited DON"T give more tubefeeds. Get the bird to a vet for medical help.

So far, I've fed my bird four times with no problems at all. It's not hard to do at all. I really recommend that folks out there buy a crop tube and syringe now, before you need it, so you have it on hand. VERY useful.

Now, on the Subcutaneous (SC) fluids. I won't be as in depth here because most people who are likely to try this are probably healthcare people already (nurses and EMS folks are the ones likely to have random IV stuff hanging around the house). My vet told me (this was before we started doing tubefeeds) that if the chicken looked listless and wasn't eating I could give 60 ml of sterile saline into the loose skin under her wing using a syringe and a 22 FR butterfly needle.

Have someone restrain the chicken (or tuck her under your left arm. Have the saline-filled syringe attached to the needle and let it dangle. Seperate the feathers under the wing and look for a spot of loose skin. Insert the needle just enough that it pierces the skin (no deeper). Then depress the syringe to allow the saline to fill the space under the skin. The chicken will absorb the saline into her body. Of course, be careful with this. If you give too much you could over-dilute her blood and (potentially) kill her. So stick to once a day administration.

I hope that the information provided helps chicken lovers out there get their fluffy friends well again. And I hope that my little chicken perks up and recovers.
 

casportpony

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Thank you for your post! It's one of the best that I have ever seen here...

I also tube feed when needed and here is a note that might help some. To make sure that the tube is in the esophagus, not the trachea, I palpate the right hand side of the neck where the tube should be. If I can feel it, I continue. How much I give depends on the size of the bird and how sick it is. Some really sick birds will vomit after just 10cc's, but I have given 120cc's to some of the large ones.

My "crop" tubes are those red rubber catheters and I stock all the different sizes so I can tube a chick or a goose when/if I have to.



When I am going to give less than 60cc's, I use a 35cc catheter tip syringe like this one.


Edited to add:
From Technical Procedures for the Avian Patient, by
Amy B. Johnson, CVT

Crop Feeding
Crop feeding is the main way to provide nutritional support to sick birds. There are many different formulas on the market including; Harrison’s, Kaytee Exact, Zupreem and Pretty Bird. Kaytee Exact makes a formula exclusively for macaws, which require a higher fat content. Crop feeding should only be administered to well hydrated, normothermic birds that are able to stand on their own. Formula should be mixed to an appropriate thickness to provide adequate caloric intake and should be administered at a temperature between 100˚-102˚F. Crop burns can happen at temperatures greater than this and are often not seen for several days. Symptoms of a bird with a crop burn are decreased appetite and drooling. If the burn is severe enough, a fistula will open in the crop and formula will drain from it.

When crop feeding a bird, calculate the volume to be fed at 3ml per 100gms up to every six hours for adults. Juveniles are fed 10 percent of their body weight several times a day. Always check the crop first for food contents or decreased crop motility before feeding. Weighing the bird at the beginning of every day will help determine if it is receiving the appropriate amount of calories.

Crop feeder or crop needles come in several different sizes depending on the size bird. Crop feeders are stainless steel tubes with a ball at the end. They can be purchased through www.vetspecialtyproducts.com. The bird should be restrained properly while the crop feeder is inserted in the bird’s left side of its mouth and directed toward the right side advancing into the crop. The trachea should be palpated separate from the crop feeder with the ball of the crop feeder in the crop. Once placement is confirmed and with the esophagus occluded by the head, the formula is given quickly. While maintaining occlusion of the esophagus the crop feeder is removed and the bird returned to the cage feet first and slowly letting go of the head, making sure the bird does not regurgitate. In the event that the bird should begin regurgitation, leave the bird alone. Aspiration is more likely to happen if the bird is stressed causing increased respiration and inhalation of formula. Monitor the bird for further respiratory signs and adjust technique or volume at next attempt at crop feeding.
 

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maggiemo

Songster
7 Years
Sep 1, 2012
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Front Range Colorado
Great post.
I just took a chicken to the vet (my first time) and the first thing the vet did was show me how to tube feed a bird. Then he made me do it myself. He said I would have to do this at some point so he makes sure that anyone who comes in with a chicken knows how to 'tube' a bird.
The only thing he showed me to do differently was #3-he had me put the bird between my legs so I could hold her with my knees and thighs. That way you look down on the bird. When you open her mouth you are going straight down, not sideways if you are holding her in your arms it's more sideways. One thing he said that made me feel really good about tubing her was that it is practically impossible to put the tube in her trachea. It's really small. He said if you slowly slide it down it will find it's way to the esophagus, you really would have to work to get it in the trachea. When it goes down you can see the tube in the breast of the bird pushing at the bottom of her crop.
I think they should make this a sticky in the disease/injury cure forum.
Again, great post.
 

jennismith2

In the Brooder
7 Years
Nov 9, 2012
11
25
34
The crop tube my vet gave me was much stiffer than a standard red rubber catheter, but I can't see why it wouldn't work just fine (it certainly seems to work for your chickens!).

Another tip my vet gave me was to put a mirror in front of my hen to minimize "chicken depression" (since I have her isolated and indoors). It gives her the feeling that there's another chicken with her, and it may encourage her to eat.

The vet also gave my hen a "chicken brazillion"...snipping away the feathers around her vent so that runny stools can't collect on the feathers and cause unrine/feces burns on her skin. Better air flow and all.
 

casportpony

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BYC Staff
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Jun 24, 2012
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Great post.
I just took a chicken to the vet (my first time) and the first thing the vet did was show me how to tube feed a bird. Then he made me do it myself. He said I would have to do this at some point so he makes sure that anyone who comes in with a chicken knows how to 'tube' a bird.
The only thing he showed me to do differently was #3-he had me put the bird between my legs so I could hold her with my knees and thighs. That way you look down on the bird. When you open her mouth you are going straight down, not sideways if you are holding her in your arms it's more sideways. One thing he said that made me feel really good about tubing her was that it is practically impossible to put the tube in her trachea. It's really small. He said if you slowly slide it down it will find it's way to the esophagus, you really would have to work to get it in the trachea. When it goes down you can see the tube in the breast of the bird pushing at the bottom of her crop.
I think they should make this a sticky in the disease/injury cure forum.
Again, great post.
I do my larger, feistier ones with their legs pinched between my thighs, but the smaller ones on my lap. I am so glad to hear about more people learning how to tube feed. I also think it should be a sticky.
 

casportpony

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The crop tube my vet gave me was much stiffer than a standard red rubber catheter, but I can't see why it wouldn't work just fine (it certainly seems to work for your chickens!).

Another tip my vet gave me was to put a mirror in front of my hen to minimize "chicken depression" (since I have her isolated and indoors). It gives her the feeling that there's another chicken with her, and it may encourage her to eat.

The vet also gave my hen a "chicken brazillion"...snipping away the feathers around her vent so that runny stools can't collect on the feathers and cause unrine/feces burns on her skin. Better air flow and all.
What does your vet think is wrong with her?
 

jennismith2

In the Brooder
7 Years
Nov 9, 2012
11
25
34
Like I said, I'm currently using a veterinary formula for sick birds. I looked at the bag, and corn flower seemed to be one on the main ingredients, though it also included fats, protien, vitamins/mineral, and an enzyme to assist with digestion.

What do other folks out there use as formula to tubefeed a sick chicken (in case I run out or don't happen to have vet formula on hand in the future)?
 

casportpony

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BYC Staff
Project Manager
Premium Feather Member
9 Years
Jun 24, 2012
115,628
320,440
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The Golden State
Like I said, I'm currently using a veterinary formula for sick birds. I looked at the bag, and corn flower seemed to be one on the main ingredients, though it also included fats, protien, vitamins/mineral, and an enzyme to assist with digestion.

What do other folks out there use as formula to tubefeed a sick chicken (in case I run out or don't happen to have vet formula on hand in the future)?
I use Kaytee Baby Bird Food, you can get it at Petsmart or Petco. If my bird is really sick, I mix it with lactated ringers solution or Pedialyte instead of water.
 

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