Spur Trimming - Advice, Thoughts, Experiences?

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by HollyWoozle, Sep 14, 2018.

  1. HollyWoozle

    HollyWoozle Chirping

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    We have a lovely Cuckoo Maran cockerel, Olaf, who lives with 11 hens. We have had him for maybe 2 years or so, he came from the neighbour where he lived with just a few hens. He has always seemed good-natured and not mean with the hens, although he is quite a big boy and does like to keep busy.

    About 6 months ago one of the hens, Emily, sustained a wound presumably caused by Olaf's spurs. She was separated to heal and is now an auntie to my rescue hens in a separate run. Recently Olaf has taken a liking to a particular hen still in with him and she was looking a bit ruffled up but no injuries... until today. Today she has a huge wound to her side, is limping on that side and also bleeding from her other side as well. We are absolutely mortified of course and are 99.9% sure this is courtesy of Olaf.

    Hen has been separated and wound treated and she is oddly spritely but what to do with Olaf? My family have had chickens for 40+ years and have never had to trim spurs, but aside from culling Olaf that would be our only option to protect the other hens. My mum has bought some special trimmers and some powder to stem the bleeding should we go too far, but we don't really want to hurt him.

    If anybody has any advice it would be greatly appreciated.
     
  2. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

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    It would be informative if you could post a photo of Olaf's spurs. It sounds as if they're more than an inch in length.

    Most roosters can handle having their spurs twisted off. It's a quick, easy procedure that usually causes little to no bleeding. A little corn starch, sugar or flour usually stems any bleeding quickly.

    However. Yep, there's always a "however". While having twisted many rooster spurs off, even having one boy doze off in my lap as I removed his spurs, one of my present roos can't even endure having a toe nail clipped without bleeding profusely when the quick was barely nicked. Two years in a row, I twisted his spurs off, and the bleeding was not only profuse, it lasted a better part of a week. As his spurs hardened, they would start bleeding again at the drop of a hat.

    As there is some indication that twisting the spurs off does cause some pain in some roos and considerable pain in others, I now simply grind the spurs down as close to the quick as I can get. I even have a hen that needs her spurs trimmed occasionally, and I now grind hers down, too, using a Dremmel tool.
     
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  3. Brahma Chicken5000

    Brahma Chicken5000 Araucana Addict

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  4. HollyWoozle

    HollyWoozle Chirping

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    Thanks a lot for your helpful reply. I have attached a few photos, best I could get on my phone just now - his spurs are at least 1.5" long. Actually you can even see blood on one of them. :(

    I feel awful for the hen... we always figured the injury to Emily was a bit of a freak thing as he has never caused problems with the other hens, nor when he lived next door with just a few (one of which was very small). I guess we should've paid more attention.
     

    Attached Files:

  5. Ridgerunner

    Ridgerunner Free Ranging

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    Thanks for the photos, they help. It's possible trimming those spurs and claws will help. Don't forget the claws are pretty sharp and that is what he is standing on. I use a Dremel tool and one of those discs you use to cut through metal. As Azygous sort of points out different chickens are different. Some have a quick that grows pretty close to the tip of the spur or claws, others not so much. I find that if I only take off about 1/4 of the tip they usually don't bleed. If they do it's not much. Blunting the sharp tip of the claws and spurs may help. I wrap them in a large towel, that helps keep them calm.

    How much feather loss did those two hens show? Were there pretty bare spots where they got cut or was it through thick feathers? Typically this kind of problem happens when you have what we call barebacked hens. That's where the areas the rooster stands on loose all their feathers and bare skin is exposed. It's normal for a feather to occasionally be lost during mating but not normal for bare spots to develop, at least with mature hens and roosters. With pullets and cockerels gong through adolescence it is a lot more common.

    That feather loss can be caused by bad technique of the male, especially if the female resists. That's why it is so much more common with adolescents. Usually by the time they mature they settle down. But occasionally a mature male has has technique problems. Trimming spurs and claws might help with that.

    I've had hens that had brittle feathers. That's generally caused by nutrition, their bodies just don't process certain nutrients that make the feathers soft and flexible so they break easier even if they eat the right nutrients. Even a rooster with pretty good technique can cause them to lose a lot of feathers. When I started my flock after I moved I had one rooster and eight hens after they all got out of adolescence. Two of those hens became barebacked, I thought from brittle feathers. So I ate those two and had six hens left. Nome of them became barebacked and none of their offspring did either. To me it does not sound like this is your problem.

    How big are the hens, especially the ones with these problems? During the mating act the hen squats. That puts her breast on the ground so the rooster's weight gets to the ground through her body, not just her legs. That way a fairly small hen can support a much heavier rooster. Full sized roosters often mate bantam hens without issues. But the more difference in weight the more likely there are to be issues.

    I don't know what is going on with yours. I think his technique coupled with his size is not the best. Probably some other factors are coming in to play. Trimming the spurs and claws might help, I'd probably try that. But if it happens again, I'd get rid of him.

    Good luck!
     
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  6. azygous

    azygous Free Ranging

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    Those spurs are definitely weapons. Not only would they likely injure any hen during mating, but they have the potential of injuring the roo himself. I had a Brahma roo break his leg because I had allowed his spurs to get too long. He caught them on the perch as he was dismounting. There's also a chance Olaf could injure a human, ripping a huge gash in the leg as I've seen with a male friend who had to flee to the ER to get stitched up.

    At the very least, blunting the sharp tips with a grinding tool is definitely called for.
     
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  7. HollyWoozle

    HollyWoozle Chirping

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    This is really helpful from you both, thank you.

    The hen injured today is a Sussex Line and the one he previously wounded is a Magpie hen I think. All the hens are a fairly similar, average sort of size (the others we have are various breeds but all about the same). The hen injured today does have the bare patches you mention Ridgerunner and a few of our other hens also have them to a lesser degree, but I didn't realise it was down to Olaf's technique and that is handy to know as well.

    We will set about trimming/filing his spurs and claws right away.
     
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  8. HollyWoozle

    HollyWoozle Chirping

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    Yesterday we trimmed and filed Olaf's spurs and claws. Very little could be trimmed off his claws as the blood vessel grows close to the tip on him - I went a little too far on one and unfortunately it did bleed but I was able to use a styptic pencil we bought to stop the bleeding.

    I fear I was too tame with trimming his spurs and should've taken more off, but I was worried to go too far. The sharp points are gone (clipped off and filed smooth). He was totally unphased and waltzed off as if nothing had happened. I think perhaps I'll have another go soon and take a little more off the spurs... I guess I could just go little by little and will know when to stop?
     
  9. Chickassan

    Chickassan Crossing the Road

    Wow, he's got some major spurs. If you don't feel comfy trimming or removing may I suggest muffs for him? They are like little spur covers, iv'e used them on a few I didn't like trimming due to excessive thickness, or bleeding or bad pain tolerance.:)
     
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  10. HollyWoozle

    HollyWoozle Chirping

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    Thank you. I did consider that actually! I have now trimmed the tip off his spurs and filed them smooth... it wasn't nearly as stressful as I thought, but I was nervous about cutting too much off and hurting him/making him bleed so fear perhaps I have been too cautious. :barnie The sharp ends are gone at least.
     
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