Suture material and gauge questions


Flock Mistress
10 Years
Apr 15, 2009
Hi Everyone-

I am working on my chicken medical kit and I am purchasing some suturing materials for emergencies. I am running into problems deciding on exactly what type of sutures I should get. I would get catgut, but experience has taught me that catgut has a limited shelf life, and frequently is unusable (weak and brittle) by the time it's needed. What material do folks keep on hand for stitching wounds? I am also curious about what gauge material I should purchase. I want stitching material with enough tensile strength, but not have the gauge be so big as to cause problems.

Any input would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
I don't have any suture material on hand for personal use, but I can give you input on what we use at work. For birds we use a synthetic absorbable suture material (PDS) in a small gauge, usually 4-0 or 5-0 (most of our birds are also smaller than large fowl chickens, although some are comparable in size to bantams). We also use absorbable sutures (maxon) in a larger gage, 2-0 or 0, for mammals. The difference in material is based on doctor preference rather than one being better than the other. For chickens I probably wouldn't go any larger than 3-0. 4-0 or 5-0 is very small, probably too small for what you would be doing at home (as it is, the doctors break out the magnifying glasses for the 5-0). If your birds will let you handle them, then you could use a non-absorbable suture, you just have to remember to take the sutures out after 7-10 days. Our non-absorbable is synthetic, nylon-based, and bright pink.
Thanks for looking, Dawg53. I have never had to suture anything...yet. The one time I was going to my catgut was old and useless, so I opted not to. A few of my hens have reached the sought after status of "pets", though, so I want to make sure these ladies have a fighting chance should something go horribly awry. My vet has offered to sell me some suturing supplies and/or get me a prescription to purchase on-line if I tell them what I need. This is the last supply I need to make my medical kit complete. Now, if anything happens to one of the pets I am as prepared as I can be.

AinaWGSD- Thanks so much. That's just the info I was looking for. I was thinking of getting 3-0 or 4-0, but didn't know which to use. I was sort of leaning towards the 3-0 (for its tensile strength), but didn't know if it was going to be too thick to use on a chicken. Thanks for pointing out that the 5-0 is hard to use. My eyes are pretty good, but not as good as they used to be and certainly not getting any better. As far as the suture material itself- do your docs use braided or non-braided? I was worried about the knots coming free and I read that braided sutures tend to hold knots better, although braided material is overall harder to work with. Any input on that would be greatly appreciated.
I would definitely go with the 3-0 unless you have very small chickens, it will work for most superficial purposes. About the only time you'd want anything smaller is if you were suturing viscera (which I certainly hope you never ever have to even try to do!). All of the suture material at work is monofilament, so unbraided, even the few odds and ends that we almost never use. I rarely see them coming undone, and when they do it's usually just one or maybe two. I think the key is in putting at least 3-4 throws in each knot.
Thanks so much! I don't intend to be suturing any viscera. Birds with injuries of that magnitude are culled because of the probability of infection and the cruelty of isolating a flock animal for the time needed to recuperate. The only injuries I will be suturing are likely to be just superficial.

Again- Thanks. I will heed your advice.
Just wondering if you'd be willing to share what you have put together for your 'Chicken Medical Kit'? I've run into a number of problems and want to get sutures... which is how I came upon this thread. I'd love to know what you think would be good for the kit.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom