Twain Lockhart, Nutrena Poultry Expert (DISCLAIMER: The author is not a doctor of veterinary medicine and makes no warranties or representations of any kind regarding the accuracy or suitability of this information. His suggestions are based on years of practical, hands-on poultry experience. When in doubt, consult your nearest veterinarian or a veteran poultry owner.) Given that a typical chicken can live eight to ten years, it’s likely to get sick or injured at some point. But finding a vet who’s familiar with avian ailments is often a challenge. When crisis strikes, be ready with a do-it-yourself poultry first aid kit. Why the shortage of poultry know-how? Backyard chickens fall somewhere between livestock and pets, with unique ailments. Vets do their best with limited avian training during veterinary medical school. Yet even if you find a vet who knows poultry, most folks choose to skip the expense and self-treat. This article provides suggestions using mostly natural items found in a typical kitchen cupboard, medicine cabinet and refrigerator. It does not address more serious problems that might, for example, require shots or surgeries. 10 Common Ailments The contents of your first-aid kit are determined by the ailments and injuries your flock might encounter. While anything could happen, using good chicken nutrition and coop management techniques can help you avoid many problems. Here’s a list of the most likely ailments: Parasites – internal (worms) Parasites – external (mites, lice, fleas) Coccidiosis (a parasitic disease) Pasty Butt (a blocked vent) Bumble Foot (foot infection) Egg Bound (stuck egg) Prolapse (bloody vent) Respiratory Issues Sour Crop (digestive issues) Injuries from Flockmates Poultry First-aid Kit Now that you know the ailments, it’s time to stock your kit. The contents can be simple or elaborate, depending on your experience and comfort level. Keep the contents clean, dry and readily accessible. Consider taping important contact information inside the kit. You’ll have better results if you’ve tamed your chickens and can handle them in a crisis. · Pumpkin seeds, garlic, yogurt Treats internal parasites (worms) Cut pumpkin seeds in half and put them directly in the coop or mix into yogurt (from your refrigerator). The amino acids in pumpkin seeds help paralyze the parasites and the yogurt flushes them out. Or, put raw chopped garlic into fresh oatmeal. Chickens may respond to the sulfur in raw garlic. Note: These are good preventative routines. However, if a heavy parasite load is present, you may need to treat with a poultry specific de-wormer. · Commercial poultry dust or spray Treats external parasites (mites, lice and fleas) This item is an exception to something you’d readily find in your cupboard. Permethrin is the active ingredient, and it works well when dusted or sprayed on the bird, in the nest box or in a common dust bathing area. Nutrena recently launched a new poultry feed called Feather Fixer with Mite-Fighter Technology. It helps repair feather loss during molt and helps prevent mites by making the area around the vent inhospitable to them. · Amprolium in feed or water Helps Prevent Coccidiosis “Cocci” is a very common chicken disease usually seen in young birds or chicks and is generally caused by wet, dirty coops. However, wild birds can also spread it. Left untreated, it can cause death. Many owners choose a medicated feed with amprolium to help prevent cocci. If your birds get infected, check with your local feed store for treatment options, as medicated feed is only a preventative measure, not a treatment. · Warm water, paper towels, hair dryer Treats pasty butt Without a mother hen to “keep house,” a new chick’s feces can clog its vent. Find a warm, draft-free spot. Soak the chick’s vent for 10 minutes in warm water, wipe away loose matter, and gently dry the area with a hair dryer. To prevent pasty butt, hydrate newly hatched chickens well about four to six hours prior to feeding. · Wire cage, salt water, burlap, small knife, tweezers, iodine, squirt bottle Treats bumble foot This is a localized infection on the foot pad, similar to a boil. Soak burlap in salt water, line an elevated wire cage, and have the bird stand on the wet burlap overnight. Firmly hold the bird (have a helper), lance the wound, and remove its core with tweezers. Squirt iodine into the wound, return the bird to a burlap-free cage so the wound can drain, and repeat iodine daily for one week before returning the bird to the coop. · Cotton swab, olive oil, hair dryer, warm water, wire cage, humidifier Relieves egg-bound bird Do not break egg inside of hen or attempt to pull it out! Separate the bird from the flock. Coat a cotton swab (Q-tip) with olive oil or petroleum jelly and lubricate the exterior vent. Put the hen by herself for about four hours and the egg will likely pass. If not, stand the hen in a warm (NOT hot) pan of water -- vent submerged -- for about 20 minutes, and then dry her with a hair dryer. If all else fails, put her in a wire cage with a humidifier nearby. · Hemorrhoidal cream or unpasteurized honey, warm water Repairs prolapse Also known as “blow out,” this occurs when a hen’s egg is too big and the strain to lay it draws out internal organs, which causes flockmates to peck and further bloody the area. Isolate hen; pick away straw and dirt; rinse area if needed; coat organs with hemorrhoidal cream or unpasteurized honey (its anti-microbial elements can mimic commercial creams), and gently put organs back in bird. To temporarily stop her from laying, give her less than 12 hours of light for the next two weeks. · Apple cider vinegar, fresh garlic, fresh oregano, Vet Rx Relieves respiratory issues One sneeze doesn’t mean a virus. And even so, a virus will likely not kill a chicken; however, a secondary infection may. If it’s not a dusty-coop issue, put a couple of drops of Vet Rx down the bird’s throat or nose. Apple cider vinegar (one tablespoon per gallon) in the water tray (as long as it’s not galvanized metal, as it will rust) will also thin mucus, as will fresh garlic chopped and given like a pill, or chopped fresh oregano. · Yogurt Relieves sour crop Sour crop is like a yeast infection. Long grasses or grains can plug up the digestive works, creating a spongy feeling crop and smelly breath. Induce vomiting by holding the chicken by its feet and massaging her crop. Or, feed her yogurt, which will help kill the yeast. · Nail clippers (dog type), corn starch Prevents injured flock mates Chickens roving the coop and run typically won’t need their spurs, beaks and toenails trimmed. But if they’re getting dangerously long – especially the spurs on a rooster – trim the points. Hold the bird up to light to see and avoid trimming blood vessels or into the quick of the nail. If you do happen to draw blood, corn starch will help stop the bleeding. When in doubt, never underestimate the knowledge of your local poultry community. As a general rule, go with what the majority suggest, but know your chickens and breed tendencies. You can also contact your local agriculture extension office, 4H club, or a university with a strong avian medicine department. Best wishes for a healthy flock! To find a Nutrena dealer near you, visit www.NutrenaPoultryFeed.com. You can subscribe to the Nutrena poultry blog at ScoopFromTheCoop. com. Also enter to win a new coop and other great prizes during the Nutrena Farm Team Challenge Sweepstakes March 1 – April 30, 2014, at www.FarmTeamChallenge.com.