PoultryVet, LLC

242 NE 52nd St
Newport, OR 97365



First Aid for Poultry and Domestic Waterfowl

Predator attack is the number one cause of death and injury in domestic poultry and waterfowl. Other causes of injury including other birds/cohorts, nails, broken glass, metal, etc, are also not uncommon. It is important to know what to do to treat these injuries, and which injuries should be considered for advanced care by a veterinarian or rehabilitation specialist. 

The first thing to do is to NOT panic. 

If she is not breathing, start CPR. Hold one hand over her face/head like a tube and blow into the "hole" of your hand, making sure her nostrils are not blocked. If you have access to narrow diameter soft tubing, you might be able to gently slip this into her windpipe and give breaths this way. A 3 to 4 mm diameter tube will work for most poultry/waterfowl birds. Chest compressions (top to bottom rather than side to side) can be done to help move air through the air sac system.  If you are comfortable with Air Sac Cannulation, you can also use this method. 

If she is actively bleeding, apply direct pressure over the area until the bleeding stops. If you have clean bandage gauze, this works well but, in an emergency, just use your fingers. If you can find the artery that is bleeding, you may be able to clamp it off with a small pair of hemostats if you have them available. Otherwise, just continue the direct pressure. It may take more than 10 minutes. 

Bring the bird to a safe location, away from other animals. They may be in shock and will be very scared of other animals that may be a continued threat, including you. If you have a towel handy, wrap it around her go help prevent flapping or struggling as this may make the injury worse. Bring her to a calm, quiet, warm location and place her in a box or pen where she can calm down.

Assess visually for obvious injuries and abnormal behavior. Once she is calm, gently look through the feathers for injuries like punctures, cuts, or gashes that may be hidden. Look for air leaks coming from any wounds. Air leaks could look like lifting of the skin with a feel like bubble-wrap, or you might see actual bubbling, like air leaking from a tire. Check the limbs for evidence of fracture or dislocation like swelling, bruising, odd angles, or crepitus (crackling like feel with pressure). 

Once the bird seems stable, you can start cleaning wounds and tending to possible fractures. 

Clean wounds using a sterile saline solution. If you don't have a commercial product, you can make saline solution yourself. Use 1 teaspoon plain salt in 2 cups water. Boil the water for 20 minutes, mix in the salt to dissolve, allow to cool before using. If you put your solution into a syringe, you can use added pressure to help get the debris out. If you don't have a syringe, you can try a sandwich bag with a small corner cut off, sort of like a frosting bag. Water-picks work really well if you have one. Hydrogen peroxide can be used but you need to dilute it with an equal amount of water (or your saline solution) as the peroxide will cause cell damage. Only use it during your initial wound cleaning to get the debris out, then use your regular saline solution.

Trim the feathers away from the wound so they are not contacting it, being careful not to cut any blood feathers. The next best thing to do is contact your veterinarian to see if you can get your bird in for further medical attention or advice based on the severity and location of the wound. If this is not an option, you can usually safely apply Betadine solution, Blu-Kote, or Vetericyn/Banixx to help eliminate bacteria that may be present in the wound. Place bandage gauze over the wound that is moistened with sterile saline solution, then apply a dry layer of gauze over that. To keep the gauze in place, options include Vet Wrap, hen jackets, ace bandages, or bandage tape for example. Don't get the wrap too tight as we don't want to make it hard for the bird to breath. Change the bandage at least once daily. 

For bite wounds, an antibiotic is nearly always warranted. Predator teeth have a lot of bacteria on them making the risk of infection very high. 

Ducks are prone to beak fractures stemming from bite wounds. They will need the same type of cleaning as any other wound. Stabilization can sometimes be accomplished with epoxy if the fracture is not too severe. 

For fractures of the limbs, you need to support the affected limb as gently as possible to avoid further damage. Wings can usually be placed up against the body and secured with Vet Wrap, wide velcro straps, masking tape, or bandage tape (usually not touching skin, just feathers). Don't worry about doing the popular Figure 8 bandage, the goal is to immobilize it initially as depending on the fracture site, it could do more damage. 

For leg fractures, a splint may need to placed to help with stabilization and comfort depending on the location. If the fracture is on the lower limb, a splint can usually be used. If the fracture is on the femur, a splint may not be feasible depending on the conformation of the bird.  If the fracture is open (you can see the bone or you can tell the bone is exposed), repair may be possible, but infection is also going to be present, and the chance of recovery is poor. 

For wounds associated with fractures, clean and treat the wound first. Apply an antimicrobial cream, place non-stick bandage, cast padding, white or brown roll gauze (not too tight), splint (tongue depressor, etc, and Vet Wrap (not too tight).