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Surgery Isn't a Do-It-Yourself Project

Updated: Jul 8

Featuring Dr. Jessica Fox

We are going to tackle a topic today that I haven’t had firsthand experience in but I feel it’s very important to address. I know what you’re thinking...how can I write about something I’m not experienced in? Well, I bring in professionals who are experienced so we can all learn at the same time!


How many of you have had to deal with a chicken wound, illness, or something else where you wished an avian veterinarian lived nearby? My friend, Dr. Jessica Fox, has been an incredible resource for me. I’d love to talk about chicken surgery today, and I’ve invited her along to give her valuable input. She has a great article on this very topic published in the 2020 Winter Edition of Chicken Whisperer magazine which is really what inspired this blog! Dr. Fox is the Director of Veterinary Services & Biosecurity at Ralco in Marshall, MN.

Dr. Jessica Fox Director of Veterinary Services & Biosecurity at Ralco

In her article, Dr. Fox addresses areas such as stress management, pain management, reduced inflammation and infection prevention during and after a surgical procedure. Avian veterinarians are able to help in all of these areas and more. We all know that chickens are easily flustered and stressed. This is the very reason that Flock Fixer™ was created! It helps chickens through times of stress by making sure they have all the nutrients they need. However, if you have a large wound (predator attack, pecking order or something internal) it’s very important to get a veterinarian’s thoughts on treatment.


I don’t know about you, but my chickens (all 40 of them) are my pets! We want our pets to trust us, right? Well, if you have an injured chicken and decide to take matters into your own hands, chickens can associate you with that pain they feel when they’re being treated, resulting in a lack of trust. Also, I’m not educated in all the nerves, muscles and systems of a chicken and I could possibly do further damage to them. Having a trained veterinarian treat my girls is where I’d be most comfortable. We raise Labrador Retrievers as well. I wouldn’t take a scalpel to one of our dogs and in the same way I wouldn’t do that to one of chickens.


Veterinarians use a plethora of treatments to help our feathered pets. In surgery, veterinarians administer fluids to prevent dehydration, provide ventilation and oxygen support, as well as keeping the patient in the proper temperature throughout the procedure. When the surgery is over, veterinarians can prescribe antibiotics and pain medications tailored to the specific size of chicken to prevent infection and also help with inflammation and pain. This all alleviates the stress levels on both the chicken and you!


One of my favorite quotes from her article was, “Veterinarians and their staff are trained to decrease the stress of medical procedures. They may administer sedatives and anesthetic agents that calm patients and prevent awareness and recollection of the traumatic events of a surgical procedure.”


I have seen some of the posts on chicken keepers’ pages of predator attacks and different types of infections. The trauma those events cause can haunt a chicken for a long time. Then, if they have to have some sort of medical intervention it just adds to the stress. The best solution is to take them to the vet and invoke the least amount of stress possible.


As we all know, stress can cause other illnesses as well as reduce egg production. There is also the side of causing even more damage if you’re not properly set up with the equipment and knowledge to carry out a surgery. For example, you decide to take matters into your own hands and cause excessive bleeding, what do you do?


Veterinarians are set up and prepared for all of these scenarios so the chance of your chicken surviving is much higher.


How Do I Know If My Chicken Needs Surgery?

Because I’ve never had a chicken that needs surgery, I asked Dr. Fox about the different possibilities of a chicken needing that extra help. Her response was very insightful.


“Poultry and waterfowl can get diseases of the sinuses caused by trauma or cancer that require surgical intervention. As well as oral cancers/masses. They can experience food entrapment/impactions that require surgical intervention. They can also get foreign bodies in their gastrointestinal tract (just like dogs/cats/kids). These can require surgical intervention. They can have a cloacal prolapse caused by prolonged egg laying. Commonly there are reproductive tract diseases, especially in females, that may require surgical intervention. Others include injuries/lesions that need wound debridement, surgery and suturing.”


As you can see, there are a number of reasons that backyard chickens may need some extra care! With all that said, I don’t want you to be stressed out about this. I have been raising backyard chickens for 15 years and haven’t needed surgical intervention. However, it is wise to know of an avian veterinarian so if the situation ever arises, you have a plan.


According to Dr. Fox, “All veterinarians receive some avian training in school.” But, not all veterinarians treat birds. The PoultryDVM website, however, has a directory of poultry veterinarians. You can find this directory at (poultrydvm.com/poultry-vets.php).


I hope chicken surgery isn’t something you have to deal with in your flock. However, if the situation arises, I’d much rather be prepared than have to watch my little feathered friend suffer. I’m sure you agree!


Until next time,


--The Wing Lady



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