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Are you ready for anything? Stocking your poultry first aid kit

Are you ready for anything? Stocking your poultry first aid kit

Keeping a well-stocked and flexible poultry first aid kit is a great way of being prepared for any eventuality and can be done easily and affordably with a little forethought. Caring for chickens with a good foundation of husbandry and knowledge generally means that everything runs more smoothly; however, illnesses and injuries will sometimes happen in even the best-run chicken flock. The supplies you stock may even help keep your family prepared for their own injuries as well!

 

Housing your supplies; a place for everything…
How many times have you gone to look for a medicine or pair of scissors and just not been able to find what you need when you need it?  I admit – this has happened to me so many times that I finally got tired of the frustration.  I started experimenting with a number of first aid kits and finally found the perfect solution.  Of course, what you use will depend on what works best for you but I hope you find this helps you organize your supply.
Tool kits are your friend.  Tool carriers can help organize your medicines, tapes, and supplies so that when you need something you know exactly where to find it.  Furthermore, tool kits keep your supplies dry and clean.
My favorite tool kit is a rolling, two-tier model that I found at my local Walmart for less than thirty dollars.  If you look around, you can find them inexpensively.   My kit has a smaller tool kit on top for items like tape and scissors.  The bottom section is deeper for paper towels and bottles.  The whole thing is plastic (light) and rolls (portable), yet sits neatly against a wall.
Look for a box that has a deep enough compartment for cans of wound spray and bottles of hydrogen peroxide, but with a smaller section that can hold little rolls of tape and your smaller bottles of drops.

 

Filling your kit doesn’t have to empty your wallet.
First aid kits can be expensive to fill if you try to do it all at once.  The key is – DON’T try to do it all at once!  Start with a few essentials such as screw-worm spray for summer wounds, your bottle of Sulmet or Albon, etc – the things you know you’re most likely to need.  Then once a month, pick up one or two items.  Most of the components of a well-stocked first aid kit have long or perpetual shelf-lives.
Don’t forget to check your local dollar store for savings.  Hydrogen peroxide, bottles of rubbing alcohol, q-tips, gauze bandage, and even bottled iodine are often cheaper at the dollar store.  While you’re there, pick up some Popsicle sticks, cheap dish cloths, and a roll of paper towels for your kit.   Check out their prices on triple-antibiotic ointments as well.

 

Organizing your kit makes finding supplies easier in a hurry.
Sometimes your first aid kit might have a section for bottles but the bottles eventually will crowd.  Assure that you can find anything you need by including a handy Sharpie marker in your kit.  If you have spray cans and bottles, write the name of their contents on the top so that you can find anything at a glance from above.  Using a metallic silver Sharpie ensures that no matter the color of the cap, you will see the label.

My list of eventual must-haves for a poultry first aid kit is extensive, not necessarily expensive.
You might be surprised how many items on a first aid kit are really rather affordable.  Some of them are non-conventional but I have found that swapping out some items for others helps lower the cost.  Thinking out of the box can help make a really fabulous kit easier.  Here is a list of my first aid kit items with an explanation for some of the stranger items.

 

THE BASICS

  • Rubbing alcohol.
  • Hydrogen peroxide.
  • Betadine iodine.
  • Non-stick cotton gauze pads.
  • Roll of cotton gauze, the cheap kind.
  • 1 20cc syringe without a needle.
  • 1 pair of cuticle scissors.
  • Turkey baster; this can be useful if you have a bird who has a broken egg inside, or in case of a prolapse.
  • 1 pair of “penny cutter” scissors – the type they tell us cut anything.
  • Duct tape – that’s right, duct tape.  Did you really think any kit would be complete without it?
  • Papertowels (used both as a bandage as well as for cleanup).
  • Baby wipes.  Use these to clean your hands while treating animals.
  • Anti-bacterial gel.  Use this between sick animals.
  • Tweezers.  This can be really helpful for removing small particles or dirt in wounds or, heaven help you, fly larvae.
  • A red heat lamp.  If you encounter fly larvae, putting the bird under a red lamp makes things less gruesome.  Really.  I promise.
  • A tiny magnifying glass.  This is super helpful for diagnostic purposes.  Nothing helps you find tiny mites or lice easier.
  • Popsicle sticks.  Not only useful for splits, you’ll use these as a place to squeeze out a daub of antibiotic ointment so that you don’t taint the whole tube.
  • Triple-antibiotic ointment (Neosporin, etc).  Keep on hand at least 2 tubes without any pain-killing ingredients, and 1 with pain-killing ingredients in case of prolapse.
  • Sterile eye wash.  The ingredients for this will be sterile water and boric acid; you can find this in the first aid section of any big store or pharmacy.  If you don’t see it, ask the pharmacist specifically for sterile water and boric acid eye rinse.
  • An all-purpose wound cleaner / treatment like Vetricyn.
  • Paint-stirring sticks and/or cheap wooden “shims” from the hardware store in the door/window section.  These make wonderful splints to help immobilize or even heal a broken leg in a pinch.
  • WD-40.  (See the note after ‘duct tape’.)
  • One honey-bear bottle.  This helps you mask the taste of some vitamins and oral treatments.
  • Vet-wrap or another brand of self-adhesive-only bandage.  This wonderful product allows you to cover some wounds but not block out the all-important oxygen that keeps bad bacteria from thriving.  This product also is bar-none for supportive purposes.  Just remember it shrinks slightly so never apply it terribly tightly.  If you can afford it, two different widths help.  Cheapest source: your local feed store rather than Walmart.  Pet stores such as Petsmart and Petco have the narrower widths.
  • VetRx.  I cannot say enough about this product.  It works and has done so for over 100 years without medicines, all natural.  If you can’t find it for poultry, any species will do – it’s all the same.  A very tiny bottle will last ages.   You literally only use a few drops but the few drops you use are amazing!
  • An eye dropper:  this can be used to put drops in – or take liquid out – of a bird.
  • Poultry and Garden dust.  Most of caring for poultry health is prevention.  This product is a must-have not only for prevention but for those times when you suddenly realize the sparrows have brought mites or lice into your coop.  This can even be painted onto wood to help prevent mites from nesting there.

Most of the above-listed items can be found at a dollar store and discount outlets.  Most all of the above-listed items can also double for human health care so that you aren’t spending money on just the chickens but also taking care of your family.  Think of this as being an investment in the health and care of your entire family.

 

THE ADVANCED KIT
Once your basic kit is built, start adding the following ingredients for a good basic medical kit:

  • Di-Methox or Sulmet .  Whether or not you prefer Albon or other coccidiosis treatments, Sulmet is a must-have for its broad-spectrum of usage.
  • Probiotics.  I prefer a small bottle of Probios dispersible powder kept in the fridge, all-purpose.  Don’t bother with the tiny bottle labeled for poultry as it’s all the same and you will get much more for you money using the larger all-species bottle which is exactly the same product.
  • Dry wound dressing.  This can be a powder in a squeeze bottle or a spray that comes out dry such as Alushield.  The purpose is to treat wet wounds to keep them from seeping and to seal the wound from bacteria while allowing air in.
  • Screw-worm wound spray.  Usually found in the cattle section, this product is a must-have for any summer wounds.  Not only does it kill any fly larvae (maggots) that are developing, it prevents flies from blowing wounds and laying eggs.  Any eggs that do hatch will immediately be killed.  Don’t be without it.
  • Epsom salts.  In case of a case of botulism, this can be a life-saver.  It is also a double-duty product for your family.
  • Molasses.  Yes, I know – this belongs in the kitchen.  That being said, it can also provide a wonderful gentle flush for any digestive upsets where toxins are suspected.
  • Baby’s ear-flush syringe.  Helps to flush wounds.
  • Poly-vi-sol baby vitamins (without added iron).  In a pinch, this not only provides the range or oil-based vitamins needed by birds in stress or illness, but also provides a healthy dose of vitamin B to help them feel better.  A bird that feels well heals well.  Vitamin B also is an appetite stimulator for chicks or adult birds who are off their feed and water.  You can find this in the vitamin section of most stores, oddly not the baby section.
  • Save-a-Chick (three-pack).  I keep this around for about the same use as Poly-vi-sol.  There are vitamins, especially vitamin B, but this one is particularly useful for baby chicks.
  • Nutri-Drench.  Serves the same purpose as Poly-Vi-Sol and Save-A-Chick.
  • Pedialyte for babies.  If you have any birds that are stressed or dehydrated, adding this to their water helps rehydrate them and replace necessary electrolytes in a hurry.  Once the package is opened, however, you must use within 2 days – you cannot save this.  However, having a bottle around can save one or several lives for any animal.
  • Clotisol.  This is a little trickier ingredient to find.  This is basically a blood clotter.  Unlike other blood clotting agents, this one is avian-safe.  It is so avian safe that it can even be used on a tongue injury (as I found out from my exotic avian vet).  This ingredient is a little pricey – it might be 2-months-worth of first-aid kit budget.  A small bottle lasts ages.  If it dries up in the bottle, adding a little water rejuvenates it.  This stuff clots blood INSTANTLY – no waiting around watching baby chicks bleed out from a ripped toe, for example.  No messing with cornstarch and pressure.  One drop and you’re done.  You’ll only find it at online veterinary suppliers or Amazon.

 

Now that you’ve built an amazing kit, you might be interested in picking up items for an advanced kit.  If you’re like me, here are some items I’ve found are amazing and useful.
THE PRO KIT

  • Granulex.  This is a pricey item, but nothing compares to it and the niche it fills.  This product not only dresses a wound, it cleans out necrotic dying tissues and re-dresses the wound.  This is amazing stuff.  If you have not only poultry but also other livestock like goats this is a wonder-product!
  • Suture material and needles.  These come together in one package – a needle with suture thread.  I hope you never have to use them.  Usually you will not as most poultry wounds should remain as open as possible so that they can keep aired-out and draining.  If you do need it, you’ll be glad you have one or two of these in your kit.
  • Veterinary elastic adhesive tape.  Usually flesh-colored with a little line down the middle, this tape is amazingly sticky and stretchy.  This is the tape of choice for veterinarians and will not let you down, even in more humid conditions.
  • Ivermectin pour-on, generic.  A small 250mL bottle of ivermectin is fabulous for worming poultry as well as treating a number of external parasites over a 3-day period.  A few drops will do you in most cases.  Note – this is the blue liquid for cattle and is only the pour-on, not the injectable or another form.
  • Penicillin G Procaine injectable antibiotics, refrigerated.  For wounds and lower respiratory illness, this is the go-to medicine.  Don’t let your feedstore clerk tell you terramycin or any other upper-respiratory medicine will do for injuries.  This lasts for a long time, is multi-species, and can help even in cases of dog or cat bite wounds.
  • 3-cc syringes with 20 gauge needles.  Keeping a few of these on hand is helpful if you ever have to use the penicillin or any other injectable antibiotic.  When you’re doing injecting, keep the syringes without the needles to help give meds, flush wounds, put drops in eyes, etc.  Boil them, let them dry, and then store in a ziplock bag.
  • Small t-shirts, baby sized to toddler sized.  These can be used to cover the main body of a chicken with a body injury that cannot be otherwise taped.  This helps to keep the wound airy but keep flies out.
  • Sheet rags.  Useful if you have to wipe anything up, cover anything, or be creative with bandaging.

By picking up an item here or there, you will be surprised how very quickly you can have your very own pro-quality poultry and family first aid kit for less!  When the inevitable time comes that you will be searching for just the right item, having everything organized and pre-planned will give you a sense of control and peace of mind that just cannot be beat!

 

Nathalie (Ross) Norris is a writer, animal lover, and native Texan. Her love of keeping chickens started at a young age. Many years later, she find that her favorite part of keeping chickens is helping others to enjoy it as well.

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