Thursday, January 9, 2014

Backyard chickens: beaks, toenails and spurs

Just like cats and dogs, chickens sometimes need a trim. This blog gives a good step-by-step visual for clipping show chickens.

Photo by Katherine Plumer
You usually don’t have to trim a chicken's beak, but every so often their upper mandible (beak) will become overgrown (to the point they cannot eat). The first time or so you might want to have someone help hold her. Just think of it like your are doing your own nails. 

Just trim back with a regular nail clipper until you get close to the “quick”. Don’t panic if you get a drop of blood! This is not what you want to do but it will stop and she will survive. Then clip each side to shape it so it looks like a beak again.

You clip toenails about the same. Usually if they are outside scratching in the dirt it won’t be a problem but if you have the birds inside with lots of bedding they might need a trim.

There are two reasons to “pull” a rooster's spurs:
1. If they're getting long and curling up. He may be jumping or flying around the coop and hook his spur on some chicken wire or board. He will not live very long hanging upside down.
2. If he turns mean. Pulling his spurs will change his attitude 90% of the time.
Simply hold his leg securely and grip the spur crossways with a pair of pliers. Rock back and forth until you feel a snap. The outside cover will then come off and there may be a drop of blood. The spur will grow back short & blunt.

None of these methods hurt the chickens. Think of it like brushing snarled hair.

As always, post questions in the comment section.