When we went out to do the evening feeding recently, we noticed that a Muscovy duck seemed to be limping as she came up the hill to the feeding area. Limping can indicate a relatively benign injury like a minor sprain or something more serious, like a bumble, so we caught the unhappy girl and took a closer look. What we found was unexpected, and a bit of a shock: her head and bill were bloody. We caught her and put her into a cage in the “infirmary” in the garage for treatment and observation. While you hope that none of your animals ever suffers an injury, in a setting where they free range with the threat of predators, it’s likely that an injury will occur at some point.
The duck was very unhappy, and she expressed it by flailing her unclipped wings and paddling her sharp-nailed feet – danger! Fortunately, we’re experienced in handling them, so she was safely relocated to a cage in the infirmary, where we could clean and treat her injuries…which turned out to look an awful lot like something had grabbed her head in its teeth, as she had two puncture wounds on each side of her head. While she was bloodied and undoubtedly sore, she would live to forage another day. Unfortunately, a laying hen was not so lucky later in the afternoon, when we found a large pile of feathers: the fox’s modus operandi, based on past losses here.
The injured Muscovy’s wounds were gently cleaned with warm water and then sprayed with Vetericyn Plus Wound & Skin Care, a non-antibiotic spray that we’ve found to be a very effective first line of defense against infection (and it promotes wound healing). This is one of the core pieces of our farm first aid kit, and it has helped serious wounds heal completely.
Other useful items we’ve included in our kit are:
- Vetrap: a brand of elastic bandaging with many applications – useful for wrapping injuries like bumblefoot, treating splay leg in hatchlings, and angel wing in young waterfowl
- Triple antibiotic ointment without pain reliever
- Various sizes of gauze pads
- Tools: forceps, EMT shears, tweezers, scalpels, dental pick set (including sickle probe, for teasing off the black scab present with many bumblefoot infections)
- Clear iodine: very effective for treating bumblefoot
- Epsom salts: used in bumblefoot treatment, as well as to help flush out toxins and to treating egg binding (via bath)
- Cotton-tipped swabs
- Vetericyn Plus Ophthalmic Gel: for eye irritations and minor injuries
- Terramycin Ophthalmic Ointment: for serious eye issues including infection
- CORID: amprolium, used for treating coccidiosis (this is not an antibiotic – it’s a thiamine antagonist)
- Poultry Nutri-Drench: a fast-acting nutrient solution that is helpful for weak hatchlings and injured birds as a quick energy source
If you don’t already have one, a large animal crate or kennel is very helpful to have on hand in case an ill or injured animal needs to be separated from the flock for its own safety. We find that you simply can’t have too many crates, so we have them in various sizes – and they’ve all been put to use at some point. People often sell them on Craigslist or similar forums, so you may potentially be able to pick one up at a significant savings over new…just be sure to clean and sanitize it well if it’s used.
When treating an injured animal, we typically deploy “step therapy”, starting with the less-powerful (but still effective) treatments, and moving to antibiotics only as a last resort, or if the injury is serious. Be sure that you administer the medications that are appropriate to the type of animal you’re treating, too. In addition, keeping your animals healthy will help ensure that if they are injured, they have the best chance of making a full recovery.
Finally, knowing your resources will help you be prepared if the unthinkable happens; one resource I’ve consulted repeatedly (and contributed to) is BackYard Chickens. This is an online community of fowl people who ask and answer questions (including about illnesses and injuries), as well as provide valuable educational material (see Learning Center) If you have fowl, BYC will be useful to you…check it out.
Our unhappy duck was able to rejoin her friends a couple of days after being brought into the infirmary, to our relief! Muscovies have many ways of displaying their displeasure, including projectile pooping with frightening accuracy.
Do you have a farm animal first aid kit? We’d love to hear from you in the comments!