While visiting with my flock today, I decided to take some photos of some of the less-photographed chickens and for no particular reason, chose BB. BB is an Olive Egger pullet (her father was a Black Copper Marans, her mother is an Ameraucana). She flies under the radar most of the time, but fortunately, something drew my attention to her today. As I stalked her to snap her photo, I noticed that her beak appeared crossed, but upon closer inspection, it was broken. I knew exactly what to do and had the supplies handy in my chicken first aid kit.
I brought her into the house and wrapped her in a towel to secure her wings and keep her calm. I tried to use VetWrap around her beak to prevent her from opening and closing it while I worked alone, but it was impossible to secure it properly using only one hand as I held her on my lap.
superglue gel (gel is less apt to run, I wouldn't want to glue her tongue to her beak!)
forceps or tweezers
One tea bag (cut in a patch slightly larger than the area of the break)
I loosely wrapped a blindfold (okay, fine, it was my daughter's Turbie Twist) around her head, being careful to leave her nostrils (nares) exposed; this kept her from seeing what I was doing and panicking.
I held the patch of tea bag with the forceps and placed just enough glue gel on it to wet it. I aligned the broken piece into its proper position and placed the patch over the break. I held her until the first layer of glue dried, then applied a second, very thin layer of glue and allowed it to dry completely.
While I usually recommend keeping injured birds separated from the rest of the flock to avoid further damage and picking by other birds, this injury did not involve blood and the repair will go unnoticed by the rest of the flock. When the glue was dry, I brought her back outside and she went right back to the work of hunting and pecking. I will keep an eye on her in case the patch fails, but it should be fine. The beak will grow out and she will lose the jagged piece while honing it eventually. She may need to have the beak filed at that point, which is as easy to do as filing one's own nails.
UPDATE: Four days later, her repair is holding beautifully.
6 weeks after the repair
This 3 week old Olive Egger was found hiding in a nest box with the front portion of her upper beak missing. Chicken beaks are similar to human fingernails in that they continue to grow and require maintenance. We don’t notice beak growth in a healthy, active, backyard chicken because they maintain it by wiping it on hard surfaces (rocks, cement, etc). This honing process helps them maintain the length and shape of the beak. Chickens with scissor beak or crooked beak are often unable to properly maintain the length or shape, requiring beak trimming with dog nail clippers or a nail file.
The top half of a scissor beak requires trimming as the chicken cannot properly maintain it through normal activity.
This photo was taken several hours after the one above. I think she looks a lot better already.
Having the proper supplies and products handy when a chicken is injured or sick allows us to focus on the chicken and their immediate needs instead of scrambling in a panic to acquire needed supplies. Many of the most common injuries and illnesses can be anticipated, making assembling a chicken first-aid kit fairly simple.