When & How to Trim a Chicken’s Nails & Rooster’s Spurs

Backyard chickens normally wear down their toenails while scratching and walking on the ground outside, however, some chickens are unable to maintain their nail length either due to awkward anatomical position or from being housed on wire floors or soft bedding, in which case, trimming, clipping or filing is recommended to prevent lameness or injury.

Chickens’ nails are similar to humans’ and dogs’ in that they continue to grow and require maintenance. Backyard chickens normally wear down their toenails while scratching and walking on the ground outside, however, some chickens are unable to maintain their nail length either due to awkward anatomical position or from being housed on wire floors or soft bedding, in which case, trimming, clipping or filing is recommended to prevent lameness or injury.

Some breeds, including Silkies, have extra toes that grow in funky directions, requiring periodic nail clipping.
Some breeds, including Silkies, have extra toes that grow in funky directions, 
requiring periodic nail clipping.
Some breeds, including Silkies, have extra toes that grow in funky directions, requiring periodic nail clipping.
Two nail clipper types.
A chicken's nails contain a vein that will bleed if the nail is trimmed too far towards the toe, so keep styptic powder at the ready while trimming. In good light, the vein can usually be seen under the nail of chickens with light colored nails.

Equipment Needed:
Styptic powder and paper towels on standby
Dog nail clippers (guillotine style or plier-style clippers with a safety guard)

OR a Dremmel tool (the noise and vibration are upsetting to many chickens, so I opt for nail clippers)

Nail file or Nail Grinder tool (optional)
Vetericyn Plus Poultry Wound Care spray: http://amzn.to/2jhxZDT
A partner to hold the chicken.

A chicken's nails contain a vein that will bleed if the nail is trimmed too far towards the toe, so keep styptic powder at the ready while trimming.

A chicken’s nails contain a vein that will bleed if the nail is cut too far towards the toe, so keep styptic powder at the ready while trimming. In good light, the vein can usually be seen under the nail of chickens with light colored nails. Always trim conservatively to avoid nicking the vein.
Most chickens don’t care to be handled, so it is easiest to trim a chicken’s nails or spurs well after dark when they’re roosting and half asleep using a headlamp and a partner.

Most chickens don't care to be handled, so it is easiest to trim a chicken's nails or spurs well after dark when they're roosting and half asleep using a headlamp and a partner.

With a partner holding the chicken securely, hold the foot firmly in one hand, isolating the toenail to be trimmed and the nail clippers in the other. Trim 1/4-1/3 of the length of the nail. If the vein is nicked and bleeds, immediately dip the nail in styptic powder and hold gentle pressure on it with a paper towel until bleeding stops. File any sharp or jagged edges.

TRIMMING A ROOSTER’S SPURS
o maintain a reasonable spur length, the spur cap can be removed or trimmed, however, when the hard outer layer of the spur is removed, the exposed bony tissue may bleed, is very sensitive, if not painful when touched, and is vulnerable to infection.

 Spurs are horn-like, bony projections that grow out of the back of a rooster’s lower leg that are used for personal defense and flock protection. Think of the spur like a thumb that’s completely covered by a thick, sharp fingernail. A rooster’s spurs continue to grow just as his nails do and if left unchecked, can interfere with his ability to walk, cause injuries to him and others. To maintain a reasonable spur length, the spur cap can be removed or trimmed, however, when the hard outer layer of the spur is removed, the exposed bony tissue may bleed, is very sensitive, if not painful when touched, and is vulnerable to infection. For these reasons, I do not uncap my roosters’ spurs, preferring to trim them instead. The same method for trimming nails applies to spurs: steer clear of the live tissue underneath the spur cap, cutting only the first 1/4-1/3 of the projection with very sharp, large dog clippers, filing to dull any sharp edges. The spur caps will re-grow.

Blunted spurs after trimming are much safer for everyone.
Blunted spurs after trimming are much safer for everyone.

Backyard chickens normally wear down their toenails while scratching and walking on the ground outside, however, some chickens are unable to maintain their nail length either due to awkward anatomical position or from being housed on wire floors or soft bedding, in which case, trimming, clipping or filing is recommended to prevent lameness or injury.
 
Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick®

Comments

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Stephen
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Thank you Kathy! Good luck everyone!

Belinda Powell
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Thank you for all your advice on raising chickens.I always find your insight to be most
helpful &when someone asks me for information about raising chickens, I tell them to look you up. I have been raising chickens for 4 years &haven’t ever given them m ealworms ,but if I had some, I would give it a try.

Sarah McNabb
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Love it!

Patsy Suit
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Sorry. I meant mealworms. Not sure what happened.

Patsy Suit
Guest

Would love to win the networks. Haven’t been on the website in a few weeks. I’ve been hatching silkies, silver lace wyndotts and Americana’s. It’s always a job but I love it. I just had to check into my favorite website. You are all great.

Miss Boo
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Thank you Kathy for such vital information!

Michele Davis Yates
Guest

Thanks; informative as always. The Grandpa feeder would really cut down on waste.

Karen Niznik
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Love it for my expanding flock!

Dani Carver
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Great info as always

Rebecca White
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I would love to have one. It would be my first thing towards getting my chickens. I want to have everything in place before purchasing chicks and this would help financially in jump starting that process.

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