Chickens are known to peck and scratch as that’s how they forage for food best. As a result, Mother Nature seemed to decide that the best way to help them get along was to provide them with strong beaks and sharp claws. But deadly predators they are not. You as the caretaker of a flock of chickens must be responsible for their grooming and the wellbeing of their beaks and nails. Every so often you may need to step in and do some trimming of your own. If that’s the case, here’s what you’ll need to know to keep your chickens’ nails in check.
Generally, chickens have good sharp nails at the end of their toes, allowing them to easily dig into the ground to forage for food like grubs and seeds and such. As they go about their business digging and scratching, the importance of their nail lengths become more and more prevalent as nails that are too long will be unwieldy and provide problems doing the most basic tasks,. Worse still, once a chicken’s nails get too long, the chicken itself really has no way of reducing its length in any way.
That’s where you have to step in and start clipping. It’s vital that you keep their feet in good health as they need them for feeding themselves and maintaining good exercise. Clipping said nails is not overly difficult, though you do have to be careful as a panicked hen can flail and scratch you pretty good. You’ll need a pair of specially designed nail clippers to accomplish this task, but acquiring one it’s very difficult. Actually going through with the clipping can be the hard part.
Those of us who have cats or dogs have probably experienced nail grooming before and how tricky it can be when clipping. For chickens the need to clip correctly is even more important as poorly-clipped nails can prove more harmful that overly long nails. You need to be careful not to cut into the quick, otherwise pain and bleeding will occur, but you need to be careful not to cut them awkwardly or too short, otherwise they will have a hard time scratching as normal. Frequently, it’s just a good idea to take them to your vet or a chicken fancier if you’re not feeling confident enough to do it yourself.
However, the best way to keep your birds groomed properly in the nail department is to provide them with hard ground to naturally file down their toenails on. The coop flooring will end up being critical for their wellbeing, so something like dirt or wood is alright, but concrete will ensure that their claws are getting scrapped down to a manageable length instead of growing uncontrollably.
When it comes to the beak though, you definitely want to be on top of things and be sure to have it filed down or clipped if it becomes apparent that it’s growing to a point there feeding is difficult for your bird. Simple fingernail clippers should be enough to clip off the extra protuberance here.
Roosters have one other bit to watch out for as many breeds can grow a sharp talon behind their leg. This talon can grow normally and become long and deadly, or it can sometimes begin growing into the leg itself. Either way, getting it cut down is a smart idea.
Raising chickens is like babysitting a very feathery, very odd child. You need to be their caretaker in more ways than just providing them with food and shelter but also by making sure their fingernails are clean and neatly trimmed. It may be silly to think about, but if you don’t take care of your chickens, no one else will!