Chicken Pedicures?

The other day when I was trying to entice Ouiser to use the new chicken swing I noticed that her nails looked worse than Elvira’s. “Do chickens need pedicures??” I wondered. A quick google search indicated that yes, in fact, chickens can at times need pedicures. Often, chickens wear down their own nails into nice, beautiful chicken nails. BUT…. sometimes, that doesn’t happen. SOMETIMES if you’re new to chicken farming you might have chosen the wrong substrate to put in the bottom of your run *cough*sand*cough* and it’s too loose to do any good when your chickens scratch around in it. So, in times like that you’ve got to do some chicken pedicures.

What You Need For Chicken Pedicures

You’re gonna need some supplies for chicken pedicures. I’d recommend gathering all your supplies first, have everything laid out nice and neat so that you can get that chicken in and out of the spa and minimize any stress it might cause your hen. Honestly, we didn’t really have an issue. Our ladies were better than any of our dogs or cats for this experience. However, I can see how it could go awry quickly.

  1. Get a friend. 
    Yeah, a friend’s gonna make this go easier. Tell your friend to wear old clothes too. Your friend can be the chicken holder while you be the nail technician.
  2. One or two chairs. Folding or otherwise. Probably not a leather recliner.
    Chicken pedicures are easier sitting down, at least for the chicken holder. I actually stood for the pedicure part. But a sitting chicken holder is a stable chicken holder.
  3. A towel.
    “A towel, [The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy] says, is about the most massively useful thing an interstellar hitchhiker can have. Partly it has great practical value. You can wrap it around you for warmth as you bound across the cold moons of Jaglan Beta; you can lie on it on the brilliant marble-sanded beaches of Santraginus V, inhaling the heady sea vapors; you can sleep under it beneath the stars which shine so redly on the desert world of Kakrafoon; use it to sail a miniraft down the slow heavy River Moth; wet it for use in hand-to-hand-combat; wrap it round your head to ward off noxious fumes or avoid the gaze of the Ravenous Bugblatter Beast of Traal (such a mind-boggingly stupid animal, it assumes that if you can’t see it, it can’t see you); you can wave your towel in emergencies as a distress signal, and of course dry yourself off with it if it still seems to be clean enough.” Also, a towel makes a really good chicken swaddle. Just in case your chicken is super squirmy you can wrap her up in that towel and suddenly she’s as calm as a sleeping baby.
  4. Handi-wipes or a damp towel.
    This is to clean chicken feet prior to nail trimming.
  5. Nail trimmers.
    I used cat nail trimmers. I figured chicken nails can’t really be that much bigger than cat nails so the size seemed appropriate.
  6. Rubbing alcohol in a small bowl/container.
    This is to sterilize the clippers in between chicken pedicures. If there’s some nasty junk on them you don’t want to spread it around to all your ladies.
  7. Styptic powder or cornstarch.
    Heaven forbid you quick one of those hens… but if you do, you’ll need something to staunch the bleeding. I was over confident and actually left my mother holding a “chicken towel burrito” while I ran inside frantically for cornstarch. It could have been an epic fail. I’m saving you. GET THE CORNSTARCH FIRST.
  8. Grapes.
    For either you or the chickens… for bribery… and treats. Cause grapes are nice.

Chicken Pedicure Procedure

Okey-dokes. You’ve got all your supplies laid out neatly. You’ve got chickens who need pedicures. Now what?

  1. Catch a chicken. Hopefully you’ve handled your birds enough that they don’t mind this. If not, see Item #8 above… Grapes. Bribe them with grapes. So far, grapes are the ONLY food that the ladies didn’t have to wonder if it was going to kill them before they ate it. They just dove right in. Grapes = wonderfulness.
  2. Here's Roxie being held like a little football for her pedicure.

    Here’s Roxie being held like a little football for her pedicure.

    Get your friend to hold your chicken like a little baby… or a football (if that analogy works better for you). Flip the chicken on to its back and tuck it into the crook of your elbow. Then using the other hand, secure the feet. If your chicken is super squirmy this is where the burrito towel comes in handy. Just wrap it around the body snugly to hold its wings flat against its body.

  3. Using handi-wipes or a damp towel, wipe off the mud and chicken doodie off your chicken’s feet. Clean feet/nails are easier to trim. While you’re at it, check your chicken’s feet for any lesions or scabs… Bumblefoot is NO laughing matter!!
  4. You’ll need to hold the chicken toes steady with one hand while you trim with the other. Your chicken might be tempted to kick and reject the idea of a pedicure. Don’t worry… you’re not killing her. She’ll get over it! Dip your nail trimmers in the alcohol and then trim off a little bit of chicken nail at a time, only about 1/8″ to 1/4″ with each trim. You’ll want to stay away from the quick so that you don’t cause the nail to bleed. (If your chickens have light colored nails you can probably see a little pink line through the nail – that’s the quick… STAY AWAY!)
  5. If you happen to cut a little too deep and nick the quick use a little pinch of styptic powder or a little cornstarch and apply pressure for about a minute until the nail stops bleeding. My chicken acted wholly unconcerned that I quicked her. Didn’t even flinch. NOTHING like my dogs…. But I’d still recommend doing your best to stay away from the quick.
  6. Release your chicken back to its flock after you’ve concluded the pedicure. If you’ve got a bunch of hens of different breeds do something to mark which hens you’ve already pedicured and which you haven’t. I’ve seen some suggestions to do a sharpie dot on their feet. I took pictures of each of mine when I started.
  7. Provide a bowl of grapes for a job well done. One for you… one for the chickens.

Stella agreed to be the model for our little “chicken pedicure” video. Please enjoy:

More Resources For Chicken Pedicures

If you’re wondering how I got so knowledgable about chicken pedicures, check out some of these links below:

Good luck with your chicken pedicures!

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