How to Trim A Chicken's Toenails

| 7/20/2012 3:06:51 PM

  Hen scratching in the run

All toenails, beaks and feathers are made from a protein called keratin. When chickens are allowed to be out and about to scratch in the dirt and explore, they do a good job at keeping their nails and beaks nice and trim. However from time to time it is not unlikely that your chickens' toenails and beak will require a little maintenance. For example, our Silkies frequently need their fifth toenail trimmed as it never touches the ground. Keeping the nails from overgrowing is very important for overall general foot health, the ability to walk and the ability to hold the foot in a normal position. Trimming your roosters' spurs and toenails can also help to keep them from digging their nails into the backs of your hens. Cutting the toenails is relatively easy to do and takes only a matter of a few minutes per chicken.

When cutting toenails, the most important thing to be aware of is the quick. Like dogs, chickens have a quick running through each toenail. They even a quick in their beak. The quick offers blood supply to the nail. If you look at your own fingernails, your "quick" is the pink part that you do not want to cut into. When you cut your nails too short, it hurts. When you cut an animal's nail too short (into the quick), not only does it hurt but it will also bleed quite a bit. Toenails should be trimmed in front of the quick. If the toenails are excessively long, trim a bit off and wait a couple of weeks for the quick to recede. Then you can gently trim a little more off until the nail length returns to normal. Be patient. This entire process can take up to a month.

 Sketch of chicken toenail and quick 

In darker nails, the quick can be difficult to see just where it ends.  Here are some tips to help you visualize the quick:

-Look for the quick underneath the nail instead of on the top or the sides.

7/22/2012 1:17:38 PM

Melissa, ha, now I've heard it all. A chicken nail salon. Just kidding, I can see where that would be an issue. Our chickens were always destined to be Sunday dinner and we didn't really have them much longer than six weeks. Just long enough to make my life interesting about July when it was hot and my task was to clean out the chicken house. The rest of the year the chicken house lay silent. I am learning much about chickens from the posts here on GRIT. We never had to consider any of the issues addressed here. Thanks for sharing your chicken experiences. Have a great day taking care of your chickens.

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