Treating a serious rooster/cockerel wound on a chicken with clay and essential oils

Every year we look after our neighbours' animals and birds when they go on holiday. As most of these are not used to being handled, there is no real strong bond of trust and particularly between us and them, who only have real contact with them for three weeks in the year. Therefore when an incident occurs it can be quite a challenge to remedy, albeit basic first aid or emergency medical care. Even the administering of an electrolyte for shock can be quite an ordeal.  Fortunately, however, a domesticated bird's keen intelligence and ability to assess a situation makes it appreciate that you have its best interests at heart. Similarly, a wild bird will let you treat it and even hand feed it when in pain, injured, or even in recovery and ironically a good indication that it is completely healed is when it pecks you! One of the main approaches I have is to talk the bird through the treatment in a calm and friendly manner, hoping that this will reinforce an understanding of my good intentions. Similarly with these two hens..

hen being treated for a serious wound with clay and essential oils
This is a horrible wound. Some years ago I made a film and wrote a post on the horrific predator attack on a fantail pigeon of mine and on whom I used the same treatment. At the time, I was too busy dealing with it to take photographs or film the wound and actually I don't think taking them would have served any purpose other than to make the viewer feel very uneasy even queasy. In the following case however, the blood had dried, infection was minimal but the full scope of the wound is plain to see. I'm also hoping that seeing the extent of this injury, as above and how it had actually torn into the leg, will further illustrate that even in the worse possible cases, if a bird is conscious, breathing steadily and in the above case amazingly, taking food, all is not lost. Thus I'm hoping it will give heart to those of you facing a beloved bird in a similar state. In many years of experiencing pigeon and wild bird wounds, I can attest that a bird has an amazing ability to self-heal given a little help and furthermore they also have a powerful thirst for life, which after all, is much preferable to the other option.

..and this is what it looks like now, eight weeks on and with a little of the clay still in place. This hen has been named La Miraculeuse by my neighbours.

Serious wound on hen healed with green clay


Assessing the Situation - What to look for, what to do and in what order

Everything starts with observation. I make a point of looking at the whole bird not just the injury or condition. In all cases, unless there is an immediate risk e.g., bleeding to death, I would firstly treat the emotional side, as this is crucial for the outcome. Both these birds were under extreme stress.

Signs of stress

Sadly the hen below didn't make it even though, of the two, she was not as badly injured. I hope in the following paragraphs to explain why.

sealing a wound on a hen with clay

Observe the hen I treated first (above), who in fact had the lesser wound, her whole posture and physical appearance is one of a body in shock; sunken eyes, loss of colour to the comb, hunched body, tail held low. If you compare her to her more physically damaged sister (below and top of the page), whose leg was so badly injured she could not walk, you will note that although her body is similarly in stress, her eyes and colour are much nearer to the norm.

treating a wound on a hen with natural organic ingredients 

Making and Administering an Electrolyte

home-made electrolyte for poultryMy prime consideration therefore was to administer an electrolyte. For this I have two basic 'kitchen cupboard' options; a little organic sugar in water or a little organic apple cider vinegar in water, both these have the same effect in creating a solution capable of carrying electrical charges thus restoring normal functioning of the cells. Electrolytes are depleted by shock/stress, which as it progresses begins to call ever more on the reserves of the former. With domestic birds, as with wild birds, in my experience, shock alone can be fatal and within 24 hours. It is therefore more likely they will die of the results of chronic stress rather than the injury. I have to admit that the second bird was the easiest to treat, she took the electrolyte very easily, whereas the first bird drank very little, even though I used the little trick, which I discovered by accident, of stroking the back of the head with the beak just touching the surface of the liquid.

Please Note: To avoid any chance of choking if the bird is showing signs of being unresponsive, use a small piece of fruit such as an orange or melon, rolled in a little sugar and place it just inside the tip of the beak. The sugar will then be absorbed through the mouth and/or tongue. You may then remove the fruit if the bird is showing no signs of being able to swallow it. On no account would I try to give liquid to a semi-conscious bird, there is always a risk of it getting into the lungs.

Initial Conclusions

My assessment concerning these two hens was that the one with the lesser injury was in fact in a much worse physiological state. I was not sure if she had sustained the wound earlier in the day or whether as an individual she was more sensitive to trauma than the other hen. Unhappily my assessment was borne out by the events of the next morning, as she did not survive the night. Although this same hen was very calm when I treated her, I did feel that even administering the electrolyte was overburdening an already compromised nervous system. I was, as always, saddened by this event, I felt that the hen had put her trust in me and although I had done my best, I had failed. Again this reinforces my belief that forging a bond of trust with your poultry is so necessary, it is not just an idea of 'taming' the bird but one of showing mutual understanding, so that in the event of a crisis, the bird will respond to treatment or even handling without any detrimental affects to its system.

Wound Treatment - Home-made Wash


treating a poultry wound with essential oils

The first thing I did after the electrolyte had been given, was to wash down the wound. This was a particularly difficult job as the skin had quite literally been peeled from the body, flayed in fact. With the more greatly wounded of the hens, it looked as if she had taken off the leg of a pair of trousers, right down to her 'knee'. The skin had therefore formed into a pocket so it was very difficult to sluice out the wound without touching it, something I didn't really want to do as it looked so raw.

home-made antibacterial wash essential oils
The solution I always use is a home-made one comprising a quantity of warmed mineral water (approx 150ml or ¼ of a pint) to which I added the following essential oils: -

5 drops of True Lavender (Lavendula angustifolia)
2 drops of Tea Tree (Melaleuca alternifolia).

These oils are used in this case for their following properties although they both have additional virtues for use in other conditions:

Lavender Essential Oil
- a powerful skin healer and regenerator,
- a painkiller,
- relieves anxiety
- an antiseptic.

Tea Tree Essential Oil
- a very strong broad spectrum antibacterial
- a great support for the immune system
- an anaesthetic.

Organic Cotton Wool
As over 25% of the World's pesticides are used in the production of cotton, I always make a point of buying and using organic cotton products including cotton wool and cotton buds. I source these at thrift shops and when they have them stock up on as many packets as possible

Essential oils naturally float on the top of water but I always use an organic cotton bud to break up the drops and spread them across the surface. I dabbed the wound gently with the cotton wool generously dipped in this wash so it would in no way abrade the skin.

The cockerel(s) who had been on these hens backs had obviously very dirty feet as the wounds were full of debris, including chicken manure, so I really made sure I got them as clean as possible but again with the consideration that everything I was doing was adding to their burden of stress.

Therapeutic Clay - Its properties and how to use it on wounds

treating a wound on a hen with therapeutic clay
Therapeutic clay is one of the most amazing natural minerals, its primary use is as a detox for the body. It can remove bacteria from wounds and heavy metals and even radiation from the body, with both internal and external application. I have also used it to great effect on sprains and a friend has used it to successfully set her dog's broken leg! Here I'm using Montmorillonite aka French Green Clay but you should check out the clays in your local area, as there are a whole raft of therapeutic ones.

Macaws eating green clay to counteract alkaloids Always choose a good quality, sun-dried, powdered clay from a reputable source, it is not expensive and if stored correctly will keep well.  Normally a clay compress is only left on until dry. However, as in the case of my pigeon, with the scale of the wound I needed to pack it and cover it completely to seal it from any further infection. In fact yesterday when I went to photograph the hen, a piece of clay actually dropped off as we picked her up! The skin underneath was clean and healed

On the left is an amazing photo of Macaws, showing how they have learned to use the properties of clay, as a way of getting nutrition from potentially toxic foods. The clay envelopes the alkaloids present in the seeds of many of the fruits they consume, toxins which are particularly concentrated in the dry season and passes them out of the body in the parrots' droppings!

green clay used to heal poultry wounds
Clay is always mixed by putting the powder into the recipient first and then adding water, this is the easiest way to gauge exactly how much water to use. Due to the clays ability to remove toxins, only stable substances such as glass or porcelain should be used to mix the clay, above all do not use plastic.  You should also use good quality water too, in our case this means mineral water as our tap water is loaded with nitrates! Do not use silverware i.e. metal spoons, as this will have an ionic reaction on the clay that is in direct contact with it. Certainly this is a tiny amount but even so it is better to use a wooden, glass or ceramic spoon. I save lolly sticks for the very purpose of using them with clay. We were very lucky the other day to be at a friend's house, when we were all offered organic ices, I went around collecting up the sticks! You should also give your bird a good drink, in this case I have already given this hen the electrolyte solution, clay obviously by its nature, dehydrates the system.

You can see what I meant by a 'pocket' of skin from the photograph below.

Using green clay to heal and seal a wound

After treatment both hens were placed in a straw filled mini coop/hen house, far away from the 'meat' birds my neighbours raise each year just to cockerel level. Normally these are too heavy to fly over the fences and get at the hens but this year they had managed somehow and with a vengeance. Just a word here about the former, they are what here is called an 'industrial' breed, bought at market to grow on, I have no idea in what conditions they are hatched and bred but I can guess. Needless to say they show very aggressive behaviours that to my mind are part of their 'nurture'. As young cockerels they also do not possess spurs, this damage was done with their claws.

Using green clay and essential oils on a nasty wound
The day after the event our neighbours were home and reported the surviving hen was limping badly but seemed fine in herself. Yesterday eight weeks on from the treatment, we actually got around to photographing her, apart from a rather ungainly stance, she seems fine and is walking and running when we tried to film her - very well!

Hen recovered from wound - clay treatment
Hope you have found this useful and helpful. Sorry about the graphic photos but this time, I thought they would help, in particular as it shows the amazing healing abilities of birds.

Thanks for dropping by and if you have enjoyed this piece and found it useful think about sharing it and also maybe about joining this blog and/or subscribing to my Youtube channel. Please also feel free to ask questions or make comments in the section below.

All the very best,


Using therapeutic clay on a deep infected wound

Montmorillonite or (French Green) clay is one of the most amazing natural minerals and around the World there are similar therapeutic-grade clays for you to use, wherever you may more

Treating wounds, cuts and abrasions - first aid for organic poultry

As I had to deal with the aftermath of a cock fight today, I thought I'd share the more

Treating an injured quail Part 1 - Nutritional support for sprains, strains and nerve damage

Here's Drusilla she is one of my coturnix quail and over the past few days she has started to limp, holding up her foot and more

Treating inflammation and infection with cabbage poultices

Recently I had occasion to use this poultice on two cases simultaneously, my quail and my neighbour's hen's suspected bumblefoot.. more

Treating a nasty head wound and shock

Our poor quail, Nuggets with a horrible injury to her head and eyes (Happy ending!) more


©  Sue Cross 2016


  1. Thank you! This is the first I've heard of a natural treatment for chickens! We are new chicken owners. I use essential oils already for my self & family. I will look for the clay! Thank you!

    1. Hi Rayna, You are very welcome. We have been raising birds here with natural treatments in an organic forest garden since 2000. I also use essential oils in making health and beauty products as well as on the chickens, quail and pigeons. Good luck in finding the clay - your local organic shop may be a good source as many people use it as a detox. All the very best from Normandie, Sue

  2. Hello. I don't have clay to use ,but have comfrey and plantain leaves grown g naturally,as well as lavender. I do however have all sorts of 100%all natural eassential oils. LIVE BY THEM.
    Right now my baby a HEN IS in serious need of something to heal her. The r oosters like her to much and have literally pedaled her skin on one side just u see her wing feathers. Please can you recommend some comfrey and plantain safe to use.
    Hope to hear back
    Chicken LOVING cntry_chic

    1. Hi there, can you not get hold of some clay - it is just that if it is a serious wound and needs to be sealed and yet still breathe then therapeutic clay is really marvellous stuff. The wash I have above in the article of warm water tree tree and lavender will heal the skin too and in particular if you follow up with raw organic coconut oil see my article on treating a cockerel wound I more think of comfrey for sprains than wounds because comfrey has a certain toxicity and thus can't be used on open wounds or broken skin, whereas clay can. Plantain I more think of for skin irritation than actual wounds. If you can't get clay then I would use raw organic coconut oil, it is a wonderful healer for wounds and I would feed her some too as it is a great immune system support. I would also make your hen a chicken saddle, it is the same pattern as I use for my cold stress cockerel coat It will prevent further damage to your hen's back. You can actually buy then, they are sometimes called chicken 'aprons' but they are so easy to make. Hope this is of help but I would try to find some therapeutic clay because it is a really good investment to have on hand in your chicken and human first aid kit. Do get back to me and let me know how your hen is progressing. All the very best from Normandie, Sue

    2. Thank you so Kindly!! I have 100% coconut oil,and TEA tree and lavender.I have a Hersehes about 25 min. From home and will be in town Friday. I can not thank you enough for your advise. My Hen(Raven) she is So GENTLE and loving,she hops up in my lap and when not hurt will fly up in my arms. She is a Black Silky.
      I am on it...prepari g the coconut oil and the essential oil. I will see if maybe I have a old HOSE stocking that I can slip over her backside,so she does not keep preening it.
      She wants a babies so much,but I tho k the Do is are out . I collected fertilized eggs for her to set on,may help her heal faster to.
      I'm so grateful for your help.

    3. Hi there, You are very welcome and I'm so happy you found the information helpful! That is a really good idea to take her out of the flock to brood some eggs. It will give her time to heal. The coconut oil will also help her feathers grow back too and I would put her on a high protein diet - give her a boiled egg or some wild invertebrate protein to get her strength built up and her feathers growing back before the chicks hatch. Babies are hard work and very demanding! When she goes back into the flock with the chicks the older males should respect that she has chicks and therefore they shouldn't pester her but if you have young cockerels I would watch them as they are sometimes opportunists with hens. In general and for the future, in the breeding season it would be a good idea to protect her back against the males with a home-made saddle/apron. All the very best and a big hug to Raven from Normandie, Sue