Due to their size, pressure sores are not uncommon in large breed chickens, especially those who are overweight or have mobility issues. Once they develop, pressure sores can be difficult to resolve, especially if they are the result of a chronic mobility issue, so prevention is key. In general, it’s a good idea to pay extra attention to a large breed chickens’ hocks and keel in order to catch signs of irritation before they develop actual sores. This is imperative for individuals with mobility issues or other health challenges that result in them spending more time lying down.
Keel Sores– Mature large breed chickens typically have a featherless strip of red skin that runs along their keel and to their vent. Because this entire area is red, looking for early signs of reddening and irritation can be difficult. However, skin that is drier or flakier than the rest of the exposed skin could be an early warning sign. Be sure to watch closely for signs that a small scab may be forming. Once a keel sore develops, this area will be vulnerable to infection and it can be difficult to prevent the sore from worsening, especially if the individual’s mobility does not improve. A superficial scab can eventually become a deep wound that exposes the keel bone. To prevent infection and further damage, it’s important to keel keel sores covered. Bandaging a keel sore can be more difficult that bandaging other parts of the body such as a toe or a foot. In some instances, a fully body wrap with extra padding on the affected area can help, but you must be shown how to do this properly to avoid causing complications. Another option is to used a non-adherent pad, possibly in conjunction with additional gauze for extra padding and hold them in place with a wound dressing such as Tegaderm Film Dressing or Hypafix Dressing Tape. Be sure to work with your veterinarian to have keel sores evaluated and monitored. Infections must be treated early and aggressively as they can easily spread to the keel bone.
Hock Sores– Large breed chickens may also develop pressure sores on one or both of their hocks. This may be the result of lying down more than normal or from trying to take weight off a painful leg while lying down, resulting in the “good” leg bearing more weight. Watch each resident’s hocks closely for any signs of redness or irritation (not to be confused with an infection in the hock- if hocks are swollen or hot, be sure to have the chicken evaluated by a veterinarian as soon as possible). As with keel sores, hock sores can start out as superficial scabs and develop into deep woulds. Hocks can be wrapped with extra padding to help prevent sores in individuals who appear to be on their way to developing them and can also be used to protect sores that have already developed. Again, you should be shown how to do this to ensure you are wrapping the leg properly. Many of the concerns discussed later in this course regarding foot wraps also apply to any type of leg wrap.
There are certain environmental changes you can make to prevent or respond to pressure sores including: