Ask the Expert: Eyes

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Swollen Eyes and Long Nails

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As you can see (in the photo above) our red hen has a swollen eye. My other hen, Lacey, may be starting to swell. Is there any type of treatment? I only have four hens and one rooster.  

Second question: There are long spurs on my rooster, they are almost 1-inch long. Can they be cut off?

You helped me in 2009 with a question about scaly leg mites. The Vaseline worked! Thank you!

Nancy Roseen, Minnesota


Thanks for the picture. I would say that the chickens have a respiratory infection. Chickens have sinuses just under their eyes, and these often become swollen and filled when they have a respiratory infection. Bacterial infections (especially Mycoplasma gallisepticum and fowl cholera) often cause this. You can try to treat them with a broad-spectrum antibiotic. It will often help, though the symptoms sometimes come back when the antibiotic is no longer being given. Antibiotics that can be given to laying hens are limited, but if you are only using the eggs for personal consumption, you have a little more latitude. Unfortunately, these can be difficult to eradicate from a flock once they are present.

Rooster’s spurs can be cut off or twisted off. They are like a horn in that the inner core is live tissue. You can use a sharp saw to cut them off. Try not to go too close to the leg, or it will bleed quite a bit. You can hopefully see a difference in color where the live tissue starts. Some people have had good luck gripping the spur firmly with pliers and twisting it off.  It seems a bit harsh, but it will come off.  The biggest issue with this is that the remainder will harden in a few days and will still be sharp, just shorter.


Eye Issues

I have two two baby chicks that are around eight weeks old.

There is something strange on their face and neck. Can you tell me what it is and if there is anything I can do for them? I am not sure if they can see or not. These baby chicks were hatched and are being raised by their mom.

Jerry and Belinda Holton


Hi Jerry and Belinda,

The consensus is that your chicks have a very bad case of fowl pox. If you can keep the chicks eating and drinking, they should get over it. That may be difficult, seeing the severity. I have heard of putting some aspirin in the water to alleviate pain. It is hoped they will drink and eat more that way.

The pox virus is transmitted by mosquitoes, so anything that can be done to limit mosquito exposure would be helpful in stopping its spread. It is not transmissible to humans. Also, if she has other chickens, it is possible to vaccinate them and the vaccine may work fast enough to prevent them from getting pox.

Also, our blogger Alexandra Douglas advises to keep your chicks inside and apply warm compresses three times a  day to alleviate the swelling. Basically make sure mosquitos are not getting to the birds.

We wish you and your chicks the best of luck and hope they return to health soon!


Hen Eye Growth 

I am enclosing two photos of our Cuckoo Marans named Maisie. She is five years old. She has had this “growth” on her eye for over two years. It doesn’t seem to bother her. She acts like a happy normal chicken. Can anyone tell us what this is? 

Thank You, 

Janie and Roger Ulsh, Pennsylvania 


Hi Janie and Roger,  

Chickens (and other birds) can get swollen sinuses from a variety of respiratory diseases (mycoplasma, chronic fowl cholera, etc.). Especially when this is a bacterial infection, it often forms a plug of “cheesy” material in the sinus. This swollen sinus is often underneath the eye, but the swelling can be over the eye, too. It would probably need to be cut open and cleaned out, as the plug of material inside would need to be removed before it can heal. 

There is also a chance that it is a tumor of some sort, rather than a swollen sinus. If that is the case, it might be more difficult to remove. 

Alternatively, if she has lived with it for two years, and seems to be doing well, you may just want to leave it alone. 

Good luck with it! 

Ron Kean 


Rooster Missing an Eye

I just went to the coop and noticed my bantam rooster is missing an eye. It doesn’t look swollen. He just has it shut. I opened the eye and it is missing. He isn’t eating or drinking and is laying in my nesting box. Any suggestions on wound care?



Hi Bonnie,

It’s sad to hear about your rooster’s eye, but the good news is that he most likely can make a full recovery. Chickens can be quite resilient. They actually have blood that runs warmer than ours and this helps ward off infection. This means that many times you don’t need antibiotics on a wound.

After a traumatic injury, you may not see a chicken eating and drinking much. Normally they find a quiet place to rest and start to recuperate. The nest box sounds like a good place for him to rest, but you may want to separate your rooster from the rest of the flock so he doesn’t get pecked by the others. Chickens can be curious about wounds and can injure already hurt birds.

Give him a separate, clean space with his own food and water. Vetericyn does make an eye wash and an antimicrobial gel for eyes that can be used on any animal. You may want to gently use this wash and gel to keep his eye clean and free of pollutants while it’s healing.

If you’re uncomfortable with the wound, it won’t stop bleeding or you see signs of infection, it’s a good idea to take your rooster to a veterinarian for further diagnostics.

It’s also a good idea to look around your coop for anything that may be sharp or sticking out that could have injured your rooster.

After the eye is healed, you can let your rooster go back to the flock. He should adjust well to life with one eye.

Good luck with him!


Swelling Under the Eye

My fiancé and I are first-time chicken owners with a flock of six 14-week-old chickens which includes one rooster. Two weeks ago, our Buff Orpington hen Laura had a swollen under eye area for a week before it subsided. Now our rooster Kenny is swollen on the flesh around his eye and cheek. It doesn’t affect them in any way except for looking awful. Any idea what this could be?

Denise Yost, Connecticut


Hi Denise,

Swelling in this area is often because of a sinus infection. That can be caused by a number of things. Several bacterial diseases, such as Mycoplasma gallisepticum, fowl cholera, and coryza, commonly cause this. It would be surprising that any of these would clear up that quickly, however.

Some viruses could cause this, too. In the case of viral or bacterial disease, you’d see some other symptoms, such as sneezing, drainage from the nares, etc. If you don’t, and he gets over it as quickly as the hen did, then there’s not a need to worry too much. You should continue to monitor the rest of the flock, and if things get worse, you may have to try to find an avian veterinarian.

It’s possible that some injury in the beak area might cause swelling like this. If they were eating something sharp, and a sliver got lodged inside the mouth, it could cause swelling. There are examples of hens that have had this happen. Though the infection wasn’t in the sinus area directly, it’s a possibility.


Thank you so much for the information! The rooster’s swelling just subsided, after about a week or two. Hoping it doesn’t happen again! Thank you!



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