Afraid of Giving Injections

By Nathalie Ross

Afraid of Giving Injections? Who Isn't, at First?

However, if you're in a situation where your chickens need antibiotics, you'll find that this is the most efficient and trustworthy way of treating them! I'd like to help you through it, if I may. Once you get over the fear of giving them you'll wish you had done it long ago.

Why Do It?

    The reasons that injectable medicines are very much preferable to oral medication methods are these, among others:
  1. The dosage is assured; there is no guessing just how much a chicken drank, or whether or not it even WILL drink because of the taste of the medicines.
  2. The medicine gets into the system quicker since it goes into the muscle.
  3. The length of antibiotic therapy is shorter because of assured dosage, medicine strength, and efficiency of getting into the system, and the quaranteed freshness of the medicine.
  4. The medicine is LESS likely to degrade than powdered antibiotics, which must be stored in very controlled conditions.

What You Will Need.

  1. Either 3 cc syringes with .22 gauge needles, or diabetic syrings with needles. I prefer to use one syringe/needle per bird, but at least use one needle per bird as you don't want to put a used needle back into the medicine bottle.
  2. A helper.
  3. Some paper towels and alcohol, or alcohol swabs.
  4. A cup or something to hold your supplies and used needles/syringes.

Preparing for Shot Time.

It's less confusing if you put the meds into the syringes while you are still in the house, or at least before you start handling the birds. I like to get all my syringes filled and needle caps back on and just take them out like that. That is how we did it at the vet clinic. Here is the method that works best.

If the needles are separate from the syringe, take the syringe out of its holder. Also, take the end cap (not the long needle cover) off of the needle and screw the needle on, or pop it on (depending upon what type you got). Do this for however many syringes you will need.

I always wipe the top of the injection bottle with alcohol first before I pull the medicine. Take your first syringe and needle. Take off the needle cover carefully. Before putting the syringe in the med bottle, pull air into the syringe in the same amount of air as medicine that you will be pulling. For example, if you are going to use 1 cc of medicine, pull a teensy bit over 1 cc of air into the syringe.

Now, holding the med bottle bottom up, gently put the needle into the med bottle. The medicine will automatically start to fill the syringe for you. Pull a little more than needed out, then thump the syringe with your fingers before pulling it out of the bottle. This puts the air bubble at the top. Press the plunger gently to push the air bubble into the bottle and get to only the amount of medicine you need. Then pull the needle out and put the cap on. Repeat for all the syringes you'll need at that moment.

I like to put all my syringes, plunger up, into a cup to take out with me. I also use the alcohol swabs that you can buy a box of at the drug store for a dollar. I take one of those for each shot, plus a couple of spars, in my pocket.

Put on some old clothes so you can toss them in the wash (since you are dealing with sick birds), get your helper to do the same, and you are ready to go to the barn.

Giving the Injections.

Have your helper pick up the bird holding its wings to their body, the bird's breast to you, gently.

Now, think of a chicken breast from the store, when they are split and ready to cook. On the chicken, find what would be the middle of one of those breast halves. In other words, on one side of the chicken's chest, find the middle of the breast. Avoid going close to the breast bone, or too close to the wing, to low by the abdoment, or too high by the neck. Smack dab in the middle.

Separate the feathers on a good meaty looking spot, the wipe the skin with the alcohol swab. Some people don't do this, but I'm a stickler so I do it anyway, especially if the bird has any respiratory illness where they might have gotten their mucous on their feathers.

Then, pull the right syringe, remove the needle cover. Part the feathers again, then gently put the needle to the breast skin. You can steady your hand with your other hand if you wish; it will probably make you feel more assured. Now, don't push the plunger yet; read the note.

when you put the needle in the bird will squawk like you've hit him straight in the heart, and wiggle like he's in horrible pain. He's only surprised and feeling a sting; don't let him fake you out.

OK, now brace yourself and gently put the needle into the breast JUST A BIT. I usually push it in less than 1/8 an inch for bantams, less than 1/4 inch for the meatiest and largest birds, we're talking big! You just want to make sure that the hole part of the needle gets into the muscle. Take a good look at a needle before you set out for the barn to help see how far that is.

Before you Push in the Plunger.

Pull the plunger out a little and look at the medicine. If you see blood (which you most likely won't) then relocate to a different spot and don't put the needle in so far. Don't be alarmed and don't feel too cockey and figure you don't need to check- this is a good check point for your peace of mind. I've been giving shots for well over 20 years and I check each and every time.

Now, push the plunger gently but firmly til all the medicine is in. Then pull the needle out gently and cap it and put it somewhere safe.

At this time, I like to rub that area with a tissue to help the medicine absorb (especially with thicker antibiotics). It's not necessary, but if you want to do it, it's a good step.

The Finale!

Pat yourself on the back for being SUCH a good chicken steward!

Helpful Hints and Notes.

The method I described above is for Intermuscular injections (IM). You would use the same procedure for SubCutaneous (SC) shots except instead of finding the meaty part of the breast, you pull up neck skin, insert the needle into the skin flap only (and make sure it doesn't come out through the other side - I've done that before), check for blood (that there IS none) and give the injection.

Unless you're really experienced (in which case you wouldn't need my advice really), I would completely avoid giving shots in the vein. Most antibiotics are either IM or SC.

If you put the chicken down and see that it is bleeding, you can pick the bird up, place it in your lap, find the spot where it is bleeding, and apply firm pressure for a couple of minutes. That will usually stop the bleeding. If the bleeding continues, continue with the pressure. Remember, a bird can have its comb cut off to prevent frostbite and it will bleed profusely and not die, so a bleeder is usually NOT a serious situation despite how scary it seems.