All About Spurs In Chickens
A spur on a chicken is a small, horn-like protrusion that grows from a chicken’s leg just above the foot. It points inward to be used as an efficient spearing weapon, when needed. The spur is most commonly found on roosters, where the spur can grow to be a few inches in length in some breeds.
Some hens may also grow spurs, but they are generally not nearly as large or as sharp as the spurs found on a rooster.
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Spurs are used primarily for self-defense and fighting. If you have ever witnessed two roosters who disagreed with each other, you’ve probably seen the flogging that happens. A rooster will do a “hop and strike” move towards his opponent, trying to bury his sharp spur into the other rooster’s body to cause injury. If left to fight it out on their own, two roosters may even fight to the death, leaving the survivor alive but very badly injured.
Spurs are made from keratin, which is the same substance that human fingernails are made from. Spurs on chickens are quite hard and very sharp. They are so hard that it can be difficult to trim them when needed.
Normally you will not need to trim the spurs on a rooster. But when I added a mature rooster to my existing flock that already had three resident roosters, I knew that spur trimming would be needed for all of the roosters. Trimming spurs is more like trimming a dog’s toenails than our own nails. There is a “quick” or a blood vessel that runs inside the spur that you will need to avoid. Look closely and you will notice an area on the spur where it becomes smaller in diameter. The quick will end where this narrowing begins. Trim beyond this point and you should be able to avoid any bleeding. Have cornstarch or blood stop powder on hand just in case, this will help stop any potential bleeding.
How To Trim
Start by enlisting the help of someone who can hold your rooster. Wrap him firmly in a bath towel and allow his legs to stick out one end. I found that using a rotary tool with a sanding drum was the easiest way to file down the sharp spur tip. My goal was to simply blunt the end of each roosters’ spurs so they could not injure each other. I learned that dog toenail trimmers are not nearly strong enough to cut the spur. They are much harder than dog toenails! If you do not have a rotary tool, a pair of side cutters can be used to nip the end of the spur off. Take little bites off until you have nipped off as much of the spur as needed to get a blunt end.
You may read about an old-timers’ method of twisting off or removing the outer layer of the spurs by using a hot baked potato. I do not recommend these methods. It is incredibly painful for the rooster. Stick your finger into a hot baked potato and hold it there. It feels the same to him. Then after the heat has caused your fingernail to soften, rip it off. Now walk around like that for the next several weeks while your fingernail grows back. Please don’t do this to your rooster!
Even if you are not introducing a new rooster into your flock, you may need to trim your rooster’s spurs if they are growing in a way that may cause injury to him. Occasionally the spurs may grow so long that they curve back around or interfere with his ability to walk. Curved spurs may also hook onto fencing or branches of a bush, trapping the rooster. If your rooster grows curved spurs, you may want to consult a veterinarian who can anesthetize your rooster and trim the spurs back to the point of the quick. Then you can maintain the spur length with more frequent at-home trims to keep them from curving again.
We hope this helps you with managing your rooster’s spurs and why you may need to. Leave us a comment below if you have experience with trimming spurs. Thanks for reading!
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