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The most common cause of burns in chickens is from coop fires resulting from the use of heat lamps. Heat lamp fires are most frequently started by:
  • Placement of heat lamps too close to flammable objects such as pine shavings and straw. There should be at least a 20 inch (50.8 cm) clearance between the heat lamp and any potentially flammable objects underneath.
  • Improperly securing heat lamps or objects that heat lamps are attached to, resulting in them falling. This can occur from curious chickens that jump on top of the lamp, rodents, draft or breeze, any slight vibration, use of poor quality or inappropriate fixtures (such as baling twine, which should never be used to secure a heat lamp).
  • Bulb explodes
  • Faulty electrical wiring
Burns result in varying degrees of damage to the bird's outer tissue layers, classified as first-degree (damaging the outer skin layer only), second-degree (damaging multiple skin layers), and third-degree (damaging or destroying all skin layers in addition to underlying tissue). Burns are caused by exposure to fires, flammable or hot liquids and steam, certain chemicals, electricity, sunlight or radiation.

Chickens with sustained burns require basic supportive care and diligent topical therapy. The burned areas need to be flushed continuously with cool running water or saline solution. Any feathers that remain in or near the area that was damaged should be gently removed in order for the burned area to better aerate. During recovery and until the wounds have healed, chickens are also at an increased risk of secondary infection.

Clinical Signs

Singed feathers
Eye irritation
Exposed skin/loss of feathers


  • History
  • Clinical signs
  • Physical exam


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Initial flushingFlush the burned areas with copious amounts of cool water or saline solution.
Topical therapyApply a water-soluble topical antibacterial cream such as silver sulfadiazine. Apply a hydroactive dressing to non-infected wounds to prevent water loss and for promotion of healthy granulation tissue growth. Burn wounds should be flushed twice a day and debrided once a day.
If wound is infectedGram's staining and culture and sensitivity testing of the burn tissue may be needed in order to monitor for infection, as systemic antibiotic therapy my be required based on positive culture results.



Do not use heat lamps in chicken coops, the risk of fire is too great. If supplemental heating is needed, use a low-voltage (200 Volts max) flat panel radiant heater.

Scientific References

Good Overviews

Risk Factors

  • Using heat lamps in chicken coops