Chicken Antibiotics

Chickens are flocking to your clinic in increasing numbers. Many folks have a few pet chooks or a backyard setup, which flies under the radar of major hen operations and chicken or avian vets. If you are unfamiliar with chooks, check out the exotics vets examination page here:

Chicken Exam

If you are a vet, click here to access the article with doses!

Chicken Antibiotics

When chickens get sick they may need antibiotics, the same rules apply as with cats and dogs.

Use only when appropriate, use the narrowest spectrum possible and ideally perform culture and sensitivity tests first.

Know your drugs, know your chickens choices.

Some options in your tool kit. :

Beta lactams – eg Amoxyclav


Broad Spectrum – Gram Positive and Negative

Cephalosporins – eg Cephalexin


Broad Spectrum – Gram Positive and Negative



Gram Positive and Negative spectrum

Use with caution (don’t use it) with suspected renal disease or dehydration. Avoid using these in young chickens, or those in active lay.

Tetracyclines – eg Doxycycline


Mostly Gram Positive Organisms

Avoid in young chooks

Fluorquinolones – DONT USE THESE IN CHICKENS! We need these for human medicine.

Put down the enrofloxacin!

Macrolides – eg Clindamycin


Gram Positive




Topicals – flamazine can be quite useful for skin infections

How can you give these medications?

For a solo chook, consider either intramuscular injections or oral treatment. Chooks take tablets well! Oral medications can be an effective long term treatment.

Withholding Periods

If you have been out of mixed practice for a while. You may have forgotten about withholding periods for food producing animals for chickens.

Yes these chickens may be your feathered friends, but you may still want to eat their eggs! Eggs are also included in withholding periods, however as most antibiotics are used off label for chickens, these periods are…not certain.

A few safe rules to abide by ;

Enrofloxacin is reserved for human use – do not use in any chicken you ever want to consume eggs from – meat and eggs we assume are a lifelong Whp for chickens. So unless you are sure that chook won’t have eaten eggs, don’t use enrofloxacin (assume this includes all fluoroquinolones)

Avoid TMS as you shouldn’t use this in young chooks, chickens that are in lay or will enter lay in 2 weeks. Dehydrated chickens or those with kidney disease.

Assume that you should avoid consuming your chooks eggs for at least 14 days, though if these chooks are entering a new home they CANNOT enter the food chain as meat or eggs. As this is irresponsible when limiting the development of antibiotic resistance.

So use your common sense, and keep your chook companions in the know. Use your veterinary knowledge to appropriately use these antibiotics for good!

Flock to it!


Doneley B – Avian Medicine and Surgery in Practice – Companion and Avairy Birds 2nd ed.

Doneley B – Backyard Chickens TimeOnline. CVE. 2019

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