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Everything You Need to Know About Wry Neck in Chickens

Baby chickens

For any chicken farmer, the health of your birds should be at the top of your priority list. Without a healthy flock, egg production lowers, sickness can spread, and in the end, you may lose chickens (and profit).

There are certain diseases, like wry neck, that can be very alarming for first-time farmers. At Freedom Ranger Hatchery, we want to alleviate some of those fears with our years of chicken-raising knowledge.

What is Wry Neck?

Wry neck— sometimes called “crook neck,” “twisted neck,” or “stargazing”—is a condition that typically affects newborn chicks, and sometimes even full grown chickens. If you notice that your bird has difficulty standing, that its neck twists, or it looks like it’s permanently looking upwards, they’ve likely developed wry neck.

Typically this condition is caused by a genetic disorder, a vitamin deficiency, a head injury, or from ingesting toxins. Regardless of how your bird developed wry neck, it’s likely that the affected chick won’t be able to hold its head up on their own. This will cause it to fall over or lie on its back, have difficulty eating, and may lead to the bird’s death.

Can a Chicken Live with Wry Neck?

For a simple answer, yes, your chicken can live with wry neck. We understand that seeing one or more of your birds with neck twists can be difficult. It’s stressful not only for the bird, but likely for you as well to see your animal in such distress. The good news is that it’s a curable symptom given time and patience.

The main reason why chickens die after they develop wry neck is because they are unable to eat or drink properly. In addition, they also may not be able to move well and get trampled or pecked by other chickens.

How to Treat Wry Neck

In order to properly treat wry neck, you first need to separate the affected bird from the rest of the flock. This condition isn’t contagious, but as we mentioned earlier, other birds may trample or peck a disabled chick. Keeping your bird separated will also help keep its stress levels down.

Silkie Chicken

Second, you’ll need to up the bird’s vitamin intake, specifically vitamin E and selenium (to help all the vitamins absorb more effectively). Vitamins should be administered two to three times a day until the bird’s symptoms improve. There are various vitamin supplements available that contain both of these, but we also recommend increasing the vitamin E intake for your entire flock. You can use a vitamin supplement in pill form, but we prefer natural sources of vitamin E such as spinach, asparagus, broccoli, dandelion greens, etc.

During this healing time for your chicken, you’ll also likely need to help the bird eat and drink since its neck twist will make movement difficult. Helping your chicken’s wry neck is a time-consuming process, but overall will make for a happier and healthier bird.

How Long Does it Take for Wry Neck to Go Away?

Unfortunately, wry neck does not go away quickly. It takes time, patience, and a gentle hand to help your chicken through this difficult and stressful time. Once you start administering a vitamin supplement, you may see improvement in as little as 24 hours, but you’re not out of the woods yet.

Over the following few days, your bird’s symptoms may fluctuate a lot and sometimes get worse before they get better. Keep giving your chicken vitamins and be patient—it can take up to a month before the condition completely dissipates. After your bird recovers, keep the extra vitamin intake going for about two weeks to ensure your chicken’s health is back to normal.

How Can I Prevent Wry Neck?

By now you understand that wry neck is caused mostly from a deficiency in vitamins, so it’s important that your birds are constantly fed a proper, nutritious diet. Like most health issues, it’s easier to prevent neck twists in your birds than it is to heal them.

If you are seeing crook necks in your chicks, it’s likely that your parent chickens are not receiving enough vitamin E. While most chicken feeds should contain the proper nutrition that your birds need, try implementing a few of the vitamin-enriched foods we mentioned above. Adding a natural source of vitamin E to your flock’s diet will give them a nutrient boost, but also provide a nice treat for them from time to time! We recommend a treat like sunflower seeds which have a lot of vitamin E, but selenium as well.

When one or more of your birds develop wry neck, it doesn’t have to be the end of the world. Luckily, any time you purchase chicks from Freedom Ranger Hatchery, you know that you’re getting a high-quality bird you can count on. Our chicks are hatched on our family farm in Lancaster County, PA and come from a long line of birds developed in the early 1960s. Our environmentally-friendly farming methods are sure to give you happy, healthy birds for years to come. Contact us today to learn more about what we have in stock!