Wry Neck in Chickens
Wry neck, also called crook or crooked neck, twisted neck, or stargazing, is a condition that can affect chicks, chickens, and other poultry. This condition causes your chicken to lose control of its neck and not be able to hold it up. It can progress to the point where the bird cannot stand without falling or walk without stumbling, and even death if left untreated. There are many causes of Wry Neck. Here we will focus on the nutritional deficiency aspect of the disease in chickens.
What causes Wry Neck?
There are multiple different reasons wry neck can occur. It can be a genetic issue, a vitamin deficiency, or even a head injury. Wry Neck can also be a symptom of a bigger problem such as exposure to toxins, Botulism, Newscastle Disease, Marek’s Disease, or even an ear infection.
It is crucial to make sure your birds are fed a proper diet. Poultry diets lacking in the proper amount of Vitamin E, in particular, can result in wry neck. The recommended level of Vitamin E for chickens of all ages and types is between 10 and 25 IUs. If you observe signs or symptoms of this condition, you should increase the Vitamin E immediately in your flock’s diet. Please note that selenium is also required for Vitamin E to be properly absorbed. These following are great natural sources of vitamin E:
- Collard Greens
- Dandelion Greens
- Red or Cayenne Pepper
Meyer Hatchery also offers supplements that include Vitamin E:
- Durvet Vitamins & Electrolytes
- Vital Pack
- Kickin’ Chicken Feed Supplement
- Poultry Nutri-Drench
- Vitamin E 40 Liquid
A deficiency in Vitamin B-1, better known as thiamine, can also result in wry neck in chickens. Brewer’s yeast is absolutely the best natural source of thiamin. Other natural sources include cereal grains and their by-product meals, and in fact, the by-product meals are higher because the thiamin is primarily in the germ and seed coats of those grains.
Meyer Hatchery also offers supplements that include thiamine:
- Durvet Vitamins & Electrolytes
- Vital Pack or Vital Pack Plus
Are Certain Breeds at higher risk for this condition?
Not having the protection of a hard skull like other breeds, Polish and Silkie breeds are more susceptible to head injuries. Having fancy headdresses makes them the perfect target to be pecked by the other chicks. It is highly recommended that they are separated from any aggressive flock mates to avoid head injury that may lead to wry neck and a host of other issues.
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Is walking backwards & shaking head occasionally a symptom of wry neck?
Hi Ginny. Those are not symptoms of wry neck. In wry neck, the bird’s neck is held constantly at an odd angle. Shaking the head could be caused by several different things. If you have a concern about your chickens’ health, I would suggest contacting your county’s university agricultural extension office for advice on poultry issues that are prevalent in your area.
I have one chick that has wry neck out of a bunch of eggs I have hatched from various sources, including my own birds, so I don’t think that it is a toxin or more of the birds would be affected. Could just one chick be deficient in Vitamin E even though none of the others from that egg source are? I am giving it supplemental Vitamin E, B-complex and Selenium, and it seems slightly better. Is this one I shouldn’t breed from?
Hi Jenn. Thanks for reading the blog! It’s very possible that only 1 bird in a group can suffer from a vitamin deficiency. Just like people, each bird is unique and metabolisms are different. It’s hard to know exactly why something like a vitamin deficiency happens to one bird and not the entire flock, but making sure the feed is freshly milled within the past 30 days of feeding and supplying a vitamin supplement like Vital Pack helps protect against deficiencies. I would personally not use this particular bird for breeding purposes, a metabolism issue may possibly be passed down.
6 week old True Blue chick with severe wry neck…..kinks like a Z to the side. She is eating and drinking. Cannot preen her fuzz very well. Is slow moving. Any suggestions to help her?
Hi Dee. Our best suggestions for treating Wry Neck are written here in the blog post. Thanks for reading!
I had a chicken just recently that had wry neck and for some reason I had a feeling to try and give sunflower seeds, and she was able to eat them. by my surprise over night probably 8 hrs later she was at least 50% better so I looked it up and sunflower seeds have a huge amount of vitamin E. Within 2 days of giving her sunflower seeds she was almost 100% better. I thought I would share this in case it could help someone else. She is now perfectly healthy and happy.
We received our chicks yesterday and one of them keeps it’s head on the floor and keeps somersaulting over and over and struggles to get up. It is difficult to watch. 🙁 It won’t eat or drink. Please help – what can we do for the little thing?
Hi Julie. For new chicks that are struggling, it may not be wry neck. If you are not already adding Vital Pack to their water, I suggest doing so to help them all get off to a strong start. For help with weak chicks that arrive by mail, our Help Desk has some tips for how to help them.