Sunday, April 28, 2013

Wry Neck or Crook Neck~ Understanding It & Treatment Options

Wry Neck or Crook Neck~

Disclaimer~ First, I am not a vet.  Let's just get that out of the way.  I do not have a degree in veterinary medicine.  I am a enthusiastic chicken breeder, keeper, exhibitioner, mama, and lover.  I write about my own personal experiences, trials, and triumphs.  I'll be honest and always share the very best knowledge I have.  What I write is what has worked or not worked for us and what I believe to be the best for the birds.  Then you take it for what you will.  I don't take credit for all of this information either.  I only share what I've experienced and things I've gleaned at some point from my mentors, other reputable breeders, friends and avian docs. 

I started this post with all of that rambling because wry neck is not always simple, not always treatable, and IMHO not something you want in your breeding stock.  I know a sweet woman who lost her beloved Silkie to it just last night as I happened to be completing this post. 

Wry Neck, or Crook Neck as it's sometimes called, is an unfortunate SYMPTOM in chickens that causes their necks to become twisted.  Often times they start with the appearance of a "crook" or a hook shape in their neck, hence the name.  It can then advance to them tucking their heads to the point it is actually between their legs.  At that point, they often back up and tumble over. In our most severe case, Eleanor seen above, she also spun in circles and walked backwards in the beginning.  Now she's to the point that after tumbling over, she flails and flaps and becomes quite distressed until my daughter holds her head and talks gently to her. 

The causes of wry neck vary.  Remember, it's not a disease in itself but rather a symptom/condition that occurs due to an injury, deficiency, disease, or toxin.  This can vary from case to case.  Out of my own 4 cases, I believe there to be 3 different causes. 

One of the main causes seems to be good old genetics.  In, The Chicken Health Handbook by Gail Damerow, she writes, "Two common hereditary defects, wry neck and wry tail, are caused by recessive genes, meaning they show up only when two birds are mated and carry the same gene."

I've seen this as 2 of our 4 chickens came from the same line.  You might say 2 doesn't "prove" a genetic flaw and I agree.  However, when you think of it as 2 out of only 8 that hatched from a dozen, that changes the picture.  Add to that a cross beak and a one eyed chick to those same 8 and I felt there was enough evidence for me to believe there were some genetic flaws in the line at work.  Needless to say, of the chicks from that line, it was enough for me decide to chalk up the fertile egg expense to a loss and those chicks of that 8 that survived were to be kept strictly as egg (consumption) layers and pets either here or re homed at a friend's house for the same purposes.  They were not and would not be used for breeding here. 

Another cause is a vitamin deficiency.  We've had one such case of this and in terms of treatment and recovery times, this has been our most successful.  Some breeds are more prone to vitamin deficiencies than others.  Silkies, for example, are known to have a more difficult time with the absorption of Vitamin E, thus resulting in deficiencies.  Birds that are on poor diets or fed too much scratch and/or corn are more likely to develop the Vitamin E deficiency for the same reason any human would.  If we were to stuff ourselves with chips and junk food and cut out our healthy foods then we too would, obviously, develop vitamin and mineral deficiencies and with that health problems of our own.  No chicken should ever be fed a diet of corn or scratch grains alone!

Neurological damage or some type of brain injury is another cause for wry neck.  I believe our poor Eleanor suffers from this cause of her wry neck.  Injuries occur from all kinds of incidents.  Silkies and Polish are more susceptible because of their vaulted skulls.  Their brains protrude from the holes in their skulls and therefore are not protected as in other breeds.  A simple but well placed peck to the head that would merely irritate another chicken can easily cause neurological damage resulting in wry neck (or worse) in a Silkie or Polish chicken.  With chickens in general, it's important to avoid overcrowding but with Silkies and Polish in particular, one needs to be especially careful.  You'll also want to avoid housing these breeds with other more aggressive chickens.  Their long and fluffy crests seem to make them targets for picking anyway.  We do not house or even brood our Silkies with any other breeds as a basic rule. 

Disease and toxin exposure are two other possible causes of wry neck.  Chicks are especially sensitive to toxins. 

Before going into treatment options, let's talk about expectations.  While some cases are mild and you can be blessed with an almost miraculous recovery in as little as 48 hours with vitamin treatment, most are not.  I've talked to breeders who have been treating this condition for almost a year before seeing any marked improvement.  I had one very young chick die on me within 48 hours even with treatment.  I had one recover easily in about a week only to lose her a few months later to a mild respiratory infection that caused barely a sneeze in the rest of the flock.  I have one who's recovered and leads a happy, healthy life here although he will never be a breeder and we will never be able to show him because he maintains a crook like curve to the very top of his neck.  Then, of course, we have sweet Eleanor who I'm two months into treating.  As with just about anything else, the faster you catch it and start treatment the better you may fare.

The Moral Dilemma and Time Commitment
More than likely, if you're still reading this post it's because you have a chicken with wry neck and you searched for treatment options.  You're probably waiting for me to "get to the jist."  You need to understand its a time commitment with no guaranteed results.  At our farm, we always choose life when possible.  That doesn't make us right and someone else wrong.  It also doesn't make it easy by any means.  It's a personal decision with no right or wrong answers. 

I know breeders that I respect and admire who believe it's best to cull any chickens with signs of wry neck.  You need to know none of the treatments are guaranteed to work; you'll need to commit to medicating twice a day for at least two weeks; many will come out of wry neck only to have it reoccur; even if recovered many will be left weaker and more susceptible to other illnesses; you really SHOULD NOT USE THEM FOR BREEDING; be ready for extra bedding, feeding and care.

Still here?  Let's get to treatments.

Separate- First & foremost, move the affected bird from their run/brooder and separate into their own brooder.  Make them as comfortable and STRESS FREE as possible.  You'll notice the head and neck twisting, backing up, and if they're at the point of flapping and having seizure-like symptoms, those will also present upon any stress.  Allow them to rest comfortably in a dim, warm area.  I put mine under heat lamps that are raised high.  I don't want the brooder at the temperature it is for babies but I do want them nice and cozy.  If you've not done this before, watch for signs of overheating if you put them under heat because you don't want them to dehydrate!  The other benefit of isolation is that if it IS caused by a disease or an illness, you have quarantined this bird from the rest of your flock and hopefully stopped an outbreak.

What about massaging?  I realize many websites, forums, pages, blogs, etc. all say to massage the neck for wry neck to treat it.  I heard first hand from two avian vets and several breeders this is NOT the way to go.  I tried it (before talking to the vets) on two of ours myself with absolutely no success.  Once it was put in proper perspective for me, I understand why.  If you look at the causes of wry neck, injury, deficiencies, etc., there's nothing about a massage that would treat or cure those conditions.  Not only does it not improve the bird's health, but as we discussed, stress exacerbates the symptoms and so the least handling you can do the better.

Nourish- That brings me to my next step.  Make certain they are getting plenty of food and water.  Many times they will struggle with eating and drinking.  This is often the cause of death for birds with wry neck.  They dehydrate making it even more difficult for them to drink and eat and they quickly wither away.  If they are unable to eat or drink on their own, you may have to feed them.  You don't want to hand feed them and risk aspiration unless you have to so at first just try to gently dip the END (not too far) of their beaks in water with electrolytes (Chick Saver) every hour or so.  You need to keep them hydrated and fed!  Scrambled eggs are a great way to keep up their protein levels and their energy.

Vitamins- One of the reasons I wanted to go into such detail about the causes of wry neck is so you could understand the benefits of the different treatment options.  Vitamins can play a major role in treatment and recovery, especially if caught early and if the vitamin deficiency is the cause for your bird's symptoms. 

You'll need to understand that Vitamin E is only absorbed in combination with Selenium.  All of the posts online about just giving your chicken Vitamin E capsules without the addition of Selenium are wasting time and money and breaking hearts with the owner doesn't understand what went wrong.  You MUST give Selenium in combination with the Vitamin E.  You also must be careful because high doses of Selenium can be toxic.  Just follow the directions carefully. 

You can usually find Vitamin E with Selenium already added in the liquid capsules at many pharmacies, online vitamin shops, and health food stores.  Here are a few links from Amazon.  I keep these items on hand.

Any treatment you see online for wry neck will usually contain a mixture of multi-vitamins, Vitamin A, Vitamin E, and Selenium.  I personally follow the guidelines that were given to me by two chicken doctors that I trust.  My regiment is as follows:

Vitamin E with Selenium- Squirt one capsule of Vitamin E with Selenium into your chickens mouth (under the tongue! so as not to aspirate your bird) for 3+ weeks. 

Water Soluble Multi Vitamins- an easy to find one is Poly Vi Sol (yes what you give babies) without the Iron.  Please be sure it does NOT have any Iron. Give this for 2-3 weeks.

Probiotics & Electrolytes- You can find these at any Tractor Supply Store.  I prefer to buy all of my vitamins and health products from Doc Brown at 1st State Veterinary Supply.  I always know he has what I need on hand.  Or like with the others, I'm providing an Amazon link.  Provide this for 2-3 weeks.

**Rather than using the Poly Vi Sol and separate Probiotic, Doc Brown suggests the Vita-Pro-B & Replamin for your daily Vitamin and Probiotic treatment.  I'll leave that to you. I use Doc Brown's suggestion for my breeder flock on a daily basis.  When we developed the wry neck, I had not been so it was easier for me to grab the Poly Vi Sol at a local store.  If you're prepared ahead of time, like we are now, I'd go with the Doc.  You'll still need to add your Vitamin E & Selenium, this is just the Multi Vitamin and Probiotics**

That's my first line of defense.  The Vitamin E & Selenium will assist with any deficiencies, the electrolytes will give them energy to get drinking then eating again,

If the wry neck was caused by an injury.  You may also want to try something to reduce any swelling or inflammation.

Bayer Brand Baby Aspirin- You can give your chicken 1 of these 3 times per day to help relieve any inflammation or swelling.

You can also try administering a general, broad spectrum antibiotic along with your treatment if you feel the cause is from an illness.  My experience has not included this because none of ours seemed to be caused by any bacteria or infection. 

If you've tried all of the above and find no improvement within two weeks you need to make a decision. 

Prednisone- You can try Prednisone next or decide it's not a fitting life for your chicken.  Prednisone is a little on the controversial side, you must be very careful with it.  It does wipe out the bird's immune system leaving it susceptible to secondary infections and illnesses. You don't want to overdo it but more importantly, you can't just start it and then stop it abruptly- that's not healthy or safe for your bird.

While giving the Prednisone, you'll want to continue your vitamins (multi & Vitamin E & Selenium), probiotics, and electrolytes.  Prednisone would be administered for ten days, tapering it off at the end.  You'll have to call your local veterinarian for the Prednisone or you can try the First State Vet Supply. 

Keep in mind, relieving your bird of wry neck can be a prolonged process.  We find that their bedding needs to be changed frequently because they often spill feed and waterers in their attempts at getting food and water or from the flailing around.  We've also spent a great deal of time drying their face and heads from it getting dipped in water in order for them to drink.  My hopes are that should you have the unfortunate luck of experiencing wry neck that you can make the decision that is best for you and your flock and things turn out for the best!

I pray this information helps you along your way of taking care of your flock and keeping them healthy!


Thursday, April 4, 2013

Breakfast Recipe & Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway Day 3 ~ Strawberry Coffee Cake

Breakfast Recipe Week & Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway Day 3 ~ Strawberry Coffee Cake
I hope you're enjoying the Breakfast Recipe Week here at The Egg Basket and you're taking the opportunity to enter to win the Free Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway!  We're enjoying sharing with you and we can't wait to hear back how you'll like the dishes!
Today we're doing another coffee cake, it's a little more prep work than the Buttermilk Blueberry Coffee Cake on Monday but it's Oh SO Yummy & Delicious!  I made two of these yesterday morning and froze one for breakfast on a busier day when I don't have time to cook!  All of these recipes freeze well.  Some of them I freeze in individual servings so we can grab, reheat, and go on those hectic, running behind days we have so often!
Now, although I said it does take a LITTLE more prep work, it's not difficult and anyone can bake it!  It's worth the time, trust us!
Strawberry Coffee Cake
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1/2 cup Unbleached All-Purpose Flour
1/3 cup Wheat Germ (optional)
1/4 cup Flax Seed (optional)
1/2 cup Sugar
1 1/2 tsp Baking Powder
1/2 tsp Salt
1/2 tsp Cinnamon
1/2 cup Cold Butter (or margarine)
1 (Farm Fresh) Egg
1/2 cup Milk
1/2 tsp Vanilla (we LOVE the Asheville Girls Vanilla)
1/2 cup Sugar
2 TBL Cornstarch
6 TBL Water
1 cup Fresh (or frozen) Strawberries
1 1/2 tsp Lemon Juice
1/3 cup Whole Wheat Flour
3 TBL Brown Sugar
4 1/2 tsp Cold Butter
In a bowl, combine the flours, wheat germ, flax seed, sugar, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon.  Cut in butter until the mixture becomes crumbly.  Whisk egg, milk, and vanilla (you may need up to 3/4 cup of milk if you use the flax seed and wheat germ).  Stir the wet ingredients into the crumble mixture just until moistened~ don't over stir.  Pour into a 9"x5" x3" or similar pan coated with nonstick cooking spray or oil. 
Filling~ In a small saucepan, combine sugar and cornstarch.  Stir in the water until smooth.  Add your strawberries and lemon juice. Bring to a boil, cook and stir for 1-3 minutes until it's nice and thick.  Pour your filling over your batter and cut it through with a knife to swirl.  I'm a terrible "swirler" can't you tell?
Topping~ In a small bowl, combine flour and sugar.  Cut in butter until crumbly.  Sprinkle over batter.  Bake at 350 degrees for 40 minutes or until a toothpick inserted comes out clean.  Cool on a wire rack and enjoy!
Now, don't forget to enter today's chances to win that amazing Asheville Girls Vanilla !

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Breakfast Recipe #2 Delicious & Healthy Zucchini Raisin Muffins & Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway

It's Breakfast Recipe Week at The Egg Basket with an amazing Giveaway from Asheville Girls Vanilla!  Today's recipe is Delicious & Healthy Zucchini Raisin Muffins! 

Welcome to Day 2 of our Breakfast Recipe Week with Asheville Girls Vanilla's Vanilla Giveaway!  Don't forget, there are four easy-peasy ways to enter at the bottom of this post!

Today's recipe is one of my "go-to" breakfast items.  It's not only great for breakfast but perfect for picnics, bento lunches, even the beach.  When everyone else was fighting sandwiches at the beach this past summer, I had our Zucchini Raisin Muffins, cheese sticks, and fruit. They're delicious and nutritious as well!  Don't be fooled by the healthy label~ it's one of my kids' favorite muffins!

Chance made the last batch of Zucchini Raisin Muffins himself and I have to admit, they were even fluffier than mine!  You can also put the batter from this recipe in a bread pan and make a warm, comforting loaf instead of muffins!  Without further ado, our recipe!

Zucchini Raisin Muffins

2 cups grated or pureed zucchini
3 eggs
2 cups honey (you may also substitute maple syrup.  We have also cut the honey in half with good results if you'd like to cut back but we find it best with the two cups)
1 cup oil
3 teaspoons Vanilla ~ We use Asheville Girls Organic Vanilla!
2 cups Wheat Flour
1 cup Unbleached All Purpose White Flour
1/2 cup Wheat Germ
3 TBL Ground Flax Seed
1 tsp Baking Soda
1/4 tsp Baking Powder
1 tsp Salt
3 tsp Cinnamon
1/2- 3/4 cup Raisins (we like a LOT)

Now, there are two ways to start this.  I'm all about convenience with homeschooling 3 kids, a small farm, home, etc.  I put the peeled zucchini in my food processor, grate/puree it and then add all of my wet ingredients to the food processor and "mix" it right in there before adding it to my dry.  Conventionally, you'd grate the zucchini then add it to a bowl then mix in your wet ingredients.  Either way works.

In a mixing bowl, add grated zucchini, eggs, honey, oil, and vanilla.  Blend together.  In a separate bowl, add your flours, wheat germ, ground flax seed, baking soda, baking powder, salt, and cinnamon and mix.  Stir your wet ingredients into the dry and mix together until all of the dry ingredients are wet but don't over mix.  Fold in raisins. 

Bake in greased muffin tins (or bread pan, mini loaf pan) at 350 degrees until done, when a toothpick inserted comes out clean. 
For muffins I bake for 20-25 minutes
For bread it takes closer to 45-60 minutes.

This is a pretty generous recipe.  I normally will start with 12 muffins and while they cook I pour the rest of the batter into a bread pan.  This gives the kids fast muffins for breakfast and a bread loaf I can use for lunch the next day, dinner that night, or freeze for later use.  This recipe freezes VERY well.  Simply allow to cool and then freeze in freezer bags. Thaw it out in your refrigerator when you're ready for it.  I like to keep several loaves frozen. 

Now, another day, another chance to win that AMAZING Asheville Girls Vanilla!

Remember, to enter you only need to "Like" The Egg Basket on Facebook, "Like" Asheville Girls Vanilla on Facebook, Follow Our Blog (yep! The one you're reading right now!), and Leave comments on any of our Breakfast Week Recipes Posts this week!  That's it! Good luck! a Rafflecopter giveaway


Monday, April 1, 2013

Breakfast Recipes Week & Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway

Welcome to The Egg Basket's Breakfast Recipes Week Featuring an Asheville Girls Vanilla Giveaway

Last week I mentioned how much I LOVE baking with the Asheville Girls Organic Vanilla so this week I'm going to share my favorite Breakfast Recipes each day that require (Farm) Fresh Eggs & (Asheville Girls) Vanilla!  Along with that, the generous and kind ladies of Asheville Girls Vanilla have offered my readers a couple FREE bottle of  their awesome, organic Vanilla for a sweet Giveaway!  Entering the Giveaway is Oh, So Simple!  Just "Like" The Egg Basket and Asheville Girls Vanilla on Facebook and you've earned yourself two entries!   Now, that was easy, right?  Want to earn MORE entries another easy way?  Okay then!  Follow THIS blog (yep, right here, the one you're already reading!) to earn more entries, then leave a comment (because I so love to hear from you'll!)  on any or all of the Breakfast Recipes this week, try them, let me know how you like (or don't like) them and earn yourself MORE entries!  The contest will run from today through NEXT Monday to give everyone the weekend to try out some of these amazing recipes! 
Okay~ so, without anymore chit chat from me, here's today's first Breakfast Recipe!

Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake

I mentioned this breakfast coffee cake on Facebook last week and received a very positive response and requests for the recipe.  Since I'm delayed in getting it typed up and posted for my lovely readers, I think I owe you more than one!  With that thought in mind, I'm also going to be posting yet ANOTHER deliciously warm, sweet, and comforting coffee cake later this week for your baking pleasures!  It's started out as a snowy, cold Spring here in Virginia- perfect weather for these morning delights!
I'm very pleased to say the kids gave this Buttermilk Blueberry Coffee Cake a solid thumbs up on the taste test and I'm pleased I was able to add whole wheat, blueberries, flax seed, and wheat germ to their morning meal to start their day off right!
Blueberry Buttermilk Coffee Cake
1/2 cup butter or margarine
Zest from 1 Lemon
7/8 Cup Sugar + 1 T sugar
1 Egg (of course we use our Farm Fresh Eggs for the extra healthy, fluffy cakes)
1 tsp. Vanilla (we prefer Organic Vanilla and I LOVE the Asheville Girls Vanilla)
1 cup Whole Wheat Flour
1 Cup All Purpose Unbleached Flour
1/3 cup Wheat Germ
3 Tbl ground Flax Seed
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. salt
2 cups fresh or frozen blueberries
3/4 cup of buttermilk
1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. 
2. Cream butter with lemon zest and 7/8 cup of the sugar until light and fluffy.
3. Add the egg and vanilla and beat until combined.  Meanwhile, toss the blueberries with 1/4 cup of the all purpose flour.
4. Whisk the remaining flours, wheat germ, flax seed, baking powder, and salt together in a separate bowl.
5. Add the flour mixture to the batter a little at a time alternating with the buttermilk.  Fold in the blueberries.
4. Grease a 9-inch square baking pan (or similar pan) with non-stick spray (we use organic).  Spread the batter into the pan.  Sprinkle the batter with the remaining tablespoon of sugar.  Bake for 35 -45 minutes.  Ours took the entire 45 minutes but definitely check with a toothpick for doneness at 35 minutes.  You don't want to burn your delicious breakfast!

Step 5 ? Enter the contest of course! 
a Rafflecopter giveaway