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!

Blessings,

22 comments:

  1. I have not experienced these problems with my new flock but it is nice to know what to look for and know my treatment options. I have been thinking about expanding next year with Polish breed, I already planned on keeping them separated because of bullies but this is another consideration.
    thank you!

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  2. My bird just came down with wry neck yesterday. I've been doing all the above and will be trying the predinsolone treatment also. I really pray for her recovery! Wry neck is awful to witness! I'd thought she broken her neck at first. Please wish me luck with my treatment. Thank you for posting abuot wry neck. Best wishes

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    1. Great summary of the causes, symptoms and treatment of torticollis in chickens Tiffany. I have a Golden Polish who has survived with it for almost two years. At that time I spent hours searching for information since there are no poultry vets in my area and an avian vet was not very helpful. Your protocol is one of the few available for this condition and similar in part to that of Dr. Stafford's which has been widely distributed and about the only specific protocol published.

      The Polish are an exotic breed and are beautiful. My flock of egg layers is a mix of heritage breeds, and 6 are Polish varieties. Thelma (yes, her sister is Louise) was apparently pecked on the head by another hen on a wet day causing brain injury. When wet, their crown feathers separate and part and their skin is easily visibly and can be pecked at by other birds. Her symptoms did not show for several days but I remembered her head feathers and the red areas on her skin.

      I followed the protocol that included Prednisone (I took the print outs to my dog & cat vet) and she improved. I used a wire dog crate to house her in the coop until she was able to control the neck spasms. Other hens are brutal and relentless if they see a chicken with her head turned upside down and she certainly didn't need more trauma. The crate was positioned on the same level as the coop roost so that she was level with the flock's roosts (though safely separated)and visible. Re-introduction was eliminated and they could become desensitized to her physical affliction.

      She did improve enough to integrate though even at a distance she is distinguishable by her quirky head-tilt. I fed her the vitamin, & prednisone 'cocktail' mixed with a bit of milk or juice with an eye dropper. Initially I dripped it on her beak (her head tilted to the side - easy) and she quickly caught on. Care does need to be taken not to flood the nostrils and cause other problems. I wrapped her in a towel to keep her from struggling and catch drips that missed her beak. At times I would mix her potion and spread it on a banana for a treat. Stroking her neck and positioning a support under her head to hold it in a more normal position at night did seem to help.

      She does well in warm weather, cold weather is tougher and she is more prone to have spasms when tire, stressed or under hydrated. Chickens can drink 1 1/2 cups of water a day or more. When she's symptomatic I found that hydrating her with about a quarter cup of water with electrolytes twice a day for a day or two sets her back on track. Feeding this way depends on her thirst level and how full her crop is. Sometimes she'll seem to doze off & then pop her beak open for more.

      Surprisingly she relapsed last month (summer is her best season) and the hydration regime didn't bring the usual results. I resorted to the 2 week protocol used originally which helped, but she's still more symptomatic than expected. My concern prompted today's search for updated or new treatment protocol and I found yours. Thank you.

      She is no longer on prednisolone and perhaps the Pediatric Bayer may help. I have not taken the time to physically stroke her neck throughout this episode due to other demands on my time. I'll make time to add that-it may help us both.

      There are many success stories of chickens surviving torticollis, some completely clear of any symptoms. Thelma has done well, taught me much and provided quite a few laughs along the way. I monitor her quality of life and in the flock and if necessary, I will make the humane decision when necessary. She expects no less of me.

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    2. Has anyone ever tried supporting/splinting the neck? I have tried a couple of different things but I am open to any suggestions. Thank you

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  3. Thankyou for your descriptions and directions, My silkie x light sussex of 12 weeks has wry neck, it has followed what i have thought was a very successful treatment for infection. Then she suddenly seemed to fit, jerking around and could not perch. She was already separated from the flock and in a small dog cage. Ive started with selenium and vit E, and am managing to give her electrolytes.
    While she seems to be fighting I want to do all I can to save her, but I have to admit i fear what may happens later..

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  4. Thankyou for your descriptions and directions, My silkie x light sussex of 12 weeks has wry neck, it has followed what i have thought was a very successful treatment for infection. Then she suddenly seemed to fit, jerking around and could not perch. She was already separated from the flock and in a small dog cage. Ive started with selenium and vit E, and am managing to give her electrolytes.
    While she seems to be fighting I want to do all I can to save her, but I have to admit i fear what may happens later..

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    1. How did your baby make out, Kristi? I'm hoping she recovered.

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  5. Thankyou for your descriptions and directions, My silkie x light sussex of 12 weeks has wry neck, it has followed what i have thought was a very successful treatment for infection. Then she suddenly seemed to fit, jerking around and could not perch. She was already separated from the flock and in a small dog cage. Ive started with selenium and vit E, and am managing to give her electrolytes.
    While she seems to be fighting I want to do all I can to save her, but I have to admit i fear what may happens later..

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  6. can u tell me the prednisolone dosage ,my rooster has breathing problem mocus in his throat .given a lots of antibiotic he improved but still mucus difficulty in swallowing. heavy breathing and has become very weak dosent take water.i had to feed him.

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    1. Abi, I don't know about the dosages for breathing difficulties. I haven't used prednisone as treatment for this. My best advice for this is seeing a vet or if that's not possible, we use Doctor Peter Brown at First State Veterinary Supply. You can find him online and ensure you're treating your rooster properly. Different antibiotics treat different bacteria. Unfortunately, it could be viral which would mean the antibiotic hasn't helped and you can only treat the symptoms. If you can, get a throat swab to your local state vet office. If you lose him, I'd definitely recommend a necropsy (usually performed free by the state lab) to rule out MG or MS for the protection of the rest of your flock. Doc Brown has a Mycoplasma "cleansing program" you may be interested in.

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  7. Am I missing the dosages on these? I have a 3 week old chick here who has already been like this supposedly since he/she hatched. I just "bought" him yesterday to try to save him/her.

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    1. I order my prednisone from Doc Brown at First State Vet Supply and it was 1 mg Prednisolone. 1/2 tablet 2 x day for 5 days. Again, I'm NOT a veterinarian, only sharing what worked well for us and my blessed assistance from the Doc. I would strongly suggest contacting your vet or Doc Brown via his website. Good luck, I hope he makes it! http://www.firststatevetsupply.com/

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  8. my silkie came down with her second case of wry neck. !! I started her on the predinsone and vitamin treatment as soon as I recongised the signs. but it seems it has to get worse before it gets better. any more suggestions as how I can help my sweet silkie?? she is seeming to get worse. I'm so worried!! Thank you I appreciate any suggestions.

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    1. These are the only protocol that help to my knowledge other than lots of rest and time. The earlier you catch it the better but as I said above, they are more susceptible to it once they're already had it so I'm not terribly surprised your silkie has it a second time. I hope she's doing better. We treated our Eleanor for 6 months!

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  9. Is this something a chicken can get at anytime in there life? My EE rooster is almost 6 months old and he is displayiing symptoms of wry neck.

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    1. Also I just switched the hens to layer feed and that is what my two roosters have been eating. Should I be feeding them meat bird feed?

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  10. Hi Tiffany ,my name is Jennifer I to have a polish with this condition . I read your all of your thread even the questions from everyone . I am trying the poly- vi- sol method but I'm not sure how much or often ? Thank you so much for all your help !

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  11. Our six week old Araucana, Flemming, was set upon by a mama hen raising week old chicks. The attack involved pecking to the head. She looked bad from the first, eyes closed, head rolled back. We isolated her and gave her electrolytes as she was not eating or drinking. After 36 hours the wry neck got worse and she was not able to stand. She had a massive seizure in my hand and died. I did not know that vaulted skulls made them susceptible but now it makes sense. It is amazing to think that with some causes, treatment can cure them. Thanks for this information.

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  13. thanks for the info. my lovely little part polish bantam head came down with wry neck yesterday. she is at least 5 years old, maybe older. i thought her neck was broken. i brought her into the house and used a syringe to water her. i promised her that if she survived the night, i'd take her to the vet. the vet prescribed antibiotics and gave her a shot, and a syringe so i can squirt it into her mouth for the next 5 days. he said that if it is an infection, i should see results soon. i will also try your suggestions.

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  14. Thanks. Bantam chick born yesterday couldn't stand or anything and falling over backwards. Gave him vitamin E in water and mixed some selenium into feed. Today he isn't completely right but can eat and drink on his own and even run. When he's tired he seems to slip back into the star gazing but he is so much better. Thanks so much!!!!!!!!

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  15. I started this post with all of that rambling because wry neck is not ... ineckmassager.blogspot.com

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