What is wry neck?
Wry neck is a condition that is often referred to as “crook neck” and it typically affects ducklings and baby chicks, although adult birds can suffer from it if they are being fed an incorrect diet. Birds with the disorder cannot hold their heads up on their own and as it progressively gets worse, affected birds start to fall over or lie on their backs unable to walk freely on their own. This can be very distressing for owner and bird. They have no control and can so easily crash and bang into things causing more injury to themselves. I have suffered this my self with my favourite bird and I can certainly say from my own experience it's not pleasant and you often feel helpless as this is not a quick ailment to cure.
Often fatal simply because chicks, ducklings or affected adult birds simply cannot eat or drink any water which means they get dehydrated and if not helped to feed, birds suffering from the condition will starve to death. You may also consider culling birds who are showing no significant signs of recovery after a period of time.
What causes Wry neck?
The condition can be caused by various things which includes the following:
A genetic disorder
An injury to the head
A vitamin deficiency
Breeds prone to getting this condition
Certain breeds are more prone to developing the condition through injuries they get to their heads. This includes both Polish and Silkies because their skulls don't offer the same amount of protection as found in other breeds and due to their head plumage, they are more likely to be pecked on their heads by other birds that live in the same environment. Polish and silkies have vaulted skulls and one peck on the right place can so easily cause this.
It's important to separate any aggressive birds from a flock if you have either Silkies or Polish chickens running with other breeds. The other reason for bullying and pecking is when too many birds are kept together in the same environment. Overcrowding can be a real issue so you have to make sure your birds have enough space to run around in.
If birds are fed an incorrect diet and in particular one that is vitamin deficient and more especially if it does not contain enough Vitamin E, chickens can develop wry neck. No matter what the cause might be, it is very worth while upping the amount of Vitamin E your birds are receiving in their diet. However, you should not expect immediate results because any treatment will take a few weeks to take effect which is why it's important to start supplementing their feed as soon as possible. A correct diet should be a good quality flock raiser/layer pellet that has all the nutritional requirements your flock needs. Treats should be limited to no more than 10% of their diet.
To build up your flock's Vitamin B1 intake, it's good idea to add a little Brewer's Yeast, sunflower seeds, wheat germ or bran to their diets as all of these are very good, natural sources of the vitamin.
Treatments for wry neck
No matter what has caused the condition, it's important to separate any bird with wry neck from the rest of the flock to avoid them being picked on or trampled. You would need to feed them and to make sure they are drinking enough water. One way of doing this is to soak some bread in fresh clean water (not recommended for ducklings/ducks)before feeding it to the bird – like this you avoid them aspirating the liquid into their lungs which could prove fatal. Non iron Polyvisol for children is also reccomended to boost the chick or duckling during this stressful time, one drop twice per day. Once your bird is seperated keep it quiet to keep the stress levels down. During this difficult time you will need to be there very regular for your bird in order to feed and water him or her. Also don't leave open water in the area you have your bird. As they cannot control what they are doing they can easily become stuck and could possibly drown. A shallow thin lipped watrerer worked well for me and my affected bird. I found getting him a towel so he could not flap the easiest way of holding him. Once sat on my knee he could peck in the food bowl I held in front of him. Also this was the best way for him to drink as I could control the water and not worry about him drowning. Wry neck is not an easy, straightforward or quick ailment to fix. You have to be prepared for the long haul with any bird suffering from this.
Adding molasses to their diet is also beneficial because it is full of vitamins and valuable nutrients. It's also better to add a natural source of Vitamin E to their diet rather than just the vitamin alone. The reason being that to absorb Vitamin E, it's necessary to add selenium too so the E can work. Natural sources provide both which makes life a lot easier. Very good natural sources of Vitamin E can be found in the following herbs:
There are quite a few spices that are great sources of both Vitamin E and selenium which include:
Other very good and rich sources of Vitamin E can be found in:
Preventing this disease is easier than curing it
As with most things that are health related in any animal, prevention is always that much easier than cure and this applies to wry neck in poultry too. Diet is very important, so you need to make sure your flock is getting enough Vitamin E and B1 in their food. You may like to consider supplementing their diet with some great natural sources of these vitamins which not only ensures a healthier flock, but it also adds a lot of variety to their feed.
Here are some supplements you can add to your flock to ensure enough vitamins are being taken ~
Making sure chickens are being fed a well balanced diet that contains all the right amounts of vitamins is very important because it reduces the chances of them suffering from wry neck. However, if you do notice any of your ducklings, chicks or adult birds are developing the condition, the first thing you need to do is up the level of Vitamin E and B1 you are giving them in their diet. You also need to separate any bird with the condition from the rest of the flock to make sure they don't get bullied and so that you can hand feed them, making sure they are drinking enough water too. Keeping them somewhere that's quiet also helps them to recover as when they are disturbed this causes more thrashing about from the affected bird. This in turn causes them to become even weaker than they already are from the lack of being able to eat and drink correctly.
It is advisable not to breed from affected birds incase it is genetic. It could be passed onto future generations.
For further help with wry neck please do drop by the emergencies injuries disease and cures section of the forum