18 week old pullets 'snapping heads'


12 Years
Jul 22, 2008
South Central MA
I know enough about chicken diseases to be completely paranoid and neurotic by now.

Some of my seven RIR/NHR flock sort of very quickly 'snap' their necks/heads. One does it pretty frequently. I do not believe I am dealing with one of those wild nervous diseases, but I'm wondering if it could be a respiratory thing. It almost seems like an attempt to shake something loose from within or toss something off that clings from without.

Some birds do this after hitting the water trough, so I know what they're doing then--getting rid of excess water on bill/face. But at other times...........Maybe this is normal, but I have some suspicions. Actually, I hate to even admit it, but when one 'shook' her head this a.m. I actually felt at the same moment a couple little drops of liquid hit me. She had NOT just hit the h20 trough.

and :eek:

thoughts for a rookie? I am pretty confused and tired because I have been observing health 'respiratory issues' with this flock since WEEK ONE of life--yet none have gotten worse and none have died--AND IT'S BEEN ALMOST 19 WEEKS. It is really hard to have real concerns, but not know for certain that there is a real illness. At least if all started getting listless, wheezing, sniffling and rattling I'd KNOW something was wrong. But OVER FOUR MONTHS of just wondering. This has really been a stressful thing--mild, but real, for me that is, if not the birds. But I think they may be more relaxed than I!

Here is what I'm going to recommend for you Chickenmonk: And I say this with LOVE:

Calm down and ENJOY your chickens:D. Dont worry every day that something is wrong. Keep them in a dry, ventilated coop, safe from preditors. Give them fresh water daily. Give them fresh feed daily. And ENJOY them. I think you read the emergency section here too much and you are starting to get paranoid. Chickens should be fun and happy to raise, not stressful. You have said yourself that none of them have really gotten sick or died yet. Just because you are noticing respiratory symptoms, doesnt necessarily mean they have a disease. Maybe your ventilation is not adequate even though you think it is and the dust is bothering them. This happened to a friend of mine.......quick story. His chickens sneezed all the time, never really getting sick. He treated, never got better. I took them and kept them outside each day and in a very well ventilated coop at night. Within 2 days, the chickens did not sneeze even once.

Anyway, I am not saying let your chickens die, I just want you to enjoy them!!! Sometimes these little symptoms will come and go and dont need intervention. Next week this symptom may be gone and replaced by another.

Now for a different approach:

I'm not sure how much your chickens are snapping heads or exactly what you mean but you can look into gapeworms. They attach in the trachea and prevent the birds from breathing properly. The bird will throw its head around and shake it alot trying to expell them. I'm not sure how common this is but it does happen. Ivomermectin is the treatment for gapeworm.

Another thing you can think about is using vetrx. It is the chicken version of vicks vapor rub. You can rub it onto the nostrils, comb, and wattles everynight and this will help if they have some kind of congestion going on that is making them shake their heads.
I have a couple of girls who always do a little headshake. They have always been that way; no one has worms of any kind or an ear infection or mites/lice. One girl does it the whole time I talk to her when she's sitting in my lap. Just saying all this to say it may be nothing. In absence of other symptoms and the aforementioned conditions (surely check for lice and mites in the ear area, etc.), I'd just relax and dont worry too much.

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