Cautionary tale about chickens with vaulted skulls


Jun 13, 2020
Virginia, USA
(... mainly about vaulted skulls in breeds other than silkies and polish)

So this summer I hatched a SFH from a variety “pack” of eggs from eBay. The first chick to hatch was this SFH and it had a strange “bump” on its crown. I was freaked out about this deformity, but learned from BYC that it was a vaulted skull (which is technically a deformity ...). The chick was otherwise a happy healthy thing, and laid back right out of the egg. It would just sit down in my hand and chill. I figured it it was a roo, I’d process and if a girl, take my chances with the vaulted skull. I only found tidbits about vaulted skulls in SFH - basically it happens when two crested birds are mated (SFH come crested and not crested) and it is not advised to breed crested together.
So of course the chick grew into a cockerel with the biggest poofiest head puff. Had to trim away from his eyes and even had an infection in the crease of his eyelid. He remained super sweet and still sat and chilled in my hand (now at least two hands cuz he’s big!).

Couldnt cull him after all and moved him and another cockerel that was supposed to be supper into the pen with the old adult rooster, a few old hens and plenty of pullets. The young Roos did well, but of course the SFH was hitting his hormones and attempted to mate the girls. The old roo of course would chase him occasionally, but other than that everyone more or less got along. So Christmas Day. The SFH didn’t come in the coop when I went to feed. Not concerned, he often comes looking for treats but not always, probably out in the big run somewhere. In the evening just after dark I go out to check things and put him and two other chickens on the roost. I suspect he can’t see well enough past his poof to get up to it. He wasn’t in the coop. I’m sure y’all know where this is going ... went out in the run and found him barely responsive in a corner. His head was bloody, probably picked at by the old roo. On any other chicken it wasn’t that bad, no ripped skin or anything, and combs are highly vascular, so looked worse than it was. Except on him with the vaulted skull, a non-fatal peck became fatal. He died a few hours later in the house. It didn’t help he was cold - it had been 30 degrees all day, and he had probably been there a good portion of the day. I should have gone out into the run to look around, but it was Christmas and I didn’t. I knew this might be a possibility for him, it was just so soon and might have been different if I’d looked for him sooner ...

Anyway, lesson is, if you have a bird with a vaulted skull, I’m not saying to cull it, just be prepared for the possibility of bad injury or death. And a huge head poof ...

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