Throat area is jerking forwards and backwards...what is this?

Brienna

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 26, 2014
102
4
74
Quebec, Canada
My 4 hens are currently roosting and I'm seeing a new behavior that I've never seen before. This is not gaping, but it seems like they are gagging, with their throats going forwards and backwards (mouths closed)...it's hard to explain. At first I noticed my hen who was standing doing this, but now noticed that 2 other hens who are laying down are doing this too. They have never done this before, or at least I have never noticed it. What could this be?
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
What did they have access to today? Or in the last few days? Even things they don't normally eat.

Sounds to me like blocked up crops, leaving food protruding into their throats; they're trying to swallow but can't. This needs tending to asap.

Can you feel their crops? Depending on what's in there they may need vomiting, flushing, or surgery. If indeed it's a blocked crop issue.

Best wishes.
 

Brienna

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 26, 2014
102
4
74
Quebec, Canada
Thank you both for your replies. I checked their crops and they are fine. We don't give them lots of treats, the only thing they ate apart from their feed in the past few days was some cottage cheese. They are kept in a run with sand, so it can't be long strands of grass or anything. I haven't seen them do the weird movement since the other night. I think it passed on its own :) thank you for your advice!
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
I was thinking perhaps severe dehydration, but generally that'd be easy to diagnose (nobody filled the water bowl lol)... Anyway, good to hear it came to nothing, but I'd still expect a potential recurrence since the cause was not found and it's basically unheard of for more than one chook at a time to display this unusual behavior.

What's the chances they somehow kicked up a lot of dust and ended up with throatfuls?

Best wishes.
 

Brienna

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 26, 2014
102
4
74
Quebec, Canada
I would doubt dehydration because they have two huge waterers, one in the run and one in the coop. Their run is full of sand and dirt, so maybe they got some in their throats while dustbathing or something? One more thing, my bedding in the coop is pine shavings. They scratch and peck around like they do in the run. Could they be eating the shavings? I think they might be eating the tiny pieces.. is this really bad for them?
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
I would doubt dehydration because they have two huge waterers, one in the run and one in the coop. Their run is full of sand and dirt, so maybe they got some in their throats while dustbathing or something? One more thing, my bedding in the coop is pine shavings. They scratch and peck around like they do in the run. Could they be eating the shavings? I think they might be eating the tiny pieces.. is this really bad for them?

Yes, plenty of chooks kill themselves eating pine shavings. It does sound like the likeliest bet in this case.

Best wishes.
 

Brienna

Chirping
5 Years
Apr 26, 2014
102
4
74
Quebec, Canada
It's bad even if they eat the tiniest pieces? They don't go for the big ones.... What kind of bedding do you recommend? I've read that sand could be good?
 

chooks4life

Crowing
6 Years
Apr 8, 2013
4,902
678
296
Australia
It's bad even if they eat the tiniest pieces? They don't go for the big ones.... What kind of bedding do you recommend? I've read that sand could be good?

Sand would likely be safer, but it all depends on your chooks. Some chooks, not too small a percentage either, have pica/pika and will consume all manner of non-edibles; one of the easiest things to instil in an animal for life, pica, all it takes is even a short period of severe deficiency and they can remain compulsive consumers of anything and everything for life.

I haven't read any really decent research yet into why some get pica and others don't, but it happens to humans too, and can happen with no visible symptoms of a deficiency having occurred. There are many potential causes of it.

It's bad if they eat enough of the tiniest pieces, no matter how tiny, because chickens are not equipped to consume wood. Too fibrous weed matter is bad enough, i.e. grass that's too dry, never mind wood. It builds up within them, and once there's sufficient pulp to strain their stomachs and immobilize the rocks, grits etc they use as teeth, they're in trouble.

This incident may have taught them a lesson, but nothing can teach animals with pica a lesson; might be worth looking into replacing the shavings if you repeatedly see them eating it. Sand is quite possibly one of your best alternatives.

Best wishes.
 

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