Young chicken can't open beak


7 Years
Sep 5, 2013
Los Angeles, CA
Hello everyone. I was visiting my grandfather's house the other day and he has a small coop with about five chickens. Naturally I decided to spend time with them. All was well until I decided to pick up the friendliest chicken and felt how thin she was! I have my own chicken at home, so I know how full a chicken's breast should feel in my hand. That was not the case with this young chicken (I'm guessing a month old?), the poor thing was bones! She also has feather damage on her rump and tail, most likely from the other chickens, so I thought perhaps they were keeping her (I assume female) from eating.

When I brought her home I offered some sliced grapes, and that's when I noticed her problem. She can't open her beak! Not fully anyways, she's able to open it enough to take in water and crumbs. I'm too afraid of hurting her if I was to try to open her beak myself.

I'm currently feeding her baby bird formula, along with ground up oatmeal until I can go to the feed store and buy the ground up chick feed. I'm also going to offer her various mashed up fruits and veggies to help her along.

She's still quite alert and active for such a malnourished bird. She has a healthy appetite, and tries to eat anything I offer. At least I managed to catch the problem before she was too far gone. I only give her a small amount of food at a time, I'd say an eighth of a cup, because it takes her so long to eat. Her crop appears to be emptying well as far as I can tell.

Any idea's what could be the problem? Or perhaps some suggestions? I'll be sure to update on her condition as thing goes along.

I'll try to get some pictures too.
Pictures would be a good idea if you can get some. It sounds like she has injured, or otherwise has a deformity in her jaw. Have you examined it and can you see/feel anything? Does her head and beak etc look normal otherwise?
Thank you for the information. The chicken has been eating well these few days. Thankfully I haven't had to resort to tube feeding. I'm going to start tracking her weight and hopefully there'll be improvements soon.

I'm guessing it's a deformity in her jaw, perhaps the muscles? Unfortunately the only vet nearby only examines dogs and cats. The beak looks perfectly fine otherwise. I have some pictures now.

That's as far as I can open it without applying too much force. All the while the beak wants to close again, unlike my other chicken who will open her mouth to pull her beak out of my hand. Even though her beak can open, she doesn't have enough strength to open it that wide. I have given her scratch to see how she handles it, but most of the time she ends up pushing the seeds around and even if she does get one in her beak she doesn't always manage to get it into her mouth and drops it. I may just have a special needs chicken on my hands.
Poor girl. The beak does look fine, everything lines up, and she looks pretty good otherwise. Agree that the underside of her head/jaw does look underdeveloped and flat and that she has had an injury to the muscle or jaw at some point. You could take her to the vet, but I think you will wind up spending a lot of money with nothing to really show for it. I think you are left with feeding her soft or finely ground food (mash) like the poster above suggested. As long as she can open her mouth to some extent she should be able to eat enough to be fine. You might try gently opening her beak a little more a few times a day and see if that helps over time. The only other thing, I think that she is more than a month old since I am not seeing much in the way of chick fluff, hope so, because if she was only a month old there is a fair chance she is actually a he with the red wattles.
My year old hen can't close her beak; she acts as if she's hot, in very nice cool temps. what can I do? Her throat is clear, nothing in the roof of her mouth.
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I can close it for her but it opens right back up, she cant eat or drink. She acts as if it's really hot and panting. I will try to get something down her using an eyedropper.
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