How to Fix a Chicken Twisting Head Upside Down

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A chicken twisting its head upside down is a disturbing sight. A symptom of wry neck, this condition is easy to treat, if a little time-consuming, and even easier to prevent.

Wry neck can be caused by different issues, all of which we’ll address below.

  1. Genetic disorders
  2. Head injury
  3. Toxins
  4. Vitamin deficiencies

You can prevent wry neck by:

  1. Only buying healthy birds and never from a commercial broiler yard.
  2. Minimizing head injuries by ensuring that each chicken has an adequate amount of space.
  3. Avoiding specific breeds that are susceptible
  4. Only feeding fresh foods to your chickens
  5. Making sure your chickens eat a healthy diet with all the vitamins and minerals they need.

Below, we’ll go through the details of your chicken twisting its head upside down, how to prevent it, and how to fix it.

What Does Wry Neck Look Like?

Chronic Wry Neck Torticollis Natural Nutritional Treatment Tratamiento tortícolis

A couple of months ago, I thought one of my chickens had broken her neck and, if you ever saw a chicken twisting head upside down like she was, you’d probably think so too.

Instead of pecking around, as usual, she had her head twisted around as if she was trying to spot a shooting star. It was clearly a stressful time for her.

In her strange position, my hen could just about walk but eating and drinking were out of the question.

A panicked call to a veterinary friend revealed that my chicken was suffering from a condition known as wry neck. Although less common in older birds, like my star-gazing hen, wry neck “affects about 8% of chicks across all breeds.”

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05/09/2024 04:59 pm GMT

What is Wry Neck in Chickens and What Causes It?

Treating Wry Neck

While not an illness in itself, wry neck is a clinical sign of a deeper problem.

Also called crook neck or twisted neck, wry neck’s scientific name is torticollis, and refers to a muscular disorder in poultry manifested by a curved neck and limited head mobility.

Wry Neck Can Be a Symptom of Several Conditions

These conditions include:

1. Genetic Disorders

There is evidence to suggest that, within the commercial broiler industry, at least, genetic selection has led to an increase in “skeletal abnormalities,” including congenital cervical scoliosis and torticollis (CCST).

This is unlikely to be the cause of my chicken twisting head upside down problem, however, or any other backyard chicken.

It’s almost certainly one of the “negative effects of intensive genetic selection,” to which few backyard chickens are, thankfully, ever exposed.

2. Head Injury

Sustaining a severe head injury could cause a chicken twisting head upside down scenario. Some breeds are more susceptible to this type of wry neck simply because their thinner skulls offer inadequate protection.

Overcrowding can also lead to bullying or pecking, either of which could result in a head injury.

3. Toxins

Wry neck can be associated with toxin-induced botulism or paralysis of the neck and limbs.

So, what toxins cause wry neck in chickens?

Just the one – “a toxin produced by a bacterium (Clostridium botulinum) that lives on decaying animal and vegetable matter.”

4. Vitamin Deficiency

This is the most common cause of wry neck, especially in backyard hens. If your chickens’ diet is deficient in specific vitamins, namely B1 and E1, it can result in chicken twisting head upside down syndrome.

Here are a chicken’s mineral and vitamin requirements for starters (0-6 wks old, first column), growers (6-12 wks old, second column), finishers (12-18 wks old, third column), and chickens from 18 weeks old to their first egg (fourth column).

Chart of chicken mineral and vitamin requirements for starters, growers, finishers, and chickens from 18 weeks old to their first egg. Source: http://www.poultrydvm.com/views/feedtable.php

How Can I Prevent Wry Neck?

1. Avoid Chickens With a Genetic Predisposition

You can easily avoid chickens with a genetic predisposition towards wry neck by only buying healthy birds and never from a commercial broiler yard.

2. Minimize Head Injuries

It’s also easy to minimize head injuries, by ensuring that each chicken has an adequate amount of space – around “4 square feet per chicken in the coop along with 10 square feet per chicken in the run”.

3. Avoid Specific Breeds

Avoiding specific breeds, like “Silkies and Polish chickens” which are the “most susceptible to bad injuries,” can also help.

4. Prevent Botulism

You can also stop chicken twisting head upside down as a result of botulism by removing any dead birds from the coop and ensuring you only give fresh foods to your chickens.

5. Make Sure They Get Adequate Vitamins

When it comes to vitamins, the easiest way to boost your chickens’ intake of B1 is to add bran, Brewer’s Yeast, sunflower seeds, or wheat germ to their diet.

Meanwhile, good sources of vitamin E include:

How Do You Fix Wry Neck in Chickens?

While not a complicated process, helping a chicken that’s twisting its head upside requires patience and commitment. Once you’ve stocked up on those, you can follow these simple steps:

1. Isolate the Chicken

Remove the wry neck chicken from the flock, preferably to a nearby shelter where she can still see her flock but can’t be trampled on or knocked over.

2. Feed a Vitamin Supplement With Vitamin E and Selenium

Feed your chicken a chicken vitamin supplement containing both vitamin E and selenium (or buy a dedicated vit E and selenium supplement) two to three times a day.

Pavlovafowl (in the video above) had good success with organic beef liver, sunflower seeds, and turmeric.

3. Help Your Chicken Eat and Drink

Help your chicken eat and drink during its healing time, either by supporting her close to the food dish or spoon-feeding her.

4. Don’t Give Up, It’s a Long Road

Don’t give up! You’ll need to carry on this routine for several weeks, even if your chicken shows signs of recovery.

Catch It Early Enough

As frightening as it looks, it is possible to fix chicken upside down head syndrome as long as you catch it early enough.

It’s a pain-staking process, however, and keeping a healthy flock is definitely the better route. Feeding your chickens a well-balanced diet with plenty of fresh components is essential, as is providing your chickens with enough space to, well, be chickens.

If you do see a chicken doing the star-gazing thing, don’t despair, but do settle in for the long haul.

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  1. Thank you for this post. We have a chicken with wry neck and separated her. She’s much more functional now, although her head does occasionally twist down. Is there any advice to rehome her? We cannot put her back with the brood. They have been attacking her and if we leave her with them she wont make it. Please let us know if you have any suggestions for refuge for her.

    1. Hey Matt.

      Thanks so much for writing to us!

      And we’re sorry to hear about your chicken’s wry neck.


      Have you tried speaking with a veterinarian? Treatment or physical therapy might help, depending on the cause of the wry neck.

      If you must isolate the chicken, nothing beats a spare coop and fence section so the other birds can’t reach it. Give the entire flock more space if possible. They can get territorial, especially in tight quarters. But we know this isn’t always possible.

      Consider adding more hiding spots if you can reintroduce your wry-neck chicken to the flock. Saw horses, chairs, hay bales, pallets, toolboxes, benches, potted plants, ladders, or anything that lets the chicken get out of sight can help. (If the birds can always see each other with 100% accuracy, your poor bird might be more susceptible to bullies.)

      Another option is to find a safe home for the chicken. Try contacting local animal rescue organizations or rescue shelters. You can also search local homesteading groups on Facebook to see if you can find a suitable home.

      No matter what happens, let us know how it turns out. We wish you and your flock the best!



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