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August Abbott, CAS
August Abbott, CAS, Certified Avian Specialist
Category: Bird
Satisfied Customers: 7611
Experience:  Cert. Avian Specialist; Int. Assoc.Animal Behavior Consult; Pet Ind. Joint Advisory Council; author
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I have a 10 week old silkie chicken who suddenly has presented

Customer Question

I have a 10 week old silkie chicken who suddenly has presented with a twisted/dropped neck and is obviously lost her equilibrium. She is not wheezing and does not have any diarrhea. I have given her a little water with terramycin in it and also used a little terramycin ointment in her vent. Only thing I had to give her. Wrapped her up in flannel and put her under a heat lamp. I have separated her from my other young silkies. These are beautiful birds, breeder to show quality. Don't want to lose any of them.
Submitted: 8 years ago.
Category: Bird
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 8 years ago.

Hi Mary, I must admit this is perplexing given the degree of care you're providing. Excellent all around.

Without change in droppings and no exudates, the symptoms you do see are hard to attach to any one issue.

Can you easily pull feathers from the neck region? Are you finding this bird has lost ability to use wings (paralysis)?

Customer: replied 8 years ago.
Thank you for getting back to me. She does not have any paralysis of the wings, legs, etc.

I think I may have figured out what the problem is. There is an extensive article online by Alan Stanford, Ph.D., who has been a well-known breeder of silkies for some time. He referred to a bump on the vaulted skull as having been known to cause this problem, as it tends to cause swelling in the exposed portion of the brain. Says it is not all that uncommon, as the bird could have had a minor injury that wouldn't hurt a bird without the vaulted skull. Silkies are vulnerable to this, apparently. He says to give high doses of vitamin E, and some B vitamins, with prednisone and selenium to bring down the swelling. Apparently it has worked. 2.5 mg of prednisone and 400 units of Vitamin E with a little squirt of baby vita sol liquid vitamins. I guess I will take this protocol to my vet and see about trying the prednisone. I gave her some vita sol drops last night and sugar water with a little terramycin in it, and she is hydrated, but not eating. So, I don't know if we will be able to save her or not. They call this neck position "star-gazing" as her neck is twisted (although she is trying to right it and get re-oriented). This is really tragic as she is a beautiful little bird from show quality parents and I take exceptionally good care of my small flock of birds. Thanks but I think I need to get the local vet to handle this, don't you ? Pretty unique problem.
Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 8 years ago.

Torticollis (wry neck) may occur in birds infected with Pasteurella bacterial infection, also known as Fowl Cholera.

A bird may be a chronic carrier, living with one or multiple symptoms; however, many birds that are infected with this bacteria progress rapidly with a high mortality rate.

Symptoms include (but not all need to be present): Lethargy, going off food/water, discharge from the mouth (often described as salivating or drooling), rapid breathing, fever (feet will be extremely warm), conjunctivitis (red, swollen, itchy eyes) and localized infections.

When the middle ear, cranial bones or meninges are infected, ‘wry neck’ (Torticollis) is seen.

Treatments include antibiotics such as Sulfonamides or in some cases, Penicillin. Be sure you have an experienced vet since Sulfas have toxic levels.

Other bacterial infections that may cause similar symptoms are:

Chlamydia, mycobacteria, salmonella, yersinia and others. Tests should include sampling (and culture) of the nares (nostrils), oral cavity, cloaca, etc., but if the vet isn’t knowledgeable about the normal flora in the bird species they are examining, the results may not mean much. Inexperienced vets will find that the culture grows something and often base their diagnosis on what they know of mammals.

Botulism is also known as "limberneck" because of the effect it might have a bird's neck. It can happen to one bird like this rather than the whole flock and is not a transmissable disease. Though it's far more frequent in waterfowl, if your chickens were allowed free grazing and this one ingested decaying vegetation or any number of other possibilities, it would account for at least part of the symptoms you're seeing.

Your vet (which yes, I absolutely do recommend you see) may use a botulism antitoxin injection.

No matter what it is, you're doing the right thing in caring this much. I'd be interested to know what you find out so if you wouldn't mind, check back and let me know ok?

I wish you all the luck in the world on this little one and God bless,

August Abbott, CAS and other Bird Specialists are ready to help you
Customer: replied 8 years ago.

Thank you for your response, but the pullet doesn't have any of the symptoms associated with these conditions and because the onset was so sudden, I tend to think that Alan Stanford's explanation of trauma to the vaulted skull (neurological insult) may be a pretty good explanation, as to the abrupt onset and sudden cause of her condition.


The reason I am thinking along these lines is that she has been in a very controlled environment, is not being free-ranged and none of my other silkies have any symptoms that would indicate this is a wide-spread problem. I have about 16 silkies and they are all doing fine. They have been checked, and are worm-free, coccidiosis free, and in generally great health and condition.


However, I am going to take her to my vet who does have a degree in poultry science from TX A&M and see what turns up.


I will let you know how it goes. I just got her to take some mashed, hard boiled egg, so maybe I can keep her strength up, if in fact, this is due to trauma, until the swelling (?) goes down and she can function. I am going to try to keep from having to put her down if I can.


I appreciate your kindness. Chickens are neat and mine seem to be really bright little creatures. I never realized how smart they are !


Thank you.

Expert:  August Abbott, CAS replied 8 years ago.

I wish more people understood there are big personalities and much more intelligence behind these pretty faces . I've had chickens in my life since I was born so I consider myself advantaged.

***** Do not press accept on this question again *****

I'm happy to follow up and appreciate the opportunity to learn what is found in this case.

Good luck!