This spring when we bought chicks we were excited to bring home several Americauna chicks. They were so cute and I was in love with one chick in particular. I spent a lot of time with this baby because she was so personable and had these adorable fluffy cheek feathers. At about 2 weeks old I noticed my little chick had a beak problem. The top portion of her beak was jutting to the right and the bottom portion to the left. I quickly researched online and discovered the disorder my chick had was called scissor beak or cross beak.
|The chick that I am talking about is to the far right, in the front.|
Scissor beak or cross beak is caused when the top and bottom part of the beak don’t align correctly due to the growth plates in the chicken’s skull not closing at the same rate. This results in the beak growing at different angles which can make eating and drinking difficult for some birds. There is no real treatment for this disorder and it varies in severity. Birds that have a mild case don’t ever have any difficulty, their beak is just crossed and with a little special care they are able to get on just fine. In moderate to severe cases though, this disorder can be deadly because it prohibits the bird from eating or drinking.
Sadly, the little chick of mine had to be culled. Her beak malformation was just too severe and even with all of the things I talk about later in this article, she still could not eat or drink enough to sustain her life. I am glad I had this knowledge and experience though because it would pay off later when I was house sitting for the Remy Homestead.
Katzya was out in the chicken coop messing around with the chickens when suddenly she comes racing in with one of the Americauna hens in her arms. (This disorder appears to be more prominent in the Americauna breed.) She says, “Mom this hen has the same beak thing that our chick had!” I looked closer and sure enough she was right. It was not as severe but definitely a problem. This time I was armed with some knowledge and I decided to grind the beak back a bit with the hope that I might be able to realign it some, and it worked!
So, please know if you have a chicken with cross beak, not all is lost. There are a number of ways you can attempt to help the bird before culling if that is of interest to you.
1. It is possible to either file or cut the beak to help realign it and take off some of the growth. This is not a permanent fix but it helps. It has to be done every 4-6 weeks, and you have to use some caution when attempting this. I used a cordless Dremel to ever so gently shave/sculpt the beak. Remember, don’t go too fast because you don’t want to create more problems than you started with! Also, the Dremel can get very hot, so exercise caution and patience when trying this method. Paired with some of the ideas below though, their hen has a good chance of living a fairly normal life.
2. Make sure your chicken’s food and water dishes are wide and deep because chickens that have this disorder “scoop” their food and water into their mouth.
3. It helps to feed the chicken a pelleted form of feed instead of a crumble. For some reason that appears easier for the chicken to manage.
4. Moisten the feed so it is not so difficult for the chicken to “scoop” it into it’s mouth and they don’t have to chase it.
5. Feed the chicken separate from the rest of the flock because it takes them extra time to eat and prohibits the other chickens from pushing them away from the feeders.
6. This disorder appears to be genetic so it is important that you don’t breed chickens that have this trait. (There is another school of thought that says this disease is not genetic, but is in fact due to badly regulated incubator temperatures. You can research and decide…..)
Hopefully this is information that you can file away in the back of your mind and never have to use, but if needed know that there are some options to help the bird lead a fairly normal life. And who knows, maybe you will need to share this information with one of your “chicken friends” too!
This post was shared on my favorite blog hops: