Wry Neck in Chickens: Everything You Need to Know

Wry neck chicken in the garden
Image credit: demetertheeasteregger / Instagram

If you have ever encountered a fowl suffering from a chick wry neck, you know the feeling of panic that comes with it. After all, the appearance of a warped neck in a chicken can be disturbing.

In fact, you may find that your mind is now filled with questions like, “Is wry neck contagious?” “How long does it take to treat wry neck?” and “Will my chicks survive if I let them go unchecked?” Yet, try to stay calm.

In this guide, all you need to know about wry neck will be revealed in detail. From causes to warning signs and prevention methods, this article will help answer your queries concerning this brain-twisting condition. Let’s begin!

What Is Wry Neck in Chickens?

Wry neck chicken sitting on hay

Torticollis, also called wry neck, twisted neck, crook neck, or stargazing, is a condition in chickens — primarily seen in young ones — whose heads and necks are held in a curled position. It has many causes, from genetics to nutritional deficiencies and head injury.

Generally, a chick wry neck is not a disease in itself; it’s a symptom. It is when a young chicken tries to raise its head straight — and the neck and head muscles are too tight to support that action.

The chicken’s neck will then bend or twist at an angle to one side or another, usually with the head pointing up toward the sky.

Unfortunately, this wry neck chick symptom can be provoked by a number of issues like deficiencies in vitamin E, injury to the head and neck region, and adult chickens accidentally ingesting toxins.

What Does Wry Neck Look Like in Chickens?

Wry neck chicken sitting with leaves
Image credit: herberthomestead_ / Instagram

When a chicken develops torticollis, it can’t hold its head and neck upright. Instead, you will notice that its neck seems to twist oddly, making the chicken appear as if it’s gazing off into space or looking down at its feet.

Specifically, from a distance, it might look like the affected chicken or chick is simply observing the sky, hence the name stargazing.

However, upon closer inspection, it becomes evident that the chicken with wry neck is experiencing difficulty keeping its head straight.

In certain cases, some chickens’ heads will even continuously roll or tilt on one side or another, looking like they are having a seizure.

Additionally, to get a better look at wry neck in chicks, watch this video:

Help! Is this Wry Neck? #chicken #gallos #babybird #babyanimal #gallosfinos #chick #babychick

What Causes Wry Neck in Chickens?

There are many causes of wry neck in chickens. In fact, from viruses to deficiencies and toxins to genes, the list of potential reasons is long and varied.

Luckily, this section will help you narrow down the possibilities so you can start treating your chicken’s neck problem.


Most of the time, wry neck is caused by a genetic mutation. In particular, a few chickens are born with genetic defects, like congenital cervical scoliosis, that cause them to exhibit crooked necks.

However, note that no particular breeds of chickens are more prone to this than others; rather, it is a condition that occurs in chickens of all ages and types.

Injury to the Head

Chickens are curious creatures, and in their day-to-day activities, they may sustain injuries. If a fowl suffers trauma to its head or neck area, this can lead to wry neck chicken condition.

Nutritional Deficiencies

Generally speaking, wry neck is most commonly caused by a lack of vitamin B1, vitamin E, and selenium. For one thing, if chickens are given medicated chick feed for extended periods, a vitamin B1 deficiency can occur.

On the other hand, wry neck can be one of the effects of a deficiency of vitamin E, as this particular nutrient is required for proper immune system function.

In the case of selenium deficiency, your flock will likely develop torticollis due to their lowered immunity levels caused by their lack of this essential mineral.

Neurological Disorder

Sometimes, the cause of wry neck in chickens is more internal. For instance, neurological disorders, such as avian encephalomyelitis, can affect the chicken’s head and neck position.


Botulism is a form of poisoning that chickens can contract from consuming spoiled food, dirty water, or other toxins. Unfortunately, this illness affects the nervous system and can cause wry neck, among other symptoms.

Underlying Diseases

One of the many known causes of wry neck in a chicken is if it’s suffering from an underlying disease.

For your reference, below are some of the most common diseases that can affect both chickens and chicks, which in turn can result in wry neck:

  • Newcastle disease
  • Avian influenza
  • Ergotism
  • Fowl cholera
  • Marek’s disease and its vaccine
  • Aspergillosis
  • Listeriosis
  • Arizonosis

If you suspect your chicken’s wry neck is a symptom of any of the listed diseases above, contact your local veterinarian to get your whole flock checked out.

What Are the Symptoms of Wry Neck in Chickens?

Wry neck chicken in the backyard
Image credit: blacksmithfarm / Instagram

Recognizing wry neck symptoms is essential for any chicken keeper. By spotting these signs early, you can take steps to address the underlying cause and ensure the well-being of your flock.

The following are some of the most common symptoms of chick wry neck:

  • Twisted neck: Chickens suffering from wry neck may display a strange posture where their neck is twisted or contorted. This makes it challenging for the chicken to hold its head upright.
  • Loss of balance: Chick wry neck can also cause a loss of balance. Affected chickens may stumble or appear unsteady on their feet, making regular movement difficult.
  • Tilting or rolling head: Beyond just a twisted neck, chickens might also continuously tilt their heads or even roll them when suffering from a wry neck.
  • Circling: Wry neck can cause a chick to move in circles. Specifically, this can be provoked by the chick’s head being held abnormally low or high.
  • Lethargy: Chick wry neck causes chickens to be lethargic. They might not be as active as before and may seem less interested in their surroundings since torticollis can cause discomfort.

Understanding these symptoms is crucial in ensuring the health and comfort of your chickens. In the end, wry neck can be distressing to witness, so it’s important to know how to recognize it early.

How to Treat Wry Neck in Chickens

When dealing with wry neck chicken, note that prompt treatment can make a significant difference. Firstly, it’s vital to identify and address any underlying diseases that might be causing this unusual symptom.

Second, vitamin E supplements for chickens are often recommended, as they can support neurological health. Remember that an affected chicken has likely developed wry neck due to a lack of such a nutrient.

Meanwhile, to protect the chick from further stress, isolating it can be beneficial. During this period, you may also need to assist it by making sure it eats and drinks, as it can struggle with these basic actions.

Finally, having the affected chicken examined by a vet is always a good practice.

While the chances are low that chickens suffering from wry neck will quickly recover, this condition can be managed successfully with appropriate intervention.

Can a Chick Recover From Wry Neck?

Wry neck chick in the sofa
Image credit: youandmeinanrvwiththree / Instagram

A chick with a crooked neck may initially present a worrying sight, but there’s hope. While both chicks and adult chickens can live with this condition, treatments are available to better their quality of life.

However, it’s important to note that correcting chick wry neck isn’t an overnight process.

Although, in some chickens, positive signs start showing as early as 24 hours into treatment, others can take up to a few weeks or even months before they show any good indications of improvement.

Years ago, as a backyard chicken owner, I encountered a young chick with a twisted neck in my flock. At first, I was puzzled, but research led me to the term “chick with wry neck.”

The underlying cause remained uncertain, but I tweaked the chicken feed and added supplements to see if this helped the chick. After more than two months of treatment, its condition had improved significantly.

How to Prevent Wry Neck in Chickens

To ensure the health and longevity of your chickens, understanding how to prevent problems like wry neck is vital. Fortunately, with a few steps, you can significantly reduce the risk of this condition affecting your flock.

Below are some of the best ways to prevent wry neck in chickens:

  • Proportional diet: To minimize the risk of torticollis, give your chickens an appropriate diet that includes a balanced mix of grains, protein, and vitamins.
  • Safe environment: Chick wry neck can result from trauma to the head. Hence, ensure to keep your chickens in an environment free of objects that can cause injuries.
  • Avoid toxic exposures: Chemicals and toxins can trigger chick wry neck. So, protect your chickens by ensuring they’re not exposed to harmful substances.
  • Buy eggs from reputable sources: Healthy parent stock is less likely to produce chicks prone to conditions like wry neck. Thus, make sure to purchase eggs and hens from trusted poultry farms.
  • Invest in foods rich in vitamin E: Typically, the most effective way to prevent wry neck in chicks is to buy foods high in vitamin E. Such foods include sunflower seeds, spinach, and broccoli, which you can give to your chicken by mixing them with its chicken feed.
  • Regular health checkups: Monitoring the health of your flock and conducting frequent checkups can help in early detection and prevention of wry neck.

By sticking to these steps, you can offer your fowls a healthy life, reducing their chances of developing torticollis. Remember, the key is a mix of a balanced diet, a secure environment, and routine vet visits.

Common Myths and Misconceptions About Wry Neck

Wry neck chicken being fed
Image credit: kookychic59 / Instagram

Chick wry neck is a condition that has generated a number of myths and misconceptions over time. Sadly, these misinterpretations can sometimes hinder effective chicken keeping and treatment.

In this section, let’s debunk some common myths about wry neck.

1. Infectious disease

To start, keep in mind that wry neck is not contagious.

The truth is that while wry neck can be fatal, it cannot spread from one chick to another. It is often due to a combination of factors such as stress, malnutrition, and certain diseases.

2. Purely genetic

Another misconception is that torticollis is purely genetic.

While genes can play a role, and there are cases where chickens are born with predispositions, it is highly likely that they aren’t the sole and exact cause of wry neck.

3. All cases look the same

Every case of wry neck doesn’t present the same symptoms. Although wry neck usually manifests as a chicken struggling to hold its head up, the severity and appearance can vary significantly among individual birds.

4. Only affects particular chicken breeds

While some think that only specific breeds, like Polish breeds of chickens, are affected by wry neck, the reality is different. No matter the breed, age, or gender of your chicken, it can develop this condition.

That’s why it’s essential to make sure your chickens, regardless of breed, are observed for signs of this condition.

5. Considered an illness

Chick wry neck is often misunderstood as an illness in itself. In reality, though, it is a symptom and not a disease. In short, it can be a sign of underlying health disorders or nutritional deficiencies that need addressing.

6. Can be treated by traction

During my friend’s early days of chicken keeping, she came across a chick struggling to keep its head up. The local advice was to use traction to treat it, a method involving gentle pulling. However, this method is misguided.

Not only did it not help, but it also added pain and discomfort to the chicken’s already damaging condition.

How to Feed a Chicken With a Wry Neck

Caring for a chicken with a wry neck can be challenging, especially when it comes to feeding. Basically, if your chick has this condition, its head positioning can make eating and drinking a struggle.

First, you’ll want to wrap the affected chicken in a clean towel. This helps hold its head in a more natural position, making it easier for you to help your chicken eat and drink.

Then, spoon-feed your feathered companion with soft foods. You can also invest in broccoli, spinach, sunflower seeds, asparagus, and other vitamin E-rich vegetables to help promote healing.

Meanwhile, regarding hydration, a syringe is an effective tool to help the fowl drink water.

Simply put, the goal is to assist your chicken by making food and water more easily accessible.

Frequently Asked Questions

Wry neck chicken bundled in a blanket
Image credit: curiousmekeithtea_garden / Instagram

How Long Can a Chicken Survive With a Wry Neck?

A chicken with a wry neck can live for many years with proper management.

For example, giving supplements to the affected chickens and ensuring they have access to fresh water, enough space, and food are all critical to their survival.

Can Wry Neck Kill a Chicken?

Yes, torticollis or wry neck can kill chickens, particularly if they aren’t given adequate nutrition. Further, if the underlying cause of this condition is severe and untreatable, the affected chicken’s health can decline rapidly.

How Long Does It Take to Cure Wry Neck in Chickens?

Curing wry neck in chickens can take up to a month or two. However, some chickens may not fully recover despite treatment efforts.

Still, keep in mind that it’s vital to consistently care for the affected chicken during this period to maximize recovery chances.

Will Wry Neck Go Away on Its Own?

Yes, wry neck can sometimes go away on its own. Yet, to ensure the best chance for recovery, make sure to monitor the affected chick or chicken and provide the necessary care.

Overall, addressing it can prevent potential complications early on.

Final Thoughts

Wry neck in chickens can be distressing for both the fowl and the owner. However, bear in mind that with accurate knowledge and timely interventions, it’s possible to manage and even prevent this condition.

For one, since wry neck is just a symptom of other health problems — like an infection, injury, or nutritional deficiency — it’s vital for keepers to identify the root cause first.

Moreover, while there are many misconceptions about this condition, it’s essential to remember that, in most instances, a chicken with a wry neck can lead a long and healthy life.

Yet, note that this is only possible if you know how to treat your affected chicks properly. Otherwise, your young chickens may not recover at all and even die due to complications stemming from a twisted neck.

Feel free to drop a comment if you have thoughts to share about this ultimate guide to wry neck!

Leave a Comment

You may also like