Crooked Beak In Hens & Poultry

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“I just noticed that one of my Auracana Pullets has an “over bite”? Her bottom beak goes to the left and her upper beak goes to the right. She has grown normally and is the same size as the rest of the batch I received from the hatchery. I assume she should have no problem in the future since she seems to be developing fine so far. Any insight as to why she is out of alignment? Her beak does not even come close to matching up. I was just curious. My guess is it was a deformity or and injury. It may be more common than I expect.” ~ Jill Reynolds

Hi Jill this is a great question.

From what you describe it sounds like your pullet has “crooked beak”.

It is actually more common than you would think.

Crooked beak is caused by one of two factors; heredity or a spike in the temperature within the incubator.

I’m a little surprised that a chick with this problem came from a hatchery because I would assume their breeding stock would be superior and the incubation process would be flawless. Just an assumption on my part, maybe I’m placing too much trust in the hatchery.

Anyway, crooked beak usually shows up between 2 and 10 weeks. It cannot be detected at hatch.

Typically the lower beak stays straight and just the upper is crooked. It can be as simple as a minor misalignment or as drastic as a complete cross of the upper portion. It can progress rapidly and be alarming. There is no cure.

Some people chose to cull the affected bird as soon as they see signs of crooked beak.

The concern is that the bird will not get enough nourishment to thrive. If you choose to try to save her, you’ll need to watch her closely and make adjustments as necessary to ensure she is getting enough feed.

A deep feed bowl is helpful so that she can scoop the feed into her mouth, the same would go for her water.

She will probably take longer to eat than the others so ensure she has ample time to eat and feed available. You might consider feeding her separately.

Chickens with this condition also seem to do well if you mix their feed with water creating an oatmeal consistency. Again, a deep bowl will help her to scoop the food.

I’d recommend that chickens with this ailment receive commercial feed. You cannot expect any significant portion of their diet to come from forage. For instance, they may work awfully hard to uncover bugs but it’s very difficult to get and keep them in their mouths. For the sake of their health, crooked beaked chickens need the complete nutrition found in commercial feed.

In some cases, the upper beak actually hinders the chicken’s ability to pick up food. You’ll need to trim (not cut off) the upper beak. If you’re not comfortable doing this, plan on regular visits to the veterinarian because the beak will grow back.

Even if you do all these things, there is a possibility that the chicken could still not receive adequate nutrition. If you suspect that the chicken is not thriving, the kindest thing you can do is to put her down. If you don’t, she’ll die slowly of starvation.

If she does survive, do not use her for breeding. Remember that this is most often times a genetic deformity. My understanding is that not all birds that carry this gene are inflicted but they can pass it along to their young.

If you incubate, or one of your hens hatches out a chick with this deformity, you’ll want to determine the parents. The cause could be from parents being too closely related or one or both carrying this gene. If you are absolutely sure that one or both carry this trait, I’d recommend culling them from your flock.

Jill if you choose to keep her, watch her very closely.

Get creative when it comes to feeding her if the upper beak continues to cross. If you’re vigilant she might do just fine.

I hope that was helpful.

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