Chicken Coop Chatter©
Scissor Beak, Crossed Beak, Parrot Beak are all terms used for fowl of any breed, that develop an abnormal beak that is crossed. Some may be slightly crossed, others severely crossed. The bird may be hatched with the crossed beak, or it may develop over time, if they are not able to keep their beak honed. These may be special needs birds, depending on the severity of the crossed beak.
Some may be of the notion that a bird with this abnormality cannot survive or thrive, however we know they can and will do fine, though they are disadvantaged to some degree and may have special needs. There are theories that this condition is genetic, but it may also happen as the chick is attempting to pip through a thicker shell. Some egg shells are thicker than others and some breeds consistently lay thicker shelled eggs.
This may also happen in incubation if the humidity is not kept at optimum, causing the shell to harden, making it more difficult for the chick to break through.
We had a little cross-beaked pullet that Laurie, one of our Fans and Customer purchased deliberately because of the special needs. *Flower* as Laurie has named her is healthy, thriving and though it may take her a little longer to eat, Laurie has found that if she keeps the dish full, that it is much easier for Flower to access the food with her tongue, to help scoop it into her mouth.
Chickens naturally hone their beaks on rocks and hard substances. When you see them rubbing their beaks on a hard surface, they are not just cleaning their beaks, they are honing them to keep them even; you may have noticed this activity with wild birds as well, as they scrape their beak on a tree limb, rock or even pavement. A cross-beaked chicken may not be able to hone its beak successfully and you may have to trim the lower beak if it is severely crossed. To trim; a dog or cat nail clipper or a small wire cutter will work to do the trimming. I've had to do this for gerbils where they could not naturally wear their teeth down. When that happens the teeth become too long, and dig into the roof of the mouth or extend beneath the lower jaw, preventing them from eating or drinking. Something similar will happen to a chicken beak if the lower or upper beak begins to curl. If you trim the beak, be sure not to trim too severely. The beak is much like your own finger nails, so if you cut into the quick, it will bleed and be painful. Keep a Styptic handy just in case you need to stop any bleeding.
For birds severely affected by a crossed beak, it may be helpful to mix their feed with a bit of water, milk or yogurt, to create a moist mush. The mush seems to be a bit easier for the birds to scoop into their mouths. You can also make a thick cornmeal, oatmeal or cream of wheat to feed them. Thick yogurt such as the Greek yogurt is also easier for the birds to access. All are very healthy for your birds, and they will love any of those food sources mentioned.
As Laurie will testify, her little *flower* is a thriving, happy lady, even with her special needs. She has been accepted by the others in her flock, is allowed to free-range with the others and though it may take a little longer to get the grass and seeds into her mouth, she is enjoying the same freedoms and luxuries as all the other birds. The little Fluffy Flower Celebrity, loves cheese when she has her beak trimming treatments, which helps calm her and makes it much easier when treatment times come around about every 2 weeks, which Laurie says takes about five total minutes from the time she catches her to the time the beak is trimmed and cheese is offered as a reward. So if you happen to find one of your chicks or later a chicken with this beak condition, be aware, that it is not always a death sentence, it just may require a little more attention than the other birds in your flock. If the other birds are not allowing your special crossed-beak chick to eat, you may need to separate them at least for feeding time, to allow your special needs chick to eat at their own pace without competition at the feed dish.
Thank you Laurie for suggesting that I do an article about this abnormality. We hope that this explanation and suggested feeding will help others that may discover a special needs bird in their own flocks.
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