More Than a Pain in the Neck: A Guide to Wry Neck In Chickens

Raising chickens is a fantastic experience, but it comes with its share of challenges, including dealing with various health issues. Chickens can encounter many health conditions, and among them is wry neck, a particularly distressing and baffling ailment. Recognizing and understanding wry neck is crucial for chicken owners to ensure the well-being of their flock.

Wry neck in chickens is characterized by a twisted or contorted neck, making it difficult for the bird to eat, drink, or move normally. This post aims to demystify wry neck, its causes, symptoms, and available treatment options.

What is Wry Neck?

Definition and Symptoms

Wry neck, also known as torticollis, crook neck, or crooked neck, is a neurological condition affecting chickens, causing their necks to twist in unnatural ways. Its symptoms can range from a slight tilt of the head to the chicken’s head being completely flipped backward. In some cases, the chicken may also display loss of balance, circling, and difficulty walking.

Wry neck happens more frequently in chicks but can be seen in chickens of all ages, depending on the cause. In chicks, it can be caused by a defect or injury during incubation or hatching. Among other defects, some insecticides, like oxydemeton-methyl, have been shown to cause torticollis in chicks.

Varieties of Wry Neck

Different forms of wry neck can affect chickens:

      1. Twisted Neck: The chicken’s neck twists to one side, making it difficult for the bird to eat or drink.
Two chicks with Wry Neck (twisted). Photo by Dr. Jacquie Jacob, University of Kentucky
      2. Stargazing: The chicken’s head is tilted backward, and it appears to be looking up at the sky.
Chicken in the stargazing position caused by Wry Neck. (Photo from Cornell University)

Causes of Wry Neck

Nutritional Deficiencies

A deficiency in essential nutrients like Vitamin E and selenium is a common cause of wry neck. These nutrients are crucial for proper muscle and nerve function.

Head Injury

Injuries to the head or neck area can damage nerves or muscles, leading to wry neck.


Some chicken breeds may be more prone to developing wry neck due to genetic factors. Fast-growing broiler breeds can be more affected by this condition.
Infections and Diseases
Certain infections and diseases can affect the central nervous system, leading to wry neck.


Exposure to toxic substances, whether through feed, plants, or other sources, can contribute to the development of wry neck.

Diagnosing Wry Neck

Veterinary examining a chicken.

Consulting a Veterinarian

If you suspect your chicken has wry neck, it is important to seek veterinary care as soon as possible.

Distinguishing Wry Neck from Other Conditions

A veterinarian can thoroughly examine and run necessary tests to affirm the diagnosis and rule out other conditions.

Tests and Examinations

Veterinarians may run blood tests, imaging, and other tests to determine the cause of the wry neck and guide treatment.

Treatment Options

Medical Treatments

      1. Vitamin Supplements: Administering Vitamin E, selenium, and Vitamin B supplements can help correct nutritional deficiencies.
      2. Anti-Inflammatory Medications: These can reduce swelling and pain associated with wry neck. Always check with your veterinarian before giving your poultry any medications. All medications have side effects that your vet can discuss with you.
      3. Antibiotics: If an infection is identified as the cause, your veterinarian may prescribe antibiotics.

Home Remedies

      1. Diet Modifications: Incorporating foods rich in Vitamin E, such as leafy greens and nuts, into the chicken’s diet can be beneficial.
      2. Massage and Physical Therapy: Gentle massage and physical therapy can help relax the muscles and correct the neck position.
      3. Supportive Care: Providing a comfortable, quiet environment can aid in recovery.
      4. Surgery: In severe cases, surgery could be needed to correct the neck position. However, this is typically considered a last resort due to the risks involved. Unfortunately, surgery can also be very expensive.
      5. Prevention:Ensuring a balanced diet and safe living conditions can help prevent wry neck. Also, practicing good biosecurity can prevent wry neck in chickens caused by infections.
Broiler chicken with Torticollis (Wry Neck) caused by Marek’s Disease. (Photo from Cornell University College of Veterinary Medicine)

Frequently Asked Questions

Wry neck in chickens, also known as torticollis or crook neck, raises several questions among poultry keepers, especially those witnessing this condition for the first time. Here are some frequently asked questions that might help you understand and manage wry neck:

What exactly is wry neck?
Answer: Wry neck is a condition in chickens where their neck becomes twisted or contorted, resulting in an abnormal head position. It can be due to various reasons, including nutritional deficiencies, head trauma, genetic predisposition, infections, or exposure to toxins.

Is wry neck contagious?
Answer: No, wry neck itself is not contagious. However, if the cause is an infectious disease, that particular disease might be contagious.

What are the symptoms of wry neck in chickens?
Answer: Symptoms include a twisted or tilted neck, imbalance, circling, difficulty eating and drinking, and, in severe cases, the chicken’s head might be flipped upside-down.

Can baby chicks get wry neck?
Answer: Yes, baby chicks can get wry neck. It is often noticed in the first few weeks of life, especially if there is a genetic predisposition or if they have not received adequate nutrition from the hen. Or if they were exposed to toxins while developing.

How do you treat wry neck in chickens?
Answer: Treatment depends on the underlying cause but may include vitamin supplements (especially Vitamin E and Selenium), anti-inflammatory medications, antibiotics if an infection is present, and supportive care.

Can chickens recover from wry neck?
Answer: Yes, many chickens can recover from wry neck with proper treatment and care. Recovery times vary depending on the seriousness and cause of the condition.
How long does it take for a chicken to recover from wry neck? Answer: Recovery time can vary widely depending on how bad the condition is and how quickly treatment is started. Some chickens may show improvement within a few days, while others may take weeks to recover.

What should I feed a chicken with wry neck?
Answer: Chickens with wry neck might have difficulty eating and drinking. Offering wet mash, which is easier to swallow, can help. Ensure the food is rich in nutrients, especially Vitamin E, Selenium, and Vitamin B. You can also provide supplements as recommended by a veterinarian.

Is wry neck painful for chickens?
Answer: Wry neck can be uncomfortable and cause distress to chickens, especially if it affects their balance and ability to eat or drink.

Can wry neck reoccur?
Answer: If the underlying cause is not addressed, wry neck can reoccur. Ensuring a balanced diet and a safe environment and promptly addressing any health issues can help prevent recurrence.


Understanding wry neck in chickens is vital for every chicken owner. Early detection and appropriate treatments are paramount in managing this condition.

By maintaining a balanced diet, providing a safe living environment, and conducting regular veterinary check-ups, the risks associated with wry neck can be significantly reduced. Let’s be responsible pet parents and ensure the well-being of our feathered friends!

Please share this informative guide with fellow chicken enthusiasts and owners. Your experiences, comments, and insights on dealing with wry neck are welcome, so feel free to contribute to the discussion below.

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Additional Resources

TORTICOLLIS – Small and backyard poultry (

Teratogenesis associated with oxydemeton‐methyl in the stage 12 chick embryo – Lenselink – 1993 – Teratology – Wiley Online Library

Which NSAIDs Are For the Birds

Effectiveness of Physical Therapy as an Adjunctive Treatment for Trauma-induced Chronic Torticollis in Raptors (

Wry neck in Chickens (

Chris Lesley Bio Picture
Chris Lesley has been Raising Chickens for over 20 years and is a fourth generation chicken keeper. She can remember being a young child when her grandad first taught her how to hold and care for chickens. She also holds a certificate in Animal Behavior and Welfare and is interested in backyard chicken health and care.

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