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Posts Tagged ‘cross beak’


If you have enough chickens or have had chickens long enough, it’s not unlikely you’ll come across cross beak at some point.

After our Mayhem In The Coop a few months ago, while dealing with plucked booties, it came to my attention that one of my cuckoo maran girls not only had a bald bottom, but also had some cross {scissor} beak going on.

Cross beak can happen for a few reasons. Mostly, it’s just genetic. If the chick can actually crack its way out of the egg with a crooked beak, chances are it might do ok, since it has a fighting spirit.

In our case, it seems to me it was from the smackdown in the coop. My Easter Egger cockerel also has a slight cross {and his butt is still missing his long tail feathers and still has a large bald spot}, which I think also resulted from that episode. I don’t remember either of them having cross beak before, and given their heinies, they most certainly were on the bottom of the pile at some point.

Miss Betty has a pretty prominent cross beak, as you can see. crossbeak1

My concern was that while she might look all fluffy, chickens with cross beak can slowly starve to death without looking like they are losing weight. Some chickens with severe cross beak need to be tube fed; some of them still die. When it’s genetic, it’s not unusual for a chick to have all kinds of other things wrong with them, too, even if they aren’t seen.

Because the top and bottom beaks don’t line up, some can’t get any food in their mouths. Well, they *can,* but it falls out because the top beak can’t keep it in the mouth long enough to get it down the throat. Water is usually not too much of a problem, though.

The other issue is beak growth. Beaks are like fingernails- they grow continuously. Chickens peck and wipe their beaks from side to side, which helps keep the growth in check.  {It’s just like filing nails- although some might equate it to sharpening knives, too :lol:} When they are crooked, though, they can’t really do a good job of keeping them trimmed themselves.

Some folks will physically weigh their birds; others check the crop. Me, I pick ’em up and hold ’em. 😆

When I pick her up, I can not only feel her crop, but I can feel her weight, too. This girl isn’t starving, that’s for sure! 😀

Not only do I check her weight this way {and love on her while I’m at it}, it gives me a chance to file her beak.

Like fingernails, if you cut too close to the quick, there can be bleeding. If you’ve been following along, you’ll know that chickens bleed, and it can take a bit to get the bleeding to stop.  Any time there is injury, the first step is to stop the bleeding.

Then, I always put something on the bloody spot to discourage picking. I really like Blu Kote. blukote Not only is it an antiseptic, it’s also an anti-fungal. It does a fabulous job of disguising boo-boos.

And, it makes you purple!  😆

Some people like to clip, using toenail clippers for cats or dogs. I don’t even like to use those on my cats or dogs, so it goes without saying that I’m a big chicken when it comes to using it on a chicken beak.  😆

Instead, I use a file. Some like to use a metal file; some like to use a Dremel pet nail trimmer. dremel1

Some use the regular Dremel trimmer with the sanding attachment. dremelsandingbitBecause I’m the “Option 3” girl, I use a regular ‘ole nail file.  nailfile 😆 File, file, file, file. Pet the chicken, pet the chicken, pet the chicken. File, file, file, file.

This is a two-person job. One person holds; the other covers the eyes and files. I cover eyes just because it helps keep the chicken calm. I don’t close the eyes; rather, I place my hand in front so they can’t see past it. No big deal.

I file both beaks, getting them as close to the same length as possible. I also smooth any jaggedy edge near the groove the upper beak worked into the lower.

beakgroove1

Before

After

After

While the end result is still crooked, the beaks are much closer in length. This helps them not only eat better, but groom better as well. I try to do this about every month or two, and it takes maybe ten minutes, depending on long it takes you to catch the chicken. 😀

If you find yourself with a cross beak baby, take heart. Don’t give up right away. It might not be as bad as you think it’ll be. It might be nothing more than a minor hiccup in the overall scope of things and you’ll have a great excuse reason to spend some quality time with your chook.  :mrgreen:

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