Beak problems are surprisingly common in chicken flocks. An unhealthy beak could lead to poor nutrition and weight loss if not caught early. In some cases, chicken beak problems could lead to infections. But you might be wondering what sort of issues you should be looking for. Today we are going to talk about all things beak. Everything from what healthy beaks look like, to the 5 common chicken beak problems.
What Does A Healthy Beak Look Like?
Before we go too far in chicken beak deformities, we should talk more about what a healthy beak should look like. Your chicken’s beak should look smooth and well-conditioned. There shouldn’t be any cracks or dryness to it. It should also be fully functioning. Your hen should open and close her mouth with ease. And most importantly, there should never be open sores, crust, or discoloration. If you see any of these issues, there is something wrong with your hen’s beak.
5 Common Chicken Beak Problems
Now that you know how your hen’s beak should look, let’s see what could be wrong. Below we have the top 5 common chicken beak problems. These issues will talk about how they happen, how to fix them, and how to prevent them. With this guide, you will be right on track to a healthy hen again.
1. Scissor Beak
The most common chicken beak deformity is something called scissor beak. It is also known as cross beak or crooked beak and is characterized as the upper and lower parts not aligning or closing together. Most chickens with scissor beak start showing this deformity from a young age, and most have it their entire lives. And in severe cases, the chicken beak doesn’t close.
Causes And Prevention
Multiple things can cause scissor beak. The most common cause is terrible genetics. If one of the parents has scissor beak, they are likely to pass down that trait. It can also be caused by inadequate temperatures while being incubated. Some studies have shown that scissor beak is least likely to occur in chicks hatch by a mother hen. And in rare cases, scissor beak could be caused by an injury. The best way to prevent scissor beak is only to breed healthy birds and to ensure incubation conditions are perfect.
So how to fix a crooked chicken beak? The answer is you technically can’t. The best you can do for scissor beak is to make them more comfortable. Feeding cross beak chicken is your main priority. You will need slightly raised and deep dishes. Both of these accommodations allow for chickens to scoop the food into their mouths more easily.
Some hens will still try to file their beaks down by themselves, so putting bricks, rocks, or paving stones into the run can assist them. But if the case is too severe, it can be hard for them to do this alone. In those cases, you will need to file or trim the beaks yourself.
2. Metabolic Diseases
A metabolic disease is when a hen is getting too much or too little of a nutrient. Signs that your hen is getting too much of a nutrient is fast growing nails and beak. And in the cases of lacking nutrients, your hen’s beaks will be dull, soft, and brittle.
Causes And Preventions
As mentioned already, these ailments are only caused by poor nutrition. To prevent them from happening, you should feed a high-quality diet made for your hen’s stage of life. You should also evaluate your hen’s diet throughout the year. Everything from the chicken feed to foraging access, to treats, all contribute to nutrition. And to prevent some of the 5 common chicken beak problems, nutrition is key.
If your chickens start showing signs of metabolic disease, there are a few things you can do. In cases of a deficiency, you will want to start giving them extra vitamins to recover faster. And if your hen has too much of one vitamin, you will want to change their food. Trimming long beaks and nails will also make them more comfortable until their nutrients are balanced.
3. Parrot Beak
Parrot beak in chickens is where the bottom portion is too short. Usually, in this case, you will see it forming from a young chick. These cases are usually life long, but you can help them be comfortable. It can also be the result of the top portion growing too long. If you have never noticed your chicken with this issue, likely, the top has just grown faster than the bottom.
Causes And Prevention
In the case that the bottom part of the beak is too short, it is a genetic mutation. You can’t do much to prevent this besides making sure that the incubation period has the perfect conditions. And breeding hens that have great genetics always helps as well.
In cases that the top is overgrown, that is caused by not filing down the beak. The best way to prevent this is to give your hens plenty of places to file their beaks. Rough bricks, rocks, and stepping stones are great to give your hens.
For our first scenario of parrot, beak doesn’t have a cure. In some cases, you can file the top portion of the beak down a little. But be sure not to go too far, or else you could hurt them more. The only other treatment for this chicken beak deformity is to make eating more comfortable. Deeper dishes help your chicken scoop rather than peck their food. And raising the dish some will help get food into their mouths instead of just pushing it around.
In the second overgrowth case, chicken beak trimming is the most straightforward treatment. After you finish trimming the beak, filing it every few weeks until they start taking care of themselves works best.
4. Chicken Beak Underbite
An underbite is characterized by chicken lower beak longer than the upper. A chicken beak underbite makes it impossible to forage and eat comfortably. It can also prevent them from drinking and stay hydrated.
Causes And Prevention
Many things cause an underbite in chickens. Many people notice that if their hens were debeaked as a chick, it grows back as an underbite. In this case, the best way to prevent the overbite is to stop debeaking the hen. While this practice is not as common in backyard owners, it can be prevalent in hatcheries. Other times it is a genetic deformity, which can only be prevented with proper breeding and not breeding hens that have the deformity.
You should never trim an underbite in chickens. By examining the beak from inside the mouth, you can see where the dead tissue and live tissue lie. If your chicken has a lot of dead tissue, then you can gently file it back. You will want to file it every two weeks until the beak starts to grow at a regular length again.
If a genetic deformity causes the underbite, there will be no room to file it. Your chicken will have this issue for their entire lives and will need a few accommodations. Just like with parrot and scissor beak, you will need elevated deep food dishes.
5. Broken Beaks
You can quickly diagnose a broken beak. Usually, there you can see a noticeable crack in the beak. But in some severe cases, chunks are missing with exposed tissue underneath.
Causes And Prevention
A broken beak can happen from anything. Fights, pecking at hard objects, and even falls are all common causes. There isn’t much you can do to prevent these things from happening. All you can do is treat it.
Treating a broken beak takes some care. If there is raw tissue exposed, your best bet is to apply Vetericyn three times a day. For a crack in the beak, there is a way to “cast” it. All you need is super glue, a teabag, and a file. First, cut the tea bag to the size of the crack. Then cover the break in super glue and place the tea bag over it. Make sure you have saturated the tea bag with glue and dry. After it is dry, gently file the tea bag until it is flush and smooth to the beak. These small patches are great to heal a broken beak as long as they aren’t severe and nowhere near the nostrils.
Why Is A Healthy Beak Important?
Healthy beaks are vital for everything in your chicken’s life. Chickens use their beaks for eating, foraging, drinking, preening, and protections, to name a few. If your chicken doesn’t have a beak in working condition, all of these things suffer. You might notice that your hen starts to lose weight and look disheveled. And in the end, other birds will see too. When chickens notice that one is sick, they will begin to pick on them. And without protection, they will be doomed to suffer. Checking for your chicken’s beak health daily can prevent your hens from deteriorating quickly.
These 5 common chicken beak problems can be worrisome, to say the least. But, with a little TLC, your hens will start feeling like new in no time. And even if you can’t fix their beaks completely, you can make their lives easier. Just because your chicken has a little handicap doesn’t mean you can’t love them for years to come.
Below is a Pinterest friendly photo…. so you can pin it to your Backyard Chicken Board!!