Floppy Neck Chickens

by Ali
(Mackay Qld)


Floppy Neck Chickens: I have about 25 free range hens of mixed breeding age and sex, although mostly young. There are no new additions.

I have been finding chickens suddenly dead with a floppy neck. Some are alive but unable to move. There are no marks and I have eliminated predators except snakes. I feed mixed grain and scraps.

I observed the most recent chook that died, a young hen trying to peck grain and not being able to coordinate this. She was quite thin. The vent is a bit messy and beaks and eyes dirt from lying in the dirt.

My girls have not laid an egg in months. I have recently wormed them with a liquid, in water application. The pen is roomy, clean and secure.

So sorry this is happening. By the time a hen is quite thin, it's been struggling for quite some time.

Not sure what kind of snakes you have in the area, but if venomous, they certainly could account for the weak condition of your hens that have died.

I'm not sure, from your description, if all hens are thin. That would be something to check, also external parasites could deplete your hens to a poor and weak condition that could account for their not laying.

To have an appetite in such a weak state makes me think of the possibility of disease that affects the nervous system, especially if they become lame first.

Marek's disease has several forms, one affecting a chicken's ability to move normally. They seem to stay alert, just unable to walk well, then not walk at all. Unable to reach food and water as often as necessary, they will eventually die.

Some chickens seem to have a natural immunity to the disease, some can be carriers unaffected by the disease, but passing it to chickens in the flock with weak immune systems. There is a vaccine for this disease.

Generally mixed grains and scraps don't provide all the nutrients necessary for healthy laying hens. Layer feeds are balanced and nutrient complete with needed vitamins, minerals, fats, proteins, fiber and carbohydrates.

Hens deficient in nutrients may lay for a while, but as they use up any reserves from muscles and bones, and current feed is missing vital nutrients, they can become malnourished.

You haven't said how many hens are sick or have died, but I suspect the weakest hens were unable to cope with their conditions.

I would take this as a clear warning sign that you need to revise your feeding program to save the rest of the flock. Even when free ranging, laying hens may not find all they need to be healthy without a good balanced feed offered daily.

I would suggest purchasing a high protein layer feed; 16% is minimum, or blending a conditioning feed with 16% protein layer feed. I would also purchase a vitamin product made for chickens and give them the maximum doses as directed.

By changing feed and supplements, you should see improvement in general health and laying. If not, you are probably dealing with a contagious disease in the flock.

Supporting them nutritionally just may strengthen their immune systems and help protect them.

Whole grains and seeds are good for chickens, but with the problem you are experiencing, I seriously suspect vitamin and mineral deficiencies along with other nutrients, as the basic cause.

I would recommend that you check your feed supply and make sure it hasn't been contaminated by mouse droppings and urine. Mice can leave waste, that if eaten in high enough quantities, could make chickens sick enough to die.

Another possibility could be a toxin in the environment or water. If rodents, parasites or insects have been poisoned in the area, your hens could have ingested dead or dying victims.

I wish I could give you one simple answer, but there are many possible causes for this type of death in hens.

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by: Anonymous

I guess this is because of malnutrition. I have a similar problem with my Polish Cap Hen.

One more suggestion would be the contamination of food if free feeding which may be the case with my hen as well. However it is a sad state and I am scared that I will loose my Polish cap Hen.

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