Scissors beak (also referred to as crossed beak or crooked beak) is a beak deformity where the chicken's upper beak is bent to one side. It might start as a minor deviation, but over time and as the bird grows it will progressively worsen. Since the deformity impacts the chicken's ability to use their beak properly, it results in overgrowth of the lower portion (known as the gnathotheca), and increased deviation of the upper portion.
In moderate to severe cases, chickens will need help in order to survive---for the deformity will impact their ability to eat. It is important to closely monitor the chicken's body weight using a gram scale, for this is the best way to track whether they are gaining, maintaining, or losing weight. Since chickens use their beaks for a number of important activities, such as eating, drinking, maintaining feather quality (preening), exploring and for pecking. Those affected by scissors beak will have a harder time performing the above mentioned activities. Therefore, they will need help keeping their feathers in good shape, protection against other flock members who may be more inclined to bully them (most chickens with scissors beak will need to be taken out of the normal flock in order to survive), and the most important, getting enough food to eat (syringe or tube feeding will be needed).
What Causes Scissors Beak?
Scissors beak can develop for a number of reasons, including:
- Malposition in the egg
- Nutritional imbalances
- Inappropriate temperature and humidity during incubation
Managing Birds with Scissors Beak
Most birds with scissors beak will require some additional support from their human caregivers, most often consisting of:
- Tube or syringe feeding to maintain their body weight. It is important that you seek assistance from your veterinarian or someone experienced with performing this on chickens, before attempting this procedure. If it is not done right it can kill the bird.
- Relocation to a separate living space, such as inside the house as a 'house chicken' or in a separate predator-proofed enclosure with a flock member who doesn't pick on them.
- Regular baths and/or blowdries to help maintain feather quality (since they cannot preen)
- Regular beak inspections to clean out any accumulation of feed
When the deformity is mild and occurs when the chick is still young, conservative treatment may be effective. This consists of applying gentle pressure using your fingers to the deviated top beak, for 10 minutes two to three times a day. For example, if the beak is deviating to the right, pressure applied to the right side towards the left side. Regular beak trimming may also help correct the problem in some cases, and manage overgrowth in others. The beak will need to be reshaped every two weeks.