One, wet Spring day, I got a birthday present. That present was 4, small crested variety chicks (one Golden-Laced Polish and 3 Crevecoeurs). I brought the bunch of chicks home on my lap. They were not the healthiest chicks I’d had. One was half the size of the others (for its first several months), two got Pasted Vents and one… (who almost died when I brought her home) turned out to have a twisted beak… I called her Elly…
… A twisted beak (called a lateral beak deviation or cross-beak) is a defect that although can be genetic, is not always. Cross-beak can also be caused by incorrect incubation, fetal mispositioning, nutrient deficiencies or poor breeding. Usually, the slight twisting is barely noticeable in the chick’s early growth stages… but since the beak grows as the chick matures, the twisting becomes increasingly more pronounced.
Against the Odds
The survival rate for chicks with the twisted beak defect is low… If the chicks do not die within their first week or two, they are often euthanized because their lives become increasingly cumbersome and awkward. Chickens with defective beaks require a little extra care than average and, in large flocks, may get bullied and picked on, making them not profitable, convenient or humane for large-scale egg farmers to keep.
I spent nearly every waking moment (and sleeping moments as well because the chicks where in a box in my room for a little while) with those peeps. However, Elly’s beak defect was so subtle that I did not even notice it until the chicks where about 1 week old.
A Second Chance
I was very unsure on what to do… what is best for the chicken? Can it have a decant, functional life? Can it live and be happy? After careful consideration… I decided to let her grow… To give her a chance and see what would come of it. She didn’t seem to be bothered or pained by her difference anyhow.
Although it is a common issue for ‘handicapped’ chicks, Elly never suffered picking or bullying. She was raised in a big box with 3 other companions and let out-side under my watch when the weather permitted. Nobody needed to compete for space. I also kept the box clean and supplied small amounts of fresh food and water on a frequent basis. She was a very happy chick and grew quickly…
But as she grew, so did her beak… However, although she became a little awkward and had more trouble picking up objects than the others, she never seemed to be bothered or in pain at all. I sometimes mix her food with water (about 1 to 1 ratio) to make “peep mush”…. Which Elly thoroughly enjoys and can eat with ease.
A Little Friend
Partially because I gave her an extra hand here and there, little Elly became quite familiar with me and still comes running whenever she sees me (or when I call her name). You can see her here:
Elly does very well now. She is a little over 5 11 months old at the present and is as healthy as a chicken can be… She eats very well and is very beautiful (I still think that in spite of her twist). 😃
I also trained her to jump on my arm upon request using worms (which wasn’t hard because she is surprisingly smart). You can watch that here:
Above is Elly’s first egg. It was small (like most first eggs) and a slight off-white. (The blood-staining is pretty normal for first time layers as you can read more about here: Blood-Stained Egg Shells).
… Yes, she needs a few things that the others don’t need… but nothing hard: Just lots of peep mush, dust (to make up for her inability to preen properly) and some TLC… But that’s about it… She is happy, healthy and a joy to watch. 😉🐓