Author Topic: Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks  (Read 248 times)

Kalin McClure

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Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks
« on: April 03, 2022, 01:26:15 PM »
Hello friends!

This weekend’s hatch gave me 2 chicks with wry neck.  I administered vitamin E and selenium, and within a few hours the chicks were normal.

These 2 are full siblings, and another 4 full siblings hatched out completely normally.  Do you suppose the mother hen was borderline on her vitamin E levels so that some embryos were ok but some were deficient?  Or would there be another explanation?  All eggs were laid within 10 days of each other, for what it’s worth.

John W Blehm

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Re: Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks
« Reply #1 on: April 03, 2022, 07:30:23 PM »
I’ve always called it stargazing, but wryneck is probably more official. It is most often observed in my bantam buff chicks and so I believe it is a genetic issue combined with some nutrient deficiency. Sometimes the chicks will put their heads so far back that they do a back-over flip. Most of what I've read says vitamin B1 (thiamine) and E are lacking and that vitamin E and the mineral selenium have about the same effect.
Merck and the Merck Veterinary Manual
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The metabolism of selenium is closely linked to that of vitamin E, and signs of deficiency can sometimes be treated with either the mineral or the vitamin. Vitamin E can spare selenium in its role as an antioxidant, and so some selenium-responsive conditions can also be treated by supplemental vitamin E.
I've seen this a few times this year.  One week there were about 3 bantam buff chicks that hatched as stargazers. Other chicks that hatched that day didn't have the issue and all eggs were treated the same, all breeders where fed the same diet, housed the same, etc. I have to imagine that if it is a vitamin/mineral deficiency then maybe due to genetics some breeds, varieties and lines require more than others.
 

Mike Gilbert

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Re: Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks
« Reply #2 on: April 03, 2022, 09:51:39 PM »
What John just stated points to a genetic propensity for stargazing.   I would never raise these chicks on the off chance they might get into the breeding flock.   I would also probably cull the parents if they could be identified.   Sometimes you have to do what is best for the breed.   That's just my opinion - not meant to stir up any trouble.   There is an old statement that goes something like this:   "What you tolerate is what you will have."
Mike Gilbert
1st John 5:11-13

Kalin McClure

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Re: Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks
« Reply #3 on: April 07, 2022, 07:05:44 PM »
John & Mike —

Thank you for the info and your input!  The issue sparked my curiosity so I’ve done some cursory research & found some interesting papers.  I’ll have to share what I’ve found when I’m not posting on my phone.

Kalin McClure

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Re: Wry Neck in Newly-Hatched Chicks
« Reply #4 on: May 11, 2022, 03:35:57 PM »
I'm finally circling back to this topic to share some of the info I found interesting.

From this article on Poultry World:
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In breeders the vitamin E supplied in the ration, once absorbed, is transported to the liver and, from there, to the developing oocyte by very low density lipoproteins (VLDL). It has been demonstrated that there is a high efficiency in incorporating α-tocopherol from the maternal feed into the yolk of the chicken egg. The quantity of vitamin E in the egg increases linearly with the consumption of vitamin E by the hen. Supplementation of vitamin E above the minimum requirement improves ovulation during the last phase of the laying period, improving the bird’s defence system and averting negative consequences on egg production also in situations of environmental stress.

Vitamin E protects against oxidation in sperm, egg yolk and embryonic tract. The supply of vitamin E in the ration should be continuous, as the hepatic reserve is insufficient to maintain an adequate vitamin concentration in all eggs, when laying rate is high. Inadequate vitamin E in the diet of breeders is detrimental to fertility, giving rise to the production of eggs with low hatchability and high embryonic mortality in the last phase of incubation due to failures related to the circulatory system.

A snippet from this study for British Poultry Science ("Effect of selenium and vitamin E content of the maternal diet on the antioxidant system of the yolk and the developing chick"):
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There was a positive effect of selenium supplementation of the maternal diet on glutathione concentration in the liver of 1-d-old and 5-d-old chicks. A combination of a dietary selenium supplementation with high vitamin E doses further increased glutathione concentration in the liver. Dietary selenium supplementation significantly increased selenium-dependent glutathione peroxidase (Se-GSH-Px) activity in the liver of the 1-d-old and 5-d-old chicks and decreased liver susceptibility to peroxidation

and

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The major finding of this work is a beneficial effect of supplementation of the maternal diet with selenium and vitamin E on the antioxidant protection of the neonatal chick which is maintained well into postnatal development. The data clearly indicate that nutritional status of the laying hen determines the efficiency of the antioxidant system throughout early postnatal development of the offspring. An optimal antioxidant status of the newly hatched chick is an effective means for their protection against damaging effects of free radicals and products of their metabolism. Since natural antioxidants determine the redox potential of the cell, which is responsible for gene regulation (Primi-ano et al., 1997), further research is needed to elucidate mechanisms for relationships between antioxidant compounds in the diet and their accumulation in the tissues and interactions with antioxidant enzymes.

As with most cursory research, it's given me more questions than answers, which isn't necessarily a bad thing.  ;D

One take-away is the importance of feeding vitamin E above the minimal requirements, especially during times of heavy laying.  The hen stores it in her liver and that can be depleted, meaning some eggs could be deficient. 
How much Vitamin E does my feed have?  No clue.  It's not listed on the tag or the manufacturer website.  The benchmark guide for poultry nutrition is the National Research Council's "Nutritional Requirements of Poultry" from 1994.  It's in the process of being updated but is still utilized by many feed manufacturers today.  I've seen mentioned several times that their recommendations for the fat-soluble vitamins are extremely low, especially when consideration is given to the fact that nutritional value of feed degrades due to age and other environmental factors.
I also supplement with Twin City Poultry's Breeder Solution Plus, but again, no idea what that actually contains.

I wasn't able to find much research regarding wry neck.  The "proper" name is torticollis which seems to be an umbrella term.  The research I did find was regarding a form of torticollis that is a musculoskeletal deformity instead of what appears to be a spasmodic episode. 

So lots of interesting research about the levels of vitamin E and selenium passed from hen to egg, especially as it ties into their nutrition.  It doesn't rule out that there's a genetic factor, but it's worth some thought.

My two wry neck chicks have been completely normal since being treated on their hatch day.  I'll be interested to see how they develop and if any other issues come up.  Those two were from a SplashxBlue cross.  During the same hatch, I also had BuffxBuff and BuffxBW eggs.  4 of the 6 BuffxBuff chicks and 3 of the 7 BuffxBW chicks died in the shell after Day 18.  Perhaps a coincidence, but it makes me wonder if my breeders had inadequate vitamin E levels.