An owners guide: Chicken shaking it’s head – reasons why and treatment options

Raising chickens can be a fun and productive experience. It allows you to have more fresh meat and eggs that you can consume with your family or even sell to your neighbours in the markets. It can also be a rewarding experience for you.

However, raising chickens can be quite a challenge if you don’t know how to do it properly. It can also be a bit stressful if your beloved chickens are sick or doing something unusual such as shaking their heads.

A chicken shaking head can be a sign of something wrong for the chickens. However, knowing how to deal with it can actually help you raise them more effectively in the future.

This article discusses everything you should know about a chicken shaking head, why they do it, and how we can address and treat them as soon as possible.


Chicken shaking head: Reasons why

There can be several reasons why a chicken shaking head happens. However, these are the known reasons why they do it.


1. They use their heads to see clearly

When chickens shake their head, it means they are using their head to see things clearly. Chickens can see more colours than humans, thanks to their specialized capabilities to see more hues than humans and other animals. They can also see the ultraviolet spectrum just like the other birds.

Chickens have to move their heads to focus their eyes on the objects they want to see due to their independent vision. This is different compared to humans, who just move their eyes to see things clearly.


2. Wryneck or nutritional neck jerking

When chickens shake their head more than usual, it’s a clear sign that something is bothering them. It can be caused by an apparent lack of vitamin E or selenium in their bodies.

This is because some chicken breeds need more vitamin E than others, such as the silkies. However, this is a rare occurrence, and the veterinarian can easily administer vitamins or supplements to address this problem effectively.


3. Your chicken has possible head injury or diseases

Chickens also shake or jerk their heads when they suffer from a possible head injury. Shaking heads can also be a sign that your chickens are suffering from an illness or disease, such as exotic Newcastle disease, EEE, Mareks, Pasteurella, or fowl cholera. This medical condition is known as torticollis, which can also affect your chickens’ necks.

Throat and ear infections can also be the reason why your chickens shake their heads, as they want to relieve themselves of the pain and discomfort they are currently experiencing.


4. Parasites or worms on your chickens

Ear mites can also cause chickens to shake their heads, the same way humans scratch their heads when they have lice living on their hair strands.

Gapeworms, a common parasite attacking chickens, can also be the cause of this strange behaviour. The chicken shakes its head to rid itself of the irritation the parasites cause on their bodies.


5. Crop impaction can also be the case

Chickens also shake their head when a foreign object enters their crop or they are exhibiting crop impaction. Chickens shake their heads, gasp, or extend their necks in the effort of getting rid of the foreign object and expel it out of their crops.


How to treat shaking heads

Thankfully, you do not need to eradicate your whole poultry line or spend hundreds of dollars to get rid of chicken shaking head. Most of the known treatments are done by veterinarians, which is a significant point as they are the only ones who know how to handle these types of situations without harming your chickens or potentially killing them during the process.

For ear mites, it is highly suggested that Ivermectin be administered in the form of drops, one drop orally and one on each side of the ear. You do not need to worry about the medication passing on to eggs, as it has no side effects that can make your chickens sick after administering the doses.

In addition, it is known to be safe, and it is widely used as an animal dewormer, so there is nothing to worry about.

Suppose the shaking is caused by vitamin deficiency. In that case, the veterinarian will prescribe vitamins with high vitamin E or selenium levels to accommodate the needs of your chickens in terms of vitamin consumption. The veterinarian will also ask you to monitor the chickens to see if there are any changes. Finally, he will advise you on the next steps after the observation period.

Suppose your chicken shakes its head due to a foreign object on its crop. In that case, you can also ask the veterinarian to remove the foreign object manually. This also works if your chicken has a throat infection. The veterinarian will check if parasites or other things block its throat, causing infection, pain, and discomfort to the chicken.

The veterinarian will be the one to remove gapeworms on the nose and throat of the chicken as safely as possible. However, they can also prescribe deworming medication to expel the parasites out of the chicken’s body.

Never try to save money by removing the parasites by yourself, as you might injure the chicken while doing it. You might also apply too much pressure on the chicken, and it can break its neck. Instead, always consult a veterinarian when dealing with chickens or any other animals for that matter, as they are equipped with skills, knowledge, and relevant experience handling these kinds of situations.


Our takeaway

A chicken shaking head can be caused by many reasons, from its normal visual functions to more serious reasons such as diseases or parasitic infections. In those cases, always consult your veterinarian to help you address the situation more effectively. They can prescribe medication or vitamins to your chicken, depending on the causes.

They can also manually remove any foreign objects or parasites inside your chicken’s body without hurting your chickens in the process. Veterinarians are trained to handle chickens and other animals, so there is nothing to worry about.