Wryneck, also known as crooked/twisted neck refers to a muscular disorder in poultry manifested by a curved neck and limited head mobility. It is not an illness in itself but rather a symptom used to describe an abnormal head and neck position. It affects all poultry birds such as ducks, doves, chickens etc. and mostly occurs when birds are fed incorrect diets.
Clinical signs of wryneck syndrome
Birds with wryneck disorder cannot hold their heads up on their own. As the severity of the disorder increases, affected birds start to fall over or lie on their backs unable to walk freely on their own. They have no control over their bodies and can easily crash into anything causing more injury to themselves. They simply cannot eat or drink water, and dehydration can occur if the wryneck bird is not helped to feed or drink. Eventually, birds suffering from the condition will starve to death. Farmers are advised to consider culling birds that do not show signs of recovery after treatment.
Causes of wry neck syndrome
The syndrome can occur due to various factors:
i) Genetic disorders:
Various studies indicates that wryneck can be caused by genetic factors; in this case; farmers are advised to cull the wryneck birds and to prevent breeding with affected birds as the next generation will suffer from the same syndrome.
ii) Injury to the head:
It is important to separate any aggressive birds from a flock. Pecking commonly occurs due to overcrowding in the coop. This is a vital issue, and thus farmers should ensure that sufficient space is provided to the flock at least 10 head per M2.
iii) Vitamin deficiencies
This factor is the most likely cause of wryneck syndrome in most poultry birds. Birds can easily develop wryneck when fed an incorrect diet and in particular, one that is deficient in vitamins E & B1. No matter the cause of the disorder, it is worthwhile to increase the amount of vitamins (e.g. E and B1 etc.)in your flocks diet.
iv) Ingested toxins
Birds ingest toxins when they peck on carcasses or maggots from the carcasses of infected birds. Thus, farmers are advised to promptly dispose of dead birds.
Prevention and treatment
Farmers should not expect immediate results because any treatment will take a few weeks to take effect. It is, therefore, important to start supplementing your poultry feed as soon as possible.
Farmers are advised to feed their flocks correct and good quality chicken feeds that have all nutritional requirements needed by the flock. Moringa oliefera leaves (fresh or powdered), sunflower seeds, wheat/pearl millet (mahangu) bran should be added to their diet as a natural source of vitamins to reduce the occurrence of wryneck disorder.
a) Birds with wryneck syndrome should be separated from the entire flock to avoid injury (pecking and trampling by other birds). Once the bird is separated, its stress levels reduce.
b) Do not leave open water in the area where the wryneck bird is kept as these birds cannot control their movements and could easily get stuck and possibly drown.
c) Monitor the bird regularly in order to feed it and give it clean drinking water.
d) Add vitamin supplements e.g. vita forte, stress pack available in shops. Adding a natural source of vitamins in water or feed such as moringa-powdered leaves, spinach, lucerne, mint, sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds can be beneficial as they are full of vitamins and valuable nutrients.
In conclusion, as with most diseases or conditions that occur, prevention is always better than cure. This applies to wryneck in poultry too. Proper diet is vital in poultry enterprises as it defines the eventual
output. Thus, farmers are advised to ensure that their flocks receive enough vitamins and supplements in their feed.
*Emilie Abrahams is an agriculturist by profession and a mixed farmer (livestock & crop) in Omusati region. Currently, she works for Agribank of Namibia, Agri Advisory Services Division as a technical officer for crop and poultry