Treating Torticollis

Asked July 15, 2013, 1:31 PM EDT

I have a two-year-old golden Polish hen with torticollis. She was pecked on the head approximately a year and a half ago by others in the flock. A local veterinarian prescribed antibiotics without success. A protocol online included prednisone, vitamin E, vitamin B, selenium, and baby vitamin drops in decreasing dosages over several weeks. I fed this by eye dropper and also softly massaged her neck after each session. She improved greatly and has had a good quality of life, although she has a tilt to her head that, with her top feathers, makes her look like she's wearing a crooked hat. She's been eating, drinking, foraging, and even asserting her position over other hens at times. Several times in the winter, she seemed to regress but improved with supplemental hydration. I would often put her in a wire canine crate set up in the coop, providing feed and water until she improved. (When she is unable to control the muscle contractions and her head twists, a few other hens will peck at her.) This spring she regressed, and although I instituted the same protocol, her recovery is very slow this time. (Warm weather is usually her best friend.)

Any suggestions or changes in protocol would be appreciated. Vets with poultry experience are unknown in my area (Ortonville, MI), and I usually take research and information to the vet in order to obtain prescriptions needed.

Oakland County Michigan

2 Responses

I consulted with Dr. Mick Fulton, avian pathologist, and here is what he thought:

I think that the treatment protocol that was listed is appropriate and will cover the majority of conditions. As experienced, the treatment effectiveness may decline with subsequent treatment. That treatment should be repeated until the animal is no longer able to fend for itself. When that time arrives, humane euthanasia is appropriate.

Thank you for validating the protocol. I understand that her disability affects her lifespan; her quality of life is what will determine how long that will be.

I also appreciate the availability of this site as a resource for small flock poultry owners.