Chickens of all breeds can shake their heads occasionally for many normal reasons or it can be a sign of illness that they are trying to combat. If a chicken happens to get some water in its nostrils while drinking, it will shake its head to remove the water.
Chickens also routinely shake their heads very slightly just when looking around, instead of just moving their eyes as humans do.
Chickens also see more colors than humans and most other animals do, so they may be shaking their heads slightly in order to identify what an object is in their brains.
Chickens can also shake their heads if they are ill with a sickness in their heads, ears, or respiratory system as they are trying to relieve the pressure. A stopped up crop or a head injury will cause chicken shaking head too.
Other items to cause head shaking in chickens are parasites or other illnesses and ear and throat infections or even a head injury that you didn’t see happen.
You should get to the root of chicken head shaking in order to know what form of treatment is needed to relieve it of whatever is bothering it.
Why Do Chickens Shake Their Heads With Their Eyes Closed Or Mouth Open?
Chickens can shake their heads with their eyes closed or mouth open if they have a throat or ear infection.
Closing the eyes comes naturally when a chicken is in discomfort and opening the mouth is its way of coping with labored breathing in the case of a sinus infection or an upper respiratory infection.
Ear mites may be affecting your chicken and it is shaking its head to try to “itch” its ears or in hopes that what is in the ears will fly out with enough hard shaking. This is the same idea for humans with head lice when they are scratching their heads from bites.
Tapeworms are one of the most common parasites to infect chickens and they will also shake their heads to try to get them out of their body.
It’s accompanied by a gasping sound as the chicken tries to get air and in younger fowl, it can come on suddenly and lead to death. Older chickens can have gapeworms for many years before they even show any signs of them.
A crop impaction also causes head shaking as the chicken tries to rid itself of the items caught in the crop that will not move downward. A chicken crop is located in the front of the chest and it stores food after eating.
You may notice it sticking out forward after your chicken eats as this is a crucial part of the digestive system. Crop impactions are also painful if left unattended and you can tell this is the culprit by gently massaging the crop.
It should feel soft and squishy or empty in the mornings after they have roosted at night without eating.
How Can You Help A Chicken That Keeps Shaking Its Head?
If it’s determined that your chicken has ear mites, the cure is very simple with daily doses of Ivermectin of one drop orally and one drop in each of the two ears.
This is a diagnosis and treatment plan that you can take care of on your own if you are experienced with chickens.
If your chicken has a vitamin deficiency that is causing this behavior from eating a food with too little vitamin E, then you will need a vet to prescribe vitamin E or selenium to be added to the water.
For all other reasons for head shaking, you will most likely need to contact your vet for a house call or appointment or you can schedule a video call with a veterinarian for a diagnosis for a very small fee.
If you are highly experienced with chickens, you may be able to remove an obstruction in the crop yourself without harming your bird, but if not, you should leave it to the veterinarian to do so.
In some cases, you can isolate your bird and only give it water for 24 hours and the crop will clear out overnight if the impaction is not very severe.
Veterinarians can also remove gapeworms from your chicken’s nose and throat safely and will likely also prescribe an antibiotic to remove all of them from the body through excrement.
If you have a break out of gapeworms, the rest of your flock can be infected as well, so you should move your chicken to a different pen for four years or more until they all die in the soil. This is one of the main reasons that it’s important to rotate chicken coops every few years.
Can Chickens That Keep Shaking Their Heads Get Better Easily?
Most all cases of chicken head shaking can be resolved quite quickly with the correct treatment as ordered by or provided by your veterinarian.
The antibiotics and medications work very quickly and are easy for you to administer after you have a diagnosis of the symptoms.
As soon as a vet removes any foreign or compacted items in the chicken’s crop, it will immediately feel better and stop shaking its head. The same is true with the gapeworms being removed that are causing your fowl to be in distress.
The prognosis for most all head shaking in fowl is very good as long as you catch it early and get help from a qualified person to administer any type of treatments that are necessary for the condition.
Your veterinarian can help you with instructions for vitamins, minerals and all other medications for your chicken.
It may seem like your favorite fowl has gone mad when you see a chicken shaking head for the first time, but it can usually be rectified very quickly to get them relief. After the medications or procedures are performed to remove the items that were causing your chicken to shake its head, it will reaturn to be its active self and will regain its appetite as well.