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Saving Stanley: A Little Chicken With A Twisted Neck...

Gabriel has chickens and loves fried eggs with homemade soda bread and grilled bacon.



Meet Stanley, my little silkie chick whom has made a full recovery from a twisted neck. A twisted neck is typically a condition that affects new born chicks caused by a genetic disorder, a vitamin deficiency, toxins or a head injury. It can affect older birds too. Often refered to as 'stargazing', the neck is twisted so that the chicken is looking upwards. Stanley was born perfect, and at three weeks old was thriving; enjoying life in the coop with his siblings and his Mum and every morning he loved to get out into the field and peck the hours away. His favorite thing was a sand bath. One afternoon shortly after returning to the coop, Stanley had an accident. We think he fell or was pushed off a small roost. It seems he landed badly and twisted his neck. On hearing a very loud squeal we ran to the coop and there he was on the ground. He was in shock. Reaching in I scooped him up: he was cold and shivering and his neck was completely limp, it just hung from his body. I quickly headed home, the terrified chick in hand.

The first thing was helping the little bird drink some warm water laced with sugar (for the shock). He feel asleep in my hand. I placed him on an old fleece jacket in a shoe box and left him to sleep. I spent most of that day helping the little chick drink using a small teaspoon. We didn't think he'd make it throught the night. The following morning the sick chick was still breathing and in fact looked stronger. He spent another day sleeping and drinking. His neck was not better but he was calmer. This continued for three days. The neck was badly twisted and rest was not going to help him get better. We decided we were going to have to be cruel to be kind. Stanley, the name our daughter bestowed, needed a neck brace.

I made a brace from my daughters nerf gun bullets: I cut the bullets in two and placed plaster on the back and the front of the soft spongy material. One of us stretched Stanleys neck while the other placed the brace carefully around his neck making sure it was tight enough to support the neck but not too tight that he couldn't breath. Feeding and drinking was very difficult and we continued to help Stanley using a teaspoon to give him water and hand-feeding little grains, tiny bits of boiled egg and baby spinach leaves (a natural source of vitamin E).

A chick with a twisted neck or wry neck is not a pleasant thing to witness and Stanley experienced a lot of stress during this period. He would walk backwards and drag the neck on the floor, bumping into things. We were stressed too and I won't lie, we were close to putting him down, but he seemed so determined. After three days we thightened the brace and added an extra piece. We moved Stanley from the shoe box into a large styrofoam box with a ribbed carpet in the bottom. I couldn't leave water in the box because he kept dragging his neck into it and I was afraid he would drown. Another three days passed and we took off the brace. The neck was very, very weak but it was straight. Stanley was exhausted, I put him back in the shoe box to sleep. He had lost weight and was extremely thin. He weighed so little and his feathers were falling out.

Stanley With His Family...

Silky Family

Silky Family

Stanley slept the rest of the day away, I wondered, for the umpteenth time if he would make it. And the next morning not only was Stanley alive but he was visibly eager to get out of the shoe box. I put him back in the styrofoam box and watched as he manouved around in it. He was definitely doing better but at times the neck would drop and he would walk backwards. I decided to bring him over to the coop and see what would happen. Stanley was delighted to be out in the field albeit with me right beside him. He began to peck at the grass and slowly moved about. The others weren't very friendly so Stanley had to be guarded.

Stanley spent every morning out in the field under the watchful eye of one of us. My daughter was the main keeper. It was obvious that this little bird had a long way to go but he was a fighter and he wasn't going to give up, he was determined. The morning day care was working so we decided to bring him over in the evenings too. We noticed the other chicks were more welcoming. Stanley's neck got stronger and stronger. A day went by and I hadn't seen it drop or droop. He was eating on his own and drinking on his own. He wasn't sleeping as much and had started to fly out of the box. What a little trooper!

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One day I decided to leave Stanley in the coop (after a morning in the field) for the afternoon. When I went to bring him home Stanley wasn't very keen. We repeated the same routing the next day and the next day. However on the third day I had to run after Stanley to catch him. He squealed when I put him the carrier and even spread is little claws out and curled them about the lid. Anyway I got him in. As I walked the short path home Stanley continued to squeal. My heart flipped. Stanley didn't love me anymore and I realised I was bringing him home for me, not for him. Stanley was a survivor and he wanted to survive with his family. I turned on my heel and walked back to the coop. I opened the gate and gently put him in. I thought he'd look back at me, one last look of recognition, but he didn't he ran off and jumped onto the roost and sat with his numerous brothers and sisters. I walked home, a tad sad, but mostly I was over whelmed by this little bird. He reminded me of what sheer determination is all about, something I had burried a little deeper year after year until it was almost lost. I had almost forgotten what it was like to fight for something with devoted determination. Four weeks and one day, that's the lenght of Stanley's recovery. And that's how long it took Stanley to find my deeply hidden determination. I say I saved Stanley but you know, it really is the other way around: Stanley saved me! I had become complacent and satisfied and even non-pulsed when my efforts weren't successful, and this little bird made me realise, I just wasn't determined. Thank you Stanley for a life lesson that no one else could have taught me! I am back on track and I am determined!

© 2021 Gabriel Wilson


Gabriel Wilson (author) from Madeira, Portugal on March 25, 2021:

Thanks Peggy. He really is rather special. And doing so well :)

Peggy Woods from Houston, Texas on March 24, 2021:

Stanley was determined to live, and with your help, he achieved it. Thanks for telling us about that little bird, and your efforts to help him.

Gabriel Wilson (author) from Madeira, Portugal on March 24, 2021:

I have 95 chickens at the moment (15 are babies), and I have never had a chick with a twisted neck in years of having chickens. Honestly Liz this little chiken is something else. If you visit Madeira I will introduce you. Hope you and your family are doing good :)

Liz Westwood from UK on March 24, 2021:

This is a lovely account of Stanley's recovery. It sounds like you have branched out into an animal hospital role.

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