If one of your bird's neck muscles seems to have "frozen" in a position that leaves them staring at the sky, it's possible they have polyneuritis, or "star gazing" disease. This is caused by a thiamine deficiency that can usually be avoided by giving your flock free-choice access to complete, nutritionally-balanced feed. Don't just feed your flock scratch or kitchen scraps, as that can leave gaps in their nutrition. Read on to find out more.
Star gazing, Thiamine deficiency
Uncommon, particularly so in backyard flocks with access to pasture.
General signs -
Lack of appetite, lethargy, head shaking or tremors, eventually convulsions
Cardinal or diagnostic signs -
"Star gazing," meaning the birds assume a posture of looking at the sky. This is due to paralysis of the neck muscles. After star gazing develops, the birds may soon be unable to stand at all, but will lay with their heads still in the star gazing posture.
Nutritional deficiency of thiamine.
Not communicable, but many members of a flock may share this problem if they're on the same deficient feed.
Communicability to humans
None, but as a deficiency, it takes some time to develop: around three weeks after starting a thiamine deficient diet.
Home treatment and/or prevention
Prevention: Provide a good, fresh, nutritionally-balanced feed for your flock. Don't make the mistake of offering something like scratch only, or kitchen scraps only.
Treatment: Supplement with thiamine.
A veterinarian can diagnose this problem and suggest good supplements. Birds with a severe deficiency will refuse all food, so a veterinarian in those situations would be able to provide an inject-able form so the birds will resume eating.
In birds that haven't sustained permanent neurological damage, full recovery with supplementation and a balanced diet.
Other conditions, illnesses and/or diseases with similar signs:
Early stages may be mistaken for other neurological illnesses, such as encephalomalacia..
Also consider browsing through this list of other chicken illnesses with neurological symptoms.
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