Silkies Have a Hole in Their Head

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Silkies Have a Hole in Their Head

By Alan Stanford, Ph.D.
January 30, 2003

Silkies have a hole in the top of their skull. Kate learned this as she and a professor from the University of Wisconsin dissected a Silkie. As far as we know all Silkies have this hole in the head; perhaps the size varies from bird to bird. Our local vet claims there are other breeds with this odd feature.

Many breeders select for Silkies with a knob on the top of their head because they believe knobs give larger and rounder crests. This knob is brain bulging outside the skull. We call birds these birds round heads and birds without knobs flat heads. Although we do not select for the knob, our friend George Mihalik found 90% of our show birds had round heads. Maybe there is some truth to the theory of round heads having better looking crests; maybe round heads are a dominant trait.

I have heard several stories of Silkies dieing from seemingly insignificant blows to the head. In 2001 Pedro (one of our cockerels) jumped and hit his head in a travel carrier. He died within an hour. After the 2002 Ohio National we found Attila the Hun (another of our cockerels) almost dead in a travel coop but I revived him with mouth to beak resuscitation. We guess he hit his head. I almost killed Attila a month later as I broke up a cockerel fight but once again I resuscitated him. I theorize that what we call crookneck and others call limber neck is caused by trauma to a Silkie’s exposed brain. Birds with crookneck tuck their heads between their legs and their neck muscles are taught. In severe cases the birds back up, twitch their tucked heads side to side, and flip upside down.

A necropsy of one of Valerie Hirvela’s birds with crookneck found nothing except some fluid on the brain. The vet suggested prednisone might help afflicted birds. Vitamin E and vitamin B complex seem to help Crookneck birds; these vitamins help the nervous system. All of this is consistent with my theory that an injury to a Silkie’s exposed brain produces crookneck.

Crookneck strikes birds of any age. I think I saw a correlation with more crowding of our chicks. I also suppose raising Araucanas with our Silkies produced more crookneck birds. I speculate that the feisty Araucanas were popping the Silkies on the head.

Although the connection between crookneck and the exposed brain is only a supposition, the exposed brain is a fact.

Here is an interesting link about the subject. Crested fowl – Cerebral Hernia

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Bearded Silkies: White, Black, Blue, Splash Bantam Araucanas: Black, White, Blue, Silver Duckwing, BB Red, Splash, Columbian Sell: Started chicks, young, and adults. Eggs November to December 9 years of consistent show wining quality
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Bearded Silkies: White, Black, Blue, Splash Bantam Araucanas: Black, White, Blue, Silver Duckwing, BB Red, Splash, Columbian Sell: Started chicks, young, and adults. Eggs November to December 9 years of consistent show wining quality
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