Sunday, October 12, 2008

Silkies and their Beanie Little Heads

One of the breeds of birds we raise is Silkies. I got them originally for the 4-H kids in our county, they weren't a bird that appealed to me overly, but the kids love them, so I caved.

Since then my daughters have really learned to enjoy them, both their goonie behavior, and for shows. They're cute, they're fluffy, people are definitely attracted to them whenever we show where the public might walk by.

The downside to Silkies is, they have "vaulted" skulls, which means essentially that their skull isn't completely closed. Sort of like the fontanelle in a baby, there's a hole in their heads (actually two, one on each side.) The vault in their skull is part of what gives them the poofy crests like the picture of Luna, above.

The problem with the vaults is, it means that part of their brains is only protected by skin, not bone. And if they get excited and thrash about (as chickens do), they bonk their heads, injuring their brains. It's a problem. It happens more to certain bloodlines than others (those with bigger holes in their heads, if you will), and we're breeding away from it. But it doesn't make it pleasant to deal with when it does happen. There are all sorts of treatment protocol one can use to help cure the problem when it happens (often called Crookneck), but the bottom line is, a bird who is susceptible really shouldn't be bred to.

We have a young bird now who is struggling with this issue. Naturally, he's one of the nicest ones we have (it's never the crappy bird you don't care about who has a problem.) I've been treating him, and hand feeding him. But I don't know how he'll do. Sometimes they get better, sometimes they don't. And I can certainly never breed this bird, so as nice as he is, he's now pet quality instead of the show quality he looks like. But it's the price we pay to work with this breed, I guess. Just wish it didn't happen...

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