Cross beak / Scissor Beak

Close-up of a Scissor Beak (the top and bottom don't line up)

Crossed Beak / Scissor Beak, can be severe, but many times, this beak malformation is not hazardous to your chicken's health.   This condition can afflict any breed, but seems to be more prevalent in Easter Eggers or Ameraucanas.

My only experience with cross beak / scissor beak occurred with one of my Blue Wheaten Ameraucana pullets that I had so proudly hatched in a homemade incubator.   Thankfully, her crossed beak wasn't severe and the problem didn't show up until she was several weeks of age.

Enjoying life - who cares about a funny looking beak!

I do remember being quite concerned that the poor baby would not be able to get enough to eat or have trouble free-ranging, but I needn't have worried.  This sweet gal can keep up with the best.  She eats as much as her sisters and is a nice plump size.   My pretty Ameraucana loves to free-range with her buddies and has even tried her hand at being broody.

I trim her beak every 2-3 months with clippers, since the tips are not able to be filed down naturally, but other than that, she receives no special care and is now just over 2 years old.   My Pet Chicken has some helpful information on Crossed Beak / Scissor Beak  here.

My Crossed Beak girl is one of 3 (my triplets, I call them) - Can you pick her out?

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10 years ago

I have a crossed beak white leghorn. Her crossed beak developed after an injury at about 8 (?) weeks of age. Her cheek and under her chin were both sliced, when the hens were in their run. We never figured out what happened (Did a cat manage to scratch her when sleeping in the corner? Did another chick somehow scratch her? Did she manage to get her head through the chicken wire but had trouble getting it back?). After 3 days in isolation in the house, in which she stopped eating altogether and nearly stopped drinking, several application of neosporin, and the purchase of no-peck, we put her out with her friends. We figured starvating and lonilness were likely a worse death than pecking. But the pecking wasn't too horrible, and she started eating again--but healed into a cross-bill! It has improved somewhat, she is now 8 months old and one of our 2 best layers (out of 6).

Sara
10 years ago

Interesting. I didn't realize that some chickens needed their beak trimmed.

Eric
10 years ago

Cross beak or scissor beak is a very common genetic deffect, which can present it's self in any bird breed.Even though this birds cross beak did not stop her being able to eat or drink, she should never be used for breeding stock,nor should her parents be used again. Cross beak is one of the first signs to look for in poor genetics, along with twisted toe and stiff leg in your chicks. The main cause for this type of poor gentics is usually line breeding (father to daughter and mother to son or brother/sister consectutively). To prevent these types of deffects from croping up you should observe good animal husbandry practices. First is to never breed an animal with a genetic deffect, second is to bring in new blood every 2 or 3 generations from different sources, third is to cull out, rather than sell off or give away those animals who do present a genetic defect.

Deana
10 years ago

I have a Buff Wyandotte that has a scissor beak. Her's get's severe from time to time. I do catch her and use a regular nail file and my husband holds her and I file away. She is 15 weeks old and is the same size as the ones her age. Every thing I read says to make sure her food and water is breast high and she will get what she needs. So they are and we make sure her treats are high enough for her to reach too. She is growing and we keep an eye on her and she seems to be doing well.

10 years ago

I have a 2 week old chick that has a scissor beak.
She is a very large chick and seems able to eat fine. I hope she won't be picked on later.

10 years ago

My hen Bucky (short for Bucked Beak) has this problem and she eats just as much as the other guys. She is a 14 week old white Leghorn and shes one of my favorites because shes so easy to spot. Her top beak goes left and the bottom goes right.

Laura
10 years ago

hey. I was just talking about this to my mom. I have a 3 week old Buckeye Female and she has a crossed beak. I was wondering what you guys would suggests to help her. Should I cut it should I fill it down. Just curious to see what everyone thinks about the situation. Thnaks

Jacob Bailey
10 years ago

We recently hatched some wheaten ameraucanas (just like in the article/pictures) and one of them is cross-beaked. We will keep an eye on this one and provide trimming/filing as necessary. I read that it is caused by genetic reasons primarily, so I guess there isn't much people can do, except not breed chickens that have this trait. We are hoping "Chris" (Chris Cross) will grow up to be a very happy chicken!

Laura
10 years ago

Mary Ann. The cross is so bad right now she is now losing weight. She still is eating and is always eating. I filed a little today and I gave her some vitamins and minerals to help her and also I have mixed up so grain and water and I have been taking her out and feeding her. She is one of the friendilst babies we have. She is always wants to be picked up. I wish I could do more for her. Thank you. i am hoping that if I keep feeding her special food and giving her more vitamins and minerals it will giver her strength. I still put her with the other babies she likes it with them.

Chris McClure
10 years ago

Thanks for this great information about cross beaks. My girl is an Ameracauna, about 3 1/2 months old. She follows me around, and appreciates that I feed her crumble separately from the rest of my flock. The beak has steadily gotten worse, but she still eats and drinks, She uses a tall dog dish to eat out of, standing in the middle and only going one way around the inside wall as she scoops up the food. She is not as heavy as her sisters, but seems quite happy. After reading these posts, and others, I am going to trim her top beak this evening. Hope it goes ok.

I love the various names...i call her Crosby, short for cross beak. Glad to hear some girls are doing well...gives me and Crosby hope.

kenna
10 years ago

I to have a chicken with a scissor beak, she is an easter egger; her condition apperears to be a little more severe then yours. She is very happy, but can't pick up any food or scratch from the ground; so she has to eat out of the feeder.

Natalie
9 years ago

We were so excited to start raising hens, and had no idead this could occur! 1 of 5 of our chicks developed cross beak. Her name is Captain Jack Sparrow (she looked like a sparrow as a peep, brown fluff all over and white underside). We were told she was an Ameracauna, but she actually might be an easter egger.

Cpt.Jack is now 6 months old and has a sever case of cross beak: the upper and lower beak jut out in the complete opposite direction. Poor baby, she can barely shovel in dry food from a dish into her mouth.

We have had tremendous success with using a mash though, so if anyone else is having trouble, maybe try the following:

Take a small bowl (we use a small white baking ramakin) and mix
-1 egg yolk
-some oyster shell dust (since she should start laying soon)
-some feed
-warm water (helps to dissolve feed)

The consistency we go for is like a thick porrage/soup. It's kind of a trial and error thing...some days we add too much water, then need to add a bit more feed. We giver her the yolk mixed in to help her gain weight (it's all fat we were told),as she can't feed herself all day while we are at work. We were advised to do this by our local farmer. We have also added crushed garlic (read that if can help with immune system), and yogurt (another way of getting calcium) to her mix. She loves it!

All in all, it's been quite hard and a steep learning curve. Not at all what we signed up for when we initially thought about getting hens. We knew to be prepared to cull in the case of a sick chicken to avoid painful suffering, but didn't even know cross beaks could occur. We always need to be home by dinner to make sure she gets fed, and then we frequently need to trim her beak, as well as wash her front (her mash gets all caked onto her feathers otherwise and she can't preen herself).

Many people (online and in person) advised us to cull her. We wanted to try our best to see if we could find something that would work for her, and so far the mix has been working real well. She is so sweet because she is handled so much (regularly checking her crop to see if she is getting any/enough food, helping preen her feathers since she can't remove the casing herself, etc.), and quite docile compared to the others - we have made jokes that she is more a lap-dog than a chicken.

My hope is that this might be helpful to anyone who might have similar issues with a sever case of cross beak in thier flock. So glad to hear that others have milder cases and that their babes are doing well! Very encouraging!

chae
9 years ago

I have a 9 month, crossed beaked Americana hen, named Hawkeye. She quit laying eggs as of a month ago, and I chalked it up to shorter day light, I live in northern CA. Her other siblings are still going strong. I'm starting to think that it's her cross beak and not getting enough nutrition. I'm doing the deep bowl, yogurt, mixing her pellets w/brown rice, etc. but, I can't really be sure how much nutrition she's getting. It's heartbreaking to see her not being able to scratch much because she can't peck. Lately, her feathers look mangy. She doesn't have the fluff of the other chickens. She has this odd habit of dunking her head in the water before bed time. Her underneath feathers are always wet because she has to put her head down to drink water. I want to knit her a scarf. I've also, noticed that she seems to have "grey" hairs....where her feathers insert into her skin seem grey. Even though, she is at the feeding bowl longer than any others, I don't really know if she's getting enough to eat. She is very frantic at feeding time, sometimes "on and in" the feeding bowl. This stress can't be good for her. Yes, she's alive but is she suffering?

chae
9 years ago

Mary Ann, Thank you for your reply. I don't have a camera so I'll need to get a friend who can do this for me. Hawkeye's top beak looks very hook like. This, I believe is causing her not to groom or take dustbaths because pecking seems to be part of it. You are right, she is molting. I checked the link you sent. I have a friend who has cats and she clips their nails. She said she'll help trim Hawkeye's beak. Will the cat snippers do? Are human clippers stronger for the job? Do we do both upper and bottom beak? Hawkeye is quite nervous so I don't think it'll be easy. On her upper beak I can see the "yellowish" part of the beak/nail before the darker part (which i presume where the nerves are). Should we err on caution and cut only a little bit of the yellow, nailish part? Your suggestions would appreciated. I'm nervous as hell.

chae
9 years ago

Hi Mary Ann: Could you clarity the difference in trimming a crossbeak's beak vs the cruel practice of cutting the ends of beaks in battery chickens so that they don't peck at each other. I just called a vet and he said it was cruel to do that to chickens. I think he was thinking the other, but, now I'm confused. Is there something about cross beak chickens that their beaks grow like overgrown fingernails?

Holly Rodriguez
8 years ago

Thank you so much Mary Ann for this great article! I also appreciate your encouragement today over the phone! You all are so wonderful over there at mypetchicken!

Cheryl Anderegg
7 years ago

We have Avery sweet 4 month Ameracauna with a pretty significant cross beak. Initially she learned to eat crumbles out of the chest high feeder, always going counter clock wise. She absolutely loves wet mash, especially with banana mixed in! Recently I moved all my girls over to nipple waterers for cleaner water, worried that she wouldn't adapt. Well, she loves it, especially the one that is 2-3" above her head. Although she gets a bit "snapped" at, she is persistent and keeps butting in with the others for her fair share!

nicola
7 years ago

I have a 7wk old Ameracauna chick with severe sissor beak...bottom beak right angle to top. My breeder said she would cull her (ugly etc), but she has more character and is by far the friendliest of the lot. Your blog has been most inspiring. So I have been reading as much as I can to decide whether it was possible for them to survive, be healthy, preen etc. They all get mash and pallets so she seems to be feeding/growing pretty well, but when I get home I always mash up a banana or other fruit in a bit of mash and she just pigs out - while I distract the other chickens with other treats. Good to know about the yoghourt...always some spare going. But I know I can't always be there to do that in future just a bit nervous about the whole beak trimming thing?

brooke
6 years ago

I am a first time chicken owner and just got 8 chicks (4 Australorps and 4 easter eggers) one of my EE's has very bad scissor beak and I am very concerned. They are 3 weeks old now and it developed at about 1.5 weeks. She is at least half the size of the rest of the birds and is constantly eating. I try hand feeding her but she is very shy and the rest are very picky and come up and take it from me. I just ordered the deep dish you suggested but I'm scared it won't arrive in time.I was picking up the birds to bring them outside today and she was so light. Please help me, everywhere I am reading it says to cull them but I care so much about her and that would break my heart.

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