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Saturday, July 31, 2010

Crooked Beak

One of my fairly regular patients is a blue and gold macaw with a deviated beak.  This is commonly called "scissor beak" and happens most commonly in larger parrot species.  At some point when they are young, part of the beak grows abnormally, pushing the beak away from the normal middle position.  Over time this becomes worse and worse as the normal wearing of the beak happens abnormally as the upper and lower portions do not meet up properly. Improper beak shape can lead to difficulty eating as the bird cannot grab its food properly.  Here's an example of what this can look like.

In mild or early cases an experienced avian vet can reshape the beak with a Dremmel hand tool, wearing down the long portions to a more normal position.  Though somewhat distressing to the bird, this is actually a painless procedure.  However, when the problem continues for long enough even regular trimming won't be a final solution.  In these cases surgery may be needed for a permanent fix.  Another method is to use acrylic on the beak to gradually force the beak into a normal position.  Once normal positioning is achieved, the shape should be self-sustaining over time.

The macaw I see, Alex, has been coming to me for over a year now, and he's only three.  Though I'm good with birds and other exotics, I'm not a specialist and have been trying to get the owner to go to a local board-certified avian vet to have more advanced procedures done.  Alex has a lifespan comparable to a human, so taking care of this now will help give him a better life in the future.

If anyone knows someone who has a bird with a beak growing like this, make sure they see someone skilled in avian medicine right away.  The earlier that treatment starts, the more successful it can be.


  1. I happend upon this while googling crooked beak. I have a young chicken with this problem. Taking it to avian vet is not an option. I am a nurse. I have treated many ailments and repaired a few injuries aling thr way but this has me stumped. My husband wants to " end the suffering" but i see the pullet happy with the flock other than they are a little meatier than she. How do you use the acrylic? Please email me an answer if you can help. I would appreciate it.
    Thank you, Babette Ward

  2. There is no way to appropriately use any kind of acrylic to correct a beak unless you have proper training. I do a fair bit of avian work and I'm not at all qualified to do this procedure. You, as a layperson, certainly wouldn't be able to do it.

    1. So how would I be sure a vet actually knows how to do such a thing? I have a 3 week old chick with scissorbeak and would like to help her out before she's grown and bones are set...there are a number of vets nearby who will take chickens nearby, but if they actually can do anything to help I don't know. most people just say 'cull it' or 'there's nothing you can do' and it just seems like if you can straighten human kids' teeth, why not a bird beak?

    2. Yes, you can straighten a bird's beak, but that's not something that most vets can do. Remember that when straightening human teeth you don't go to your family physician, and usually not even your dentist. In most cases you have to go to a specialist, the orthodontist. In most cases among animals for this kind of work you would want to seek out a true avian specialist (preferably board-certified).

  3. Thank you for this, a woman was giving a blue and gold macaw for free on craigslist. In a whole bunch of text she buries, "my beak is a little crooked but it doesnt bother me." She shows a picture of him and also of him with a bunch of other macaws, saying she's hand fed him since he hatched. Obviously, she breeds them, and I think she knows EXACTLY what is wrong and how much work will go into fixing him and doesnt want to do it. I'm glad I found this explanation, he is barely 2 years old and it's quite deviated already, and a huge notch in the lower beak that I wonder if it was her attempt to try to help the issue. I can see that this will take a lot of time and money to fix over his lifetime, and while I feel sorry for him, I am always wary of the "backyard breeder" types who seems to care nothing for one of the ones they breed that has medical issues. I won't be getting the bird.

  4. I have a easteregger chick with a crooked beak how do I straighten it she is only 3 weeks old

  5. I had a chick with a scissor beak. We were unable to fix it and decided we wouldn't cull unless the bird was unable to eat and suffering. We tried dremel trimming and decided we won't do that again as it was very stressful for the bird. Her beak has grown even more crooked but she doesn't seem to care. We have sand and rocks outside that the chickens can use to naturally file their beaks. She is now over a year old, still eating and drinking with no problems, and is one of our best egg layers.


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