Sunday, October 7, 2012

Frannie's Baldness

Sad, naked belly.
For the last year or so, Frannie has been fighting feather loss.  She's always been kind of scraggly-looking, and she's never been one you could call fluffy.  She's tall and lanky, has an extra long neck, which kind of fits her slightly nervous yet aloof personality.  Her belly was always a little sparse and sometimes it was super red-looking and warm.

But this summer, she got extra naked.  She lost a lot of feathers around her butt and belly and we got a little nervous.  She hasn't really had a good molt in her life so I thought that's what it was at first, but it's taken a long time for her to grow them back.  We checked her over and over for mites or lice or fleas, but didn't find anything, and assumed that wasn't the problem since the other girls are fine. 

In contrast: Elsa's super fluffy belly.
So of course, the next course of action was to turn to the encyclopedia known as the internet.  The first piece of info I found was the whole red-belly thing.  There were several sources that said that when hens are ready to go broody and sit on eggs, they pluck some feathers on their belly and they get really red in anticipation of egg incubation.  Considering Frannie has always been very concerned with the comfort of her eggs, this made sense to me.

Some other opinions were contact dermatitis from her bedding, plucking by other hens in the flock, a fungal infection, and red mites.  I doubt it's plucking since she's chicken #2 and the area where the bareness is.  Unfortunately, there was a lot of discussion boards on the topic with very little answers; just a lot of people talking about it and suggesting possible solutions.  Basically, not super helpful stuff.

But since her feather loss spread to other parts of her body (neck and butt,) I researched molting.  Molting can take from one to six weeks, depending on the hen.  It could be that she did go through a molt, which made it worse, but that doesn't solve the original baldness problem.

Why Frannie?  Why?
So we still don't know what's causing it and what we can do to make it better.  She's acting like her usual self, but with fall and winter coming, I would like her to grow some feathers back to keep her warm.  We bought some meal worms for treats since protein helps in feather growth, and that did seem to help grow some back between her legs.  We also dusted her, their dust bathing areas, nesting boxes, and roosting pole with diatomaceous earth just in case there is a mite problem.

I'll keep you updated on our little lady.

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