Why is my hen's skin so red?

by Mary Holley
(Sanger, California USA)



Question

Why is my hen's skin so red? I have a problem with my 3 Barred Rock hens, 1 yr old.
They are laying 1 egg a day.

Our temperature in Central Calif is 65 days and 50 at night. 4 weeks ago I noticed very red skin at their backsides, all around, above and below vent area and upper legs.

They have normal behavior only have moved from roosting on 1x4 to 1x2 and wire as to not touch skin to a surface while roosting. The redness spread to legs and feet.

I was told it was a protein deficiency so supplementing organically with protein sources but redness on skin on body has worsened while the feet have returned to normal coloring.

The only thing I changed at the time I first noticed this was switching from feeding organic layer to organic soy-free layer.

Mill said he replaced soy with sesame for protein source. I see no mites. Their feathers do not look as good as they did.

Around the neck and on the back the feathers look "old", kind of discolored or faded. The redness looks worse because there are fewer feathers on their backsides so the red area looks larger than before.

I first applied antibiotic ointment but it made no change. I've attached a few pictures that were taken 4 weeks ago.

Answer
I have noticed this in some chickens that have feathers missing in certain spots, for one reason or another.

The Turkins or Naked Necked chicken breed exhibits a red neck where feathers have been programmed not to grow, through selective breeding.

The skin seems to redden when exposed to sunlight, in some breeds; probably pigment rising to the surface, like when humans get a suntan.

I’ve never noticed a problem due to the skin being red. But in winter months, feather loss or absence can cause hypothermia and illness if those chickens are unable to keep warm enough.

Try to ensure that your coop is not over crowded as this can lead to aggressive plucking by the more dominant birds in the flock.

They might be trying to drive the less dominant birds away, and if caged or penned, these birds are unable to leave and are subject to sometimes merciless plucking, and even death.

Multiple feeding and watering stations can help, as this will decrease the level of their nutrient related competition.

Make sure fresh food and water are available at all times, even if the chickens free range.

Some feather plucking can be a sign of increased need for protein in your flock. You might notice some birds snacking of the feathers of their flock mates as they pick and pluck.

Upping protein ratio of feed or adding whole seeds, like black oil sunflower seeds, may help, especially during the molt when new feathers should be growing in for good protection from cold weather.

I would suggest keeping an eye out for signs of skin parasites; a lot of scratching, rubbing, pecking at something on their legs.

Mites are generally too small to see unless the infestation is drastic.

Hopefully your chickens have a good dust bathing area, this can help keep external parasites under control

It sounds like you said your chickens are roosting on wire and I would like to suggest that is not the best for their feet.

The wild ancestors of our domesticated breeds roost in trees and wooden roosts are more comfortable on their feet than wire.

I use 2 x 4 lumber with the wide side as the roosting surface for standard sized chickens.

Wire conducts the cold more, drawing much heat from their feet at night, as would a metal pipe perch. Wire could eventually cause sores on their feet.

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