Molting Exposes A Chicken's Preen Gland

Because my chickens are so fluffy, I don't usually get a glimpse of the uropygial gland or preen gland that's located near the base of the tail. It's normally hidden under feathers, but molting can expose it. The uropygial gland produces the oil that chickens use when preening their feathers. I recently wrote a post about this gland for BackyardPoultryMag.com. In my post, I used a reader picture. The pictures below, however, are provided courtesy of Kate our Buff Orpington who is currently molting.

You can see the oil at the base of this gland. My kids think it looks like the tip of a baby bottle, which is exactly what it's like. Chickens move the oil up with their beaks and spread it during preening.

Molting is most often triggered by short day lengths and is a lot like house cats and dogs shedding their hair to prepare for the coming seasons. Molting starts at the head and neck and moves toward the tail.

So, if your chickens are in mid-molt, you may want to take a look and see if you can find their preen gland. It will be easier to see now than ever!


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