What is the Uropygial Gland?
Have you ever wondered what that small bump is at the base of your hen’s tail? That would be the Uropygial Gland! The Uropygial Gland is more commonly known as the ‘oil gland’ or the ‘preen gland’ and it plays an important role in helping your hen to keep her feathers waterproof and in good condition. The small bump is usually covered by feathers and can be hard to the touch. It’s almost impossible to see if she is fully feathered as well as when she is preening.
What does Preening look like?
When we say that hens are preening it typically means grooming or cleaning feathers. This can be done either through dust bathing and sunbathing but also through cleaning by distributing oil through her feathers. As your hen preens herself, she spreads a small amount of clear oil through the feathering. This is done by rubbing her head onto the gland. She then collects the oil on a tuft of feathers on her head that works like a brush. These feathers mean she can then rub the oils on her feathers, weatherproofing them. You’ll see your hens preening themselves pretty much every day.
You will also see them biting at their feathers too. This is when she is grabbing parasites or small bits of dirt that is in her feathers and removing them.
Problems with the Uropygial Gland
Sometimes you may find that the Uropygial Gland may not work correctly due to injury, disease or vitamin A deficiency. This can result in enlargement, impaction, rupture or infection.
You can treat these problems accordingly:
- Apply a moist hot compress and gently massage.
- Increase vitamin A sources if deficient.
- If the problem persists see your nearest hen-friendly vet practice as chickens can actually get tumours and cancer of the Uropygial Gland.