Slowly… I am executing my scientific experiment to figure out a solution for my hens’ bare spots. I’d love to throw all possible solutions at the problem and hope for the best, but then I’d never know what it was that worked.
I decided to start with examining the birds for lice. I tiptoed into the coop at 8pm to sneak up and grab one, but they were still out in the run. I tried to trap a hen who came into the coop to see if I was bringing food. She squawked and flapped around the room, summoning the rooster to protect her. Cooper came running in and put himself between me and the hen, so I gave up and scooped him up, instead.
I carefully examined under his wings and between his feathers for bugs but saw none. Good news, so far. He did have a scabby bump under each wing that may itch. The problem was that it was awkward for me to hold him, ruffle his feathers, and snap a photo on my phone without an assistant. The pictures I took showed nothing. Who knows if this is a normal skin condition, anyway?
I decided to go on hope that bugs are not the problem. The next idea was to get all the old winter straw out of the run so they can start fresh and take the dust baths that make their skin feel better. Man, that was a heck of a job! It took me a couple of hours and even though most of the job was in the shade I had to take frequent breaks to bring my face back out of deep red flushing mode. I found out later that we were having our first 80 degree day of the year. No wonder!
In the following days, I was gratified to observe hens sunk deep into dry holes they’d dug in the dirt, rolling around in the dust. I don’t know how long it will take to regrow their feathers, but it does seem like the bare patches are getting a little fuzzy and less red. I’m going to start giving them mealworm snacks to add protein for feather-building.
We shall see if the problem now takes care of itself.