|While winter still lingers on it may be found that some fowl become dry; especially those housed indoors in barns and other protective outbuildings. The feathers, skin, and leg scales will from time to time become drier than what could be considered ideal. If the condition is left untended the skin may even become mildly flaky.|
Above: Uropygial papillae.
Usually a fowl will have a single oil duct, or uropygial papilla. It’s through this upright structure that conditioning oil is secreted from the internal gland. Occasionally, a mutantion occurs that causes the doubling of this structure. This can be expressed as two that are partially fused at the base, or two that are fully separate as shown above on this non-molting long-tailed fowl.
|The occurrence of this may depend on the region in which you live. Here in the mid-west US the winter air can become dry during the winter months. The drier air seems to rob the birds’ external surfaces of valuable moisture since they can’t produce enough oil from the duct(s) to entirely replenish it.
Normally, oil is secreted from the uropygial papilla. It is then spread over the skin and feathers while the bird preens itself. In drier than normal conditions, the usual amount of oil secretion may not be sufficient.
If dry skin and feathers become an issue, mineral oil may be applied over all external surfaces of the bird except for the eyes. A pair of clean hands, a lent free cloth, or a paper towel may be used to apply the oil. This not only moisturizes the skin, but also prevents the feathers from becoming brittle. This is especially important for long-tailed fowl that do not molt and replace their tail feathers on a yearly basis. Along with clean and dry living quarters, regular oiling can improve feather condition.
|The best time to oil a fowl is in the evening just after having gone to roost. This gives the oil a period to soak in over night before the fowl resumes its daily activities during which dust and ground debris may stick to the fresh oil.
Oiling fowl a day before exhibition will also improve its appearance for showing. Giving the oil a day to soak in will result in the appearance of a natural sheen and brighten the pigment of the face, comb, wattles, and legs.
Whenever oiling a fowl, care should be taken that just enough oil is applied for sufficient benefit without matting the feathers together.
Exception: Breeds such as the Silkie should be oiled carefully. The lack of feather barbs will result in them matting much more easily. The skin of the feet and the face and a few drops placed directly onto the uropygial papilla should be the extent of the treatment carried out on these fowl.