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Poultry Digital - November 2018

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Mike Colley Mike has had an interest in all things chicken since he first asked his mum on the school bus "what colour eggs do different coloured chickens lay?" aged five. Over the next 45 years Mike developed his knowledge of poultry: in his backyard, breeding, hatching, showing and selling chickens, as well as in the commercial poultry industry as an Area Man- ager and, latterly, a Research Manager. pond. Provide large housing, if the flock is kept together at night, and find the resources to remove males for a time, es- pecially around goose breeding season. Also keep things clean and provide the right dietary needs for all. Finally, never feed coccidiostats to ducks or geese, as it will poison them. Q: My cockerel is self-mutilating (it is not mites or other chickens). He's made himself bleed around his wattles and plucked one side of his neck, his feet are bloodied from where he's clawed himself. Could it be neurological? A: This is a rare complaint I have not seen in the flesh but is reminiscent of my own skin issues and those of my dog, typically scratching an irritation until it bleeds. My own issues came down to an eczema-type fungal infection on my shin and dry skin when the weather turns cold. For my dog it was a grass allergy, which she grew out of. So, to start with, we have three culprits common to all an- imals. You say it's not mites but are you aware that mites come in a variety of sizes? Red mite is big in the mite world, usually 1mm across and dark red, but there are mites you would need a microscope to see. Northern Fowl Mite, Ornithonyssus sylviarum (similar to red mite but does not leave the bird), should be visible or the Depluming Mite, Kne- midocoptes gallinae, which I suspect is your culprit. This mite burrows into the feather follicles in the same way that Scaly Leg Mite Knemidocoptes mutans burrows into the scales on the birds' legs. This is going to cause severe irrita- tion so scratching and pecking are going to be the poor cockerel's only relief. As far as treatment is concerned you'll need to approach your vet for a topical arachnicide. Don't be concerned about red skin, this is perfectly normal and is a sign of sexual maturity and health. Failing that the next culprit could be a bacterial infection such as Staphylococci or a fungal infection such as a ringworm Trichophyton, Microsporum, or Epider- mophyton species, again you will need to seek veterinary advice for treatment. It's possible your bird does have an allergy to something in its environment. Cockerels can be susceptible to frost bite if they have large combs or wattles so it's best to use drinkers that don't allow the bird to get its wattles wet. Finally, we can talk about behavioural or neu- rological issues, this is seen in parrots as they pull their feathers out, but this usually relates to boredom or stress which I have not heard of or seen in poultry. Once you find the culprit to aid the healing you could put a sock over the bird's neck to break any habitual scratching that remains. "It's possible your bird does have an allergy to something in its environment. Cockerels can be susceptible to frost bite if they have large combs or wattles so it's best to use drinkers that don't allow the bird to get its wattles wet" 29

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