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Ask Dr. Michael Salkin Your Own Question
Dr. Michael Salkin
Dr. Michael Salkin, Veterinarian
Category: Bird Veterinary
Satisfied Customers: 26943
Experience:  University of California at Davis graduate veterinarian with 44 years of experience
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I just read your answer to the question of feather loss in

Customer Question

I just read your answer to the question of feather loss in Asil hens. You did not factor in the Asil breed's propensity to lose feathers. Do you know anything about that? I've read that it's common and not harmful and that the underyling skin is bright red. My Asil rooster is looking very bad (to me) but doesn't seem unhealthy otherwise and none of my other non-Asil birds are affected. I just don't think he should go through the winter with so few feathers...his breast, legs and neck are mostly bare and the other feathers under his wings are thin.
Submitted: 1 year ago.
Category: Bird Veterinary
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
I'm sorry that your question wasn't answered in a timely manner. Would you please clarify what you mean by feather loss? This implies that feathers that should be present have been lost due to the many factors you read about. In Asils - a "hard-feathered" breed - feathering is less abundant than in other breeds and bareness of the breast (at least) is considered normal. Depending upon where you live you might have to keep him restricted to warmed areas during the winter although these are known to be quite hardy birds.
Please respond with further questions or concerns if you wish.
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
Though feather loss may be somewhat common in the Asil breed, none of the breed photos show any birds with bare areas. My Asil rooster began to show bare red skin in the keel area, then the legs, vent, and neck went bare with bright red skin. This young bird appeared outside my coop one morning late last winter. I don't know where it came from, but it seemed lost and confused and happy to be put in with my flock. I'd like to know if this much feather loss is usual or can I be doing something to help him? I started him on black oil sunflower seed today. What else might I do?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Thank you for the additional information. Please read the first paragraph here: I believe what you're seeing is normal particularly if the feather loss is symmetrical. A "hard molt" should be considered as well as inadequate nutrition, feather pecking and pulling by other birds, and disease and stress.
Pragmatically speaking, if you've ensured that his diet is complete, he's not being bothered by the rest of your flock, and the tincture of time doesn't complete a molt, you're left with having an avian-oriented vet (please see here: examine him, test him for various infections that affect feathering and perform a feather and feather follicle biopsy - all of which should be circumspect if only in a financial sense when just one bird is affected in your flock and unlikely to be contagious to it.
Please continue our conversation if you wish.
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.
Hi Mary,
I'm just following up on our conversation about your pet. How is everything going?
Dr. Michael Salkin
Customer: replied 1 year ago.
It seems I may have to have to take him to an avian vet, an expensive proposition, which I had hoped to avoid by trying your service. I don't recall any specific recommendations on your part, and I'd already read the link on Asil breeds you suggested. His diet is layer pellets, black oil sunflower seed, and whatever insects and plants he gathers in his free ranging. He was before on flock feed, a general purpose non-layer poultry feed, but I saw no improvement there. I have a ready source of soldier fly larvae (similar to meal worms) I could see if he'd like. He's separate from the other chickens now, and I've not seen him pulling his own feathers...he couldn't reach his own neck. I didn't see him experiencing aggression from the other birds while mixed with them, either. He does seem lacking in confidence, for a rooster. His vocalizations sound strangely sad, like mourning, but I've never had one of this breed, so perhaps that is normal for them. It doesn't help toward me feeling heartbroken about him. So, in summary, what I gather from our conversation is that this problem can't really be handled without a physical exam/test, correct?
Expert:  Dr. Michael Salkin replied 1 year ago.

Correct, but I don't believe that a medical etiology is in the offing. Instead, you're likely looking at a genetic predisposition for his feathering. Because I've offered up all I have, I'll opt out which will allow other experts to enter our conversation. Please don't respond to me which will dissuade those experts from doing so.

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