You might have seen little white flakes of dander coming off your chickens and thought to yourself, is that dandruff?!
Of course, it’s normal for your first thought to be one of concern.
But, as it turns out, it can be relatively normal for your chickens to get a bit of “dandruff”, particularly when they are growing out new feathers.
Still, if you notice your chickens have dandruff-like bits of skin flaking off of them, it’s best to take a closer look to see if it’s normal, or if it’s caused by something nastier.
Here’s whether chickens get dandruff, what causes dandruff in chickens, and when you should be concerned about it.
Do Chickens Get Dandruff?
Let’s get crystal clear about one little thing first. Dandruff from a chicken is not the same as dandruff from a human.
Where humans get dandruff from a dry or irritated scalp, chickens get dandruff from other causes.
Though it may not technically be called dandruff on chickens, it is still dead skin, feathers, or other debris. On animals, dandruff is normally called dander.
Most of the time, a bit of white dust coming off of your chicken’s feathers as they shake or groom themselves is nothing to worry about.
But, if you noticed other debris, blood, or a heavy build-up of this “dandruff”, it’s best to investigate further.
What Causes Dandruff In Chickens?
In humans, dandruff simply comes from a dry or irritated scalp. As for our beloved chickens, there are three common causes, all presenting differently in the type of “dandruff” that we can see.
The most common causes of dandruff in chickens are new feather growth, poultry pests like mites, or during times of feather loss.
Here’s how to tell the difference between each type and what to do about it.
New Feather Growth
The most common cause of “dandruff” on chickens is also the most normal.
Once or twice a year chickens will go through their molting and feather regrowth cycle.
As new feathers emerge and grow on your chickens, they constantly break out of their shafts, effectively shedding them. The result? Tiny, white, flaky, dander that falls off your chicken as they preen, shake, or clean themselves.
So, if you see any kind of skin or white dander on your birds while they are growing their new feathers, don’t be alarmed. This type of “dandruff” is completely normal and harmless.
Although it’s not common for poultry like ducks to get mites, lice, or fleas, chickens can become afflicted with a few types of mites.
These mites can cause a wide variety of afflictions to your flock, ranging from mild irritations on your chickens to more severe infections.
Amongst other symptoms such as lethargy, constant scratching, appetite changes, and changes in comb color, one such symptom of a mite affliction in your chickens is a build-up of dandruff-like debris on the roots of chickens’ feathers.
This can also be accompanied by blood, or dark black spots on your chicken’s feathers, usually in clumps.
If you suspect any kind of lice or mite affliction in your flock, always consult with a trusted pet advisor or veterinarian for the best assistance.
Chicken Feather Loss
When birds, including chickens, preen themselves or molt, you can see white-dandruff-like flakes shed away from their bodies.
During a time when a chicken’s feathers are falling out, whether it’s from molting, preening, mating, or from bullying, the skin connecting the feathers to the chicken’s body can become irritated.
It’s natural that following feather loss, some kind of skin breaks away from the chicken’s body. This appears very much like dandruff and is a completely normal part of a chicken’s life.
Where you may want to intervene is if the feather loss is caused by rough mating or bullying within the flock.
What To Do If Your Chickens Have Dandruff?
So, if you’ve noticed any form of dandruff flaking off of your chickens, although most of the time it’s completely normal, it’s best to do a quick physical examination of your chooks.
If you notice that your chickens are simply growing out new feathers, then these dandruff-like specs coming from your chicken are actually the new feathers shafts breaking as the feathers grow.
This process is completely natural and you have nothing to worry about.
If you notice your chickens have lost a lot of feathers, whether it’s from molting, mating, or bullying, then you can expect a bit of skin irritation to follow. During these times it’s possible to see dandruff-like flakes shedding from your chicken’s skin.
This too isn’t too much of a concern, so long as you can stop any kind of aggressive mating or any bullying!
However, if you believe your chickens may have a mite or lice affliction, and you are finding big clumps of “dandruff”, dark debris, or blood in patches or clumps forming around your chicken’s feather roots then you should certainly take action.
Most pet-care stores provide over-the-counter solutions, but it’s always best to consult with an experienced veterinarian first to identify the best treatment for your flock.
In general, dandruff, or dander, on your chickens is nothing to be concerned about. It’s a completely natural part of the molting and feather regrowing process that chickens go through a few times a year.
This flaky white shedding is normally preened away or cleared during your chicken’s dust baths, but it’s possible to hang around longer on their feathers.
The only time to really be concerned is if you notice any signs of poultry pests like mites or lice. In these cases, it’s best to do some further investigation into your flock and take action accordingly.
Otherwise, your chickens will naturally shed some of this dander, clean themselves, and get on with their daily routines like it’s nobody’s business!