Is olive oil irritating to chicken skin?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by austradork, May 19, 2010.

  1. austradork

    austradork In the Brooder

    Apr 12, 2010
    Hi chicken friends,

    I'm at my wit's end! I posted last week about my chicken Harriet who is losing feathers around her head. To reiterate, she is scratching the area frequently, but other wise is acting fine. She lays an egg most days, is drinking and eating normally, and seems happy (taking dust baths, running around, etc.) We also have no roosters, and our other 4 hens are not exhibiting any symptoms. So, yesterday we took Harriet to a bird vet where she was tested/examined for fleas, ticks, and mites. And NOTHING! The vet also said she otherwise looked very healthy. She then recommended a topical application of olive oil twice a day. She also suggested we give her dry cat food to up her protein intake. BUT . . . because I'm paranoid and because it's breaking my heart to watch Harriet be itchy, I submitted a question to about her, and the vet gave me contrasting information. In part, here's what the online vet said:

    "Are you sure this vet knows about birds? Olive oil will damage her skin and feathers and may make the itching worse. Cat food is possibly the WORST suggestion for food for a hen. She will be sure to have a calcium deficiency, hyperphosphatemia, hyperproteinenia and kidney failure. Hens DO NOT need extra protein. She should be on a high quality laying hen formula with extra leafy salad greens.

    The itchy face may indicate a severe sinus or oral cavity infection. The commonest thing is a sinus infection just under the eyes and around the ears. The safest thing to use externally if there are lesions is aloe vera gel after cleansing the area with warm water and a soft cloth. You need to remove the residual olive oil. There are also possibilities such as irritation from insect bites or toxic plants. Washing the area will help these as well.

    She may need injectable antibiotics, calcium, ibuprofen and many other medications. Act quickly and good luck."

    (THIS IS ME AGAIN). So, has anybody treated their chickens with olive oil before? This conflicting advice has me very worried!

  2. Tangerine farmer

    Tangerine farmer In the Brooder

    Mar 7, 2010
    Ventura CA
    I have a young hen with itchy face and ears. It's interesting about the possiblilties. But since she is flakey and itchy there I first used a Sevin type of dust. Then a little mineral oil. Today it is less scaley, and I found extra peanut oil and used that instead.

    I cannot see olive oil being a problem. I have used it as a mascara remover, and in my dry nose instead of Vasoline. It certainly doesn't burn the skin.

    I have heard both sides of the feeding cat food scenario. I give meat scraps and they eat bugs. I think a hen needs a lot more than leaf scraps if she is laying. That vet must be one of those who think chickens are vegatarians. Some are more carniverous than others, they vary.
  3. Nothing Oily should ever be used on birds. The oil will coat the feathers and make it impossible for the bird to insulated itself or regulate its body temp. Pls. don't use oils or oinments on your birds....think oil slick.
  4. HeatherLynn

    HeatherLynn Songster

    May 11, 2009
    Kentucky, Cecilia
    I don't know about oil slicks and such but I have used olive oil on pets before. Geese and parrots are the only birds I have used them on. Usually on their legs if there is an irritation or a scared over wound. Olive oil though is not harsh so not sure what the just answers guy was talking about. You can put olive oil on a newborn baby's face. Its very mild.

    If its scratching its head constantly maybe it has mites. I would treat that. If its still itchy maybe it has allergies. I have no clue what you could offer for that.
  5. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude Premium Member

    Well, whatever you do, don't give her ibuprofen as he mentioned. [​IMG] I'd think olive oil would make quite a mess. I do give it in their food since it improves circulation. May help her skin and feather condition if you add a tablespoon to a bowl of oatmeal or something. Aloe vera won't hurt her topically. Not sure what the itch is unless she is just molting and is itchy from the feather follicles starting to grow new feathers, if there is no evidence of mites. I think I'd still use topical anti-pest stuff on her like Eprinex or anything that kills lice/mites.
  6. austradork

    austradork In the Brooder

    Apr 12, 2010
    Thanks for the advice everyone. I'm happy to say that Harriet is feeling much better. Slowly our entire flock started itching, so it became apparent that we were dealing with lice or mites. We drove out to the county and picked up some diatomaceous earth and promptly treated the flock. Less itchies today all around. We also replaced their straw bedding with cedar shavings as we've heard they're good natural bug repellants.

    Tangerine farmer, we had good luck with aloe vera gel soothing Harriet's itchy head. Might want to try that sometime if you ever have another itchy hen! Sounds like the mineral and peanut oil is working well for you though.
  7. bawkbawk

    bawkbawk In the Brooder

    Aug 1, 2009
    I would think that olive oil in small amounts--or on a small area-- would be okay and would not cause problems like covering her in oil would. I used olive oil on a cotton ball to clean our little ones' pasty butts, and it seems to do fine (now that I think of it, I did the same with our human baby when she was first born!).

  8. leenie

    leenie Songster

    Dec 29, 2009
    Springfield, VA
    I've used virgin coconut oil to eradicate chicken lice and their eggs before. The oil naturally dissolves lice exoskeleton and eggs. It's not sticky and long lasting like olive oil and it pretty much all absorbs in their skin over a day or two. We have found that for us the vco calms skin irritation quickly on people and chickens. It can turn a red raw chicken fanny back to normal in a day.[​IMG]

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