I have four girls and was a complete novice when I got them last July. From about September, I noticed that three of them were beginning to become bald, firstly down the inside of the legs and round the whole of the vent, then spreading to all the underneath and the outside of their legs; the skin of one of them was also extremely red. A vet said that it was lice and gave me a spray – although I’d seen absolutely no evidence of anything in their feathers – so I treated all three, but to no avail.

I asked at the chicken farm where I get supplies and was told that it was more likely the result of a severe case of pecking and to apply Stockholm tar. I did so, and two of the girls adapted very well, but the third is very down and miserable and seems distressed. They are all eating well and seem fit and well.

Hilary Stopps, by email

Victoria Roberts says: This is unlikely to be lice, nor do I think feather pecking is the cause here.

The bird may just be moulting and, if a good layer, this can happen rather suddenly. The skin without feathers will indeed turn red when exposed to the elements..

I suggest that you get a seaweed supplement and put some in the feed. The iodine in seaweed helps to make strong feathers as it is a precursor of keratin. Make sure that your hens have enough entertainment, by hanging up nettles or cabbage or impale a cut swede for them to peck at, which will take their minds off bald areas.

As long as your hen is being fed commercial layer food (best nutrition) and no kitchen scraps (too much disease risk), she looks healthy, so have patience and wait for the new feathers.

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