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Uropygial Gland Infection

The uropygial gland, also referred to as the preen gland or oil gland, is located at the base of the chicken's tail on their lower back, just in front of the tail feathers.
The gland is responsible for secreting a thick, transparent oil which the bird spreads over their feathers (through the act of 'preening'). The oil consists of a combination of extruded cells, ester waxes, fatty acids, fat and sudanophilic secretory granules.

Disease conditions which involve the chicken’s uropygial gland include tumor growth, trauma, impaction, and granuloma/abscess. Some uropygial gland abnormalities in chickens occur secondary to vitamin A deficiency, resulting in enlargement of the gland, glandular metaplasia, and hyperkeratosis.

Clinical Signs

Excessive preening along the back
Poor feather quality
Feather loss near the uropygial gland
Self-trauma and/or mutilation to the gland area
Bleeding near the uropygial gland
Large mass near the uropygial gland


  • Physical exam
  • Cytologic exam and cultures of gland secretions or ulcerations - Useful for determining whether the cause is related to an infection or a tumor.
  • Biopsy - Required to confirm the presence of a tumor and to determine the type.


Supportive careIsolate the bird from the flock and place in a safe, comfortable, warm location (your own chicken "intensive care unit") with easy access to water and food. Limit stress. Call your veterinarian.
Treatment depends on the underlying cause
In cases where the uropygial gland is abscessed, impacted, or metaplasticApply a hot compress followed by exerting digital pressure can be helpful for extruding the contents.
For cases where the uropygial gland is impactedAn incision over the affected area and removal of the impacted material may be needed. Only to be performed by a veterinarian.
Wound careIf an ulceration is present
In cases where a tumor is presentRadiation therapy, chemotherapy and cryotherapy may be required.



  • Ensure chickens receive good vitamin A rich sources in their daily diet.
  • Provide a well-balanced diet
  • Routinely check the uropygial gland during routine health checks.

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • Vitamin A deficiency
  • Previous trauma to the uropygial gland.
  • Poor diet