Ear Wax In a Cockerel or Chicken

“Hi, I have a 2 year old Welsumer cockerel. Recently he has started loosing feathers either side of his neck, towards his head. On closer inspection I noticed that the feathers on his head and over his ears were greasy, and his ears are full of a soft yellow wax, which smells. I suspect he has been scratching at his ears which is why he has lost his feathers.

I have started bathing his head/ears with salt water and removing any easily accessible wax (he seems to quite enjoy it!). Apart from that he seems himself. The hens he lives with seem to be ok. Do you have any idea what might have caused it and is there anything else I can do? Cheers,” ~ Becky

Hi Becky,

Thanks for the question.

If you notice your chicken shaking its head back and forth, it’s often an indication that you need to inspect its ears.

Some chickens, like some people, just produce more ear wax than others. If this is the case there is no cause for concern.

My suggestion would be to use an ear wax removal solution to loosen the wax and then to gently remove it.

Use it sparingly at first to make sure it doesn’t cause irritation to your bird.

I realize we’re talking about a cockerel here Becky but for anyone who is dealing with this situation with a hen, be sure to check the ingredients in the solution to determine whether you should discard of her eggs while using it.

However, before you assume that your cockerel is just an over producer of wax, you’ll need to thoroughly check him to ensure that he doesn’t have mites.

If he has mites that have gotten down into his ears it will cause inflammation which will in turn stimulate ear wax production.

Mites can usually be found under the wings, above and below the vent, high on the thighs and in the crest and beard of those birds that have them.

Mites are small, just visible without magnification and look like dark moving specks. Some species are nocturnal so an inspection at night with a good flashlight is in order as well as a daytime inspection.

Mites can bite humans but they are not dangerous.

The bites will cause irritation though so wearing long sleeves while doing the inspection would be a good idea.

A flock that is infested with mites will have a decrease in egg production, food intake and a decrease in weight gain.

Once you have ruled out mites, another possibility would be an ear infection.
 
An indication of an ear infection might include walking off balance, circling of the head and stumbling. You might also see the chicken dragging its head across rough textured objects or plants as well as fluid coming from the ear.

I am not familiar with any natural remedies for ear infections in poultry so I don’t have any recommendation in that regard.

My recommendation would be to see a veterinarian if you suspect an ear infection. It is likely that you will be given an antibiotic to treat the infection and will have to discard eggs for a few weeks (in a hen) until her body is completely free of the medication.

Becky, I hope this has been helpful.

Because he is acting normally otherwise, I’m pretty sure your cockerel just produces a lot of wax. I wanted to include the other possibilities as well, starting with what to do at home before suggesting a trip to the veterinarian.

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