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Feather Follicle Cyst

Other Names: Feather Cyst

Feather follicle cysts appear as oval or elongated nodules, lumps or masses which contain an accumulation of yellow-whitish material (known as keratin). They can develop as a result of an infection, genetics, previous trauma or damage to the feather, or any condition that interferes with normal feather growth. The silkie chicken breed has a genetic predisposition to developing feather follicle cysts due to their unique feathering.

If damage occurs on just one side of the follicle, it can cause asymmetric feather growth, in which it is not able to break through the skin. As a result, it will curl back within the follicle and fill with keratin, instead of producing a feather.


Feather follicle cysts can usually be diagnosed by your vet through clinical signs and the mass appearance. However, additional diagnostics may be needed in some cases. A cytology of the cyst in question usually contains erythrophagocytosis, erythrocytes, mixed-cell inflammation with an increased amount of background debris, multinucleated giant cells and/or the presence of feather fragments.


The treatment for feather follicle cysts varies depending on the location, size, and impact on the bird's comfort level. In some cases, no treatment may be necessary.

Clinical Signs

Oval or elongated lump or mass growing from feather follicle


  • History
  • Physical exam
  • Fine needle aspirate
  • Feather follicle biopsy - To confirm whether it is cancerous.
  • Histopathology

Reported Cases

  • Case 1: Feather follicle cyst in a Cockatoo. A 10-year-old, female umbrella cockatoo was presented for evaluation of a mass at the right commissure of the beak, with associated right periorbital swelling. A feather cyst was suspected, based on history and the results of a computed tomography scan and fine-needle aspirate. The cyst was surgically debrided and removed. Histopathologic results confirmed an infraorbital keratin cyst, most likely originating from a feather follicle. Ref
    Primary tumor site: beakSites of Metastases: none


No treatment may be necessary
SurgeryFeather cysts may need to be drained or surgically removed. Cysts are drained or aspirated by insertion of a needle or catheter into the cavity.



  • Minimize risk of injuries or trauma
  • Provide an appropriate area for chickens to dust bathe.

Scientific References

Risk Factors

  • The Silkie breed is genetically predisposed to feather follicle cysts
  • History of previous trauma
  • Malnutrition
  • Ecotparasites (lice, mites)