This is the Preening Gland, also known as the Uropygial Gland.
What does this gland do?
The preening gland is essential to the bird's feathers. A bird will use their beak to stimulate it to realise a waxy substance onto their beak, which they then rub all over their body, using only their beak.
The gland secrets a mixture of extruder cells, fatty acids, ester waxes and sudanophilic secretory granules.
The secretion from the preening gland also contains vitamin D precursors that are also spread over the feathers by preening. With exposure to the ultraviolet portion of sunlight, the secretions are converted to an active form, vitamin D3, which is then ingested with subsequent preening.
Waterproofing the feathers is its main job, but that waxy coating also aids in suppressing the growth of organisms on the skin.
Furthermore, the preening secretions help to keep the feathers, beak and scales supple.
So when we see a change in the health of these body parts, we should investigate the health and productivity of the gland, or if the hen even engages in regular preening habits. A lack of preening may occur due to sickness.
Where is it located?
The preening glad is located on the bird's back, close to the tail region. Perfectly positioned for a bird to reach with their beak.
Do all birds and poultry have a preening gland?
All poultry and most birds of flight have a preening gland.
However, it is absent in the emu, ostrich, cassowary, bustard, frogmouth, most pigeon, woodpecker and psittacines species.
What a fascinating little piece of anatomy!