Why are my chickens losing their feathers?

What is moulting

In most cases, it is normal for hens to lose their feathers (and regrow them). This is known as moulting. Moulting generally occurs twice a year as the daylight times decrease or increase. For an adult hen, the process takes a few weeks as your hen sheds replaces its feathers with thicker, fluffier feathers.

Moulting also occurs as baby chicks go through growth spurts, shedding their downy layers for feathers. You can expect four cycles of moulting for your chicks as they grow towards adulthood. The first juvenile molt will occur around 1-6 weeks then 7-9 weeks, 12-13 weeks and finally 20-22 weeks. After this, your chickens will molt twice a year as daylight times change.

Hard Molt vs Soft Molt

There are two types of molting processes, these are called the hard molt and the soft molt. A soft molting process is gentler, taking place over the course of a number of weeks, whereas a hard molt occurs over a shorter time frame. The type of molting process will come down to the type of hen you have. Generally, battery farm hens will experience a hard moult in order to ensure maximum egg production outputs.

How to tell if your chicken is molting:

Sometimes molting can catch you off guard and have you scratching your head, wondering why your hens are acting differently. Here are the signs your chicken is moulting:

  • Feathers on the ground in the hen house and coop
  • Hen is acting moody, noticeably grumpy. Mind you; many hens act perfectly normal when moulting
  • Loss of feathers
  • Drop in weight
  • Increase in hunger
  • Change in egg production

What’s happened to the eggs?

Interestingly, other than a loss of feathers, you will also notice is a change to your hen’s egg production when your hen is molting. It is likely that she will stop laying eggs, or there will be a noticeable decline in eggs at this time. The explanation for this is simple – losing and replacing feathers is not only painful for your hen – it is also extremely nutrient intensive and energy exhaustive. Their body conserves this energy and nutrients in order to produce a fresh layer of feathers

How to take care of your hen when she is molting

This is indeed a very stressful time on your hen’s body, and they will need to have a diet full of essential nutrients and protein to regrow feathers along with taking care of their health. There are several things you can do to assist your chickens through the moulting process, to ensure they remain healthy and get their egg production back on track.

  • Keep their coop nice and calm to reduce stress. This is not the time to make changes to their enclosure or go travelling
  • Ensure you are using a high-quality protein-rich feed. Limit scratch feeds as their are very thin in nutrients.
  • Allow chickens to eat when they want to. They will be hungrier than usual.
  • Avoid touching or picking up your chickens. The loss and regrowth of feather may be painful for them.

Other reason why your chickens are losing feathers

While molting is the most common cause of feather loss, there are other reasons why your hen could be losing her feathers.

  • Parasites.
  • Bullying and pecking can cause feather loss.
  • Parasites. includes lice and red mites
  • Stress
  • Broody chicken. In preparing for chicks, a hen can remove feathers to make a comfortable nest.

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