Chickens Losing Feathers: Amaze-wing Facts On Chicken Molts Explained!

Nidhi Sahai
Jan 26, 2023 By Nidhi Sahai
Originally Published on Oct 26, 2021
Edited by Jacob Fitzbright
Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj
what do you mean by chicken molting

Chickens losing feathers are one of the most common things happening with them as chickens molt once a year, at the age of 16 months or older.

You can see bald spots in hens and roosters. Bald spots can also occur in a hen as roosters frequently mate with hens and hens start to have a bald spot at their skin and neck feathers.

You may also notice some bald spots on hen's back where he treads her with his feet. If you notice that the vent area is missing feathers, there could be numerous reasons for this like, lice, mites, worms, self-pecking, being bullied, or the hen could be laying eggs.

Chickens will molt once a year which occurs usually in fall and feather loss happens from the head down to their entire body.

This feather loss places great pressure on chickens as re-growing feathers take time and it decreases or ceases the egg production while molting.

Molting can take anywhere between 4-12 weeks or more. If feathers are missing near the back of the hen's neck, this is probably caused by the rooster during mating.

Chickens use feather pecking at their own feathers or they may be pecked by other chickens in the flock. Feather pecking is actually instinctive to chickens.

Chickens usually start pecking at items that catch their attention, such as shiny objects or moving bugs.

This happens more frequently in the winter when they spend a lot of time in the coop and pecking becomes a way to pass the time amid congestion in the chicken coop. No overcrowding should be there among the flock in the coop, you can assure a proper for the whole flock avoid any fight for space.

Over mating can also lead to henpecking. To eliminate this problem, chicken owners must have a flock that should have eight or more hens to one rooster. Nesting boxes are one point where pecking can be done.

If your chickens are losing feathers by pecking at their own feathers, this may be a symptom of external parasites. Fleas, mites, and common parasites live in the cracks and crevices of the chicken coop, and inside the nesting box.

If you suspect worms, it is always advisable to see a veterinarian for diagnosis and proper treatment to avoid chicken feather loss.

You can also read chicken facts and chicken wattle facts here on Kidadl.

What do you mean by chicken molting?

Molting refers to the process of losing and regrowing feathers. Every year, when the days get shorter, molting happens. When chickens molt, they come to a halt laying eggs. Losing the feathers in chickens starts from their neck first and spreads to the back, then moves to the breast, and finally to their tail.

Molting can be very stressful for the hen. When the loss of feathers occurs, then a hen needs a good amount of a high protein diet to make new feathers.

Some of them are broody hens, they only sit on their eggs and do nothing else in the coop.

So for them, feather loss is more stressful than others. When your garden begins to look like a pillow of chicken feathers, random bald spots emerge on your chickens, and the comb and wattle begin to look dull, these are indicators of molting.

In this period you should give chickens who are losing feathers a good dust bath and give them a proper diet full of high protein like sea kelp or mix tonic like apple cider vinegar in their water supply to spread vitamins and nutrients throughout their body.

Maintain the right proportion of roosters to hens to prevent over-mating. When a broody hen among the flock members loses breast feathers or feathers around the vent area, it becomes very stressful.

The important thing is to remember that when chickens lose feathers is that it is a harmless thing and in a few weeks the feathers grow back. The chicken can either be molting or lay the eggs, as both are made of proteins the chicken actually doesn't have protein to do both at the same time.

They will start laying eggs once molting is over.

The other reason for chickens losing feathers are lice, mites, other parasites.

Reduced activity, filthy vent feathers, pale combs, loss of appetite, weight loss, bald spots, ragged-looking feathers, decreased egg output, and feather plucking can cause chickens to lose feathers and egg-laying to be shortened.

Mites live in the chicken coop and their main food is blood so mites suck the blood of chickens at night and make chickens ill. As far as lice are concerned, they live on the body of chickens and can be spotted easily.

A good dust bath is essential to get rid of the parasites.

Molting can last from week eight to week 12 and causes low egg production, especially during winter and late summer. A high protein diet is the only way to help chickens with the new growth of feathers.

Another disease that can cause a chicken feather loss is vent gleet which is a fungal infection in the chicken's vent or cloaca. A vet must get consulted in this and the chicken coop should be cleaned. The birds should be given a good high protein-rich diet and water.

How do you tell if a chicken is molting or has mites?

Molting in chickens takes place every year in fall or when sunlight hours become less and the days get shorter. During this time the molting chickens start to build their nutrient reserves and egg-laying becomes less frequent.

This is a yearly cycle in a chicken's life when old feathers give way to new feathers, whether it is a rooster or broody hen.

When molt occurs, the chicken's diet must contain high proteins as eggs as chicken feathers are made of protein. If the flock is molting at fall, it can be considered as a normal exercise.

On the other hand, a decrease in activity in the birds is seen, like reduction in weight, loss of appetite, combs and wattles going pale, a dirty chicken coop, less production of eggs, pale feathers, or bald spots on the body.

When chickens pull their feathers out, it is a sign that the flock is suffering from parasites, like lice or mites. A chicken can never be bald completely when a molt occurs, as new feathers are emerging to take place of old feathers.

Check the chicken vent if it is completely bald and back feathers are not there, it is not molting but parasites have infected the birds.

Parasites like lice and mites are species that live on the skin of other birds also and can actually be found in homes.

Mites live in the crevices of the coop and typically live on the blood of chickens and at night they venture out and suck the blood from the body of chickens. To get rid of mites spray the chicken coop well and for a few days keep the roosters separate.

To get rid of mites take two cups of water and mix it in any cooking oil, and add one tablespoon of dishwashing liquid. This mixture helps in killing the mites as it suffocates them.

As for lice, the best way is to dust bath the birds in regular intervals as lice live on the skin of chickens and can be seen in days as well.

Why are my chickens losing feathers on their back?

A chicken's back area, or the vent area, is something that can occur for numerous reasons like if a rooster mates with a hen, it tugs on the hen's back and feathers began to tumble out near the back and wings because a rooster stays on a hen like this while mating.

The rooster's beak pulls up the feathers and the claws grab the hen's back.

Self pecking is another problem found mainly in broody hens.

The other reason is worms, mites, and lice. These parasites live on chickens' blood and lice can be found on chickens' skin. Lice can live the entire life on a chicken. A dust bath is useful and if chickens are not treated on time, a vet's advice becomes important.

What disease causes chickens to lose feathers?

Chickens get unwanted parasites including roosters in the form of mites and lice and are commonly infected by these. If these birds are not treated in time, it can cause loss of feathers, decreasing egg quantity, and unhealthy birds.

Mites and lice infestation is problem chicken owners know well and to boost the health of the birds they start giving a high protein chicken diet to the birds. Every seven days, for three to four weeks, treatment should be given to get rid of lice and mites.

For chicken owners, there are some typical signs that the birds are infested by lice and mites, like the vent area going completely bald, small eggs of lice on the feathers, feathers becoming pale and appearing dirty where the mites droppings can be found, and the debris of lice on the feathers are all indications of infestation of parasites in the birds.

If infestation is heavy, the birds might be suffering from anemia as mites feed on the blood and can lead to the death of a chicken.

Lice survive by infecting the scales of the skin and the debris found in the feathers and can be seen in daylight.

Lice can live for their entire life on a chicken.

To ward off these infections, one should start to bathe the chickens in warm and soapy water with some salt added to it that will help in killing the parasites and a vet's advice should also be taken in this regard.

The chicken's diet should also be altered and a high protein chicken's diet should be given to the birds for better survival.

How do I treat my chickens losing feathers?

You should maintain the chicken's area, like the coop and nesting boxes, regularly. Provide a protein-rich chicken diet like sunflower seeds, mealworms, or sea kelp in moderation.

A dust bath is very important and natural as chickens clean themselves from lice and other pesky parasites. Give a warm soapy water bath to chickens with some added salt so as to remove mites from chickens' skin and give them ample space to roam around.

Molting is one of the most common reasons which occur every year to adult chickens at 16 months and older which causes loss of feathers which is a normal feature and a yearly process. During this period the flock sheds the feathers from the head to the entire body and it happens in fall.

When the birds are losing feathers, they also grow new feathers back and this makes them stressed out. At this time, the birds need a protein diet and molting can be anywhere around 4-12 weeks.

Feathers that are missing on the head indicates either molting or aggression from other chicken or lice. Try to keep chickens happy and try to busy them i.e.

chickens don't get bored and start to peck one another. Broody hens will peck at their chest feathers.

Pecking and eating of feathers can be stopped by anti-pecking sprays. Bald spots found randomly on the body may be from parasites like mites or the chicken is pecking its own feathers.

If the vent area is bald a number of reasons occur like lice, worms, mites, self pecking, bullying by others, or the hen could be laying an egg. If feathers are missing near the wings of the back of the hen's neck, this is probably caused by the rooster during mating.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy!

If you liked our suggestions for chickens losing feathers: amaze-wing facts on chickens molt explained, then why not take a look at can chickens eat onions, learn why are they safe to feed your birdie or can chickens eat raisins, can these dried grapes be a healthy snack?

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Written by Nidhi Sahai

Bachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Nidhi Sahai picture

Nidhi SahaiBachelor of Arts in Journalism and Mass Communication

Dedicated and experienced, Nidhi is a professional content writer with a strong reputation for delivering high-quality work. She has contributed her expertise to esteemed organizations, including Network 18 Media and Investment Ltd. Driven by her insatiable curiosity and love for journalism and mass communication, Nidhi pursued a Bachelor of Arts degree from Guru Gobind Singh Indraprastha University, graduating with distinction in 2021. During her college years, she discovered her passion for Video Journalism, showcasing her skills as a videographer for her institution. Nidhi's commitment to making a positive impact extends beyond her professional pursuits. Actively engaging in volunteer work, she has contributed to various events and initiatives throughout her academic career.

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Fact-checked by Vikhaash Sundararaj

Bachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

Vikhaash Sundararaj picture

Vikhaash SundararajBachelor of Fine Arts specializing in International Business

With a background in International Business Management, having completed his degree at the University of Hull. Vikhaash has volunteered with 'Teach For India' to help students create a monthly newsletter. In his free time, he enjoys sports and was the assistant captain of his school's hockey team. He has also gained marketing experience through an internship at Decathlon Sports India.

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