Like many, you have asked around: why do chickens lose their feathers? You will find answers to your question in this article.
Other questions you might have thought of or have are:
Chickens losing feathers on neck, why?
When do chickens moult?
How to stop chickens from pulling out feathers
Walking towards your chicken coop and seeing feathers scattered is a scary sight no doubt. 101 million scenarios cross your mind; from a lice attack, to moulting to a predator attacking your chicken coop.
Lucky for me, I have never lost any of my chickens to a predator as I have taken precaution measures against that and their feather loss is commonly something less serious.
The most common reaon for your chicken losing feathers on head, chest and neck is the annual moult; however this is not always the only reason.
Let’s take a look at the very common reasons why chickens lose their feathers and our 3 favorite cures:
- Best Chicken Feed for Molting
- Apple Cider Vinegar
- Chicken Wormer Pellets
Yearly Moulting | Why Do Chickens Lose Their Feathers
The most common and perhaps the major reason chickens lose their feathers is the “annual moult”.
A moult is when a chicken sheds its old feathers and grows new feathers to replace the lost one.
When Do Chickens Moult
Chickens often moult during the end of the egg laying season, in the fall. The drop in the number of daylight hours during fall will make your chickens to begin moulting.
They will begin by losing feathers around their neck first. This will then spread to their back and then move to their breast until finally their tail feathers drop out.
The normal moult lasts around 6 weeks, however older chickens moult at a much slower pace and it can take them up to 10-12 weeks.
Plus, you will notice their comb dull in color and it won’t be as bright red as it used to be during this period.
Lastly, during the moult period you will notice that the number of eggs they lay will greatly reduce and might stop all together. This is because chickens need lots of protein intake to produce eggs, but also, their fetahers are 80% protein.
That means that your chicken can either lay eggs or moult. It really doesn’t have enough protein to do both at the same time.
Can You Stop Their Moult?
When bird pwners find their chicken in moulting session the first question they ask is can you stop the moult from occurring?
Sadly, you can’t. However, you can aid speed up the process.
We have stated above that chickens who moult require lots of protein intake to make produce their new feathers.
So, the first thing for you to do is to stop feeding them layers pellets and give them instead chicken foods that is best for chicken moulting i.e foods that have a higher percentage of protein in it.
You can try feeding them game bird feed because it is 20% protein- this is twice the amount of protein in layers pellets.
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|Scratch and Peck Feeds – Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed
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Aside changing their feed, you can also provide them with tonics. I advise you give them apple cider vinegar tonic.
You can mix this in their water tank/supply to give them a boost of vitamins and minerals.
Another supplement to give your chickens is ginger powder. We will be doing a post on that in the future.
You can mix ginger powder to increase their game feed and it helps to boost their circulation and spread nutrients and vitamins all through their body.
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If one or all of your chicken losses its feathers, it could be that she might have gone broody.
A broody hen is one that will lay on her eggs all day long so as to hatch them. You will juts notice that she is broody because she won’t leave the nesting box and will hardly eat.
A broody hen will tend to pluck her own breast feathers out so that her skin will make direct contact with her eggs.
Nature does this to create new life but it certainly isn’t helpful if it continues for a long period of time.
Pecking Order and Bullying
When bullied, chicken can also lose their feathers.
If you own two or more birds for a long period of time, you will notice that they often act out and compete to move up the “pecking order”. The pecking order is the chickens “hierarchy of status” and chickens who take top spot will control the rest of the flock.
Although the fight for the pecking order is often harmless, on occasions it can quickly result to bullying and hens get singled out and targeted.
Personally, I have discovered that the ones who are most aggressive as a result of breed are those closer to the original jungle fowl.
Vent pecking can cause offenders to perform serious blood loss and death. This kind of pecking begins out of curiosity and is non-aggressive, However chickens love to peck at objects that are red in color.
When your girls lay, their vents are often swollen and red for a couple of hours after laying. This causes other chickens to begin pecking.
The easy way to stop vent pecking is by darkening the shed so that the red does not appear as bright. The light intensity in the chicken house should not be brighter than the minimal level at which a newspaper can be read in the shed. Painting the windows can reduce the level of light too.
Also, I would recommend you do not let your poultry out until after 10am. The chickens should have laid on or before this period and their vents will have returned to normal.
It is important to note that birds can develop feather pulling or sucking due to boredom. The main cause for this are:
- Insufficient space
- Environment that is unsuitable
- Bullying from other birds higher in the pecking order or
- Being shut in for long time
A small area of feathers in a certain area will often be the target. If the bird draws blood or damages the skin then it will act as magnet to other birds.
Aggressive pecking is kickstarted by dominant birds reaffirming their authority. It is often directed at the victim’s head and often consists of one hard peck, the victim withdraws and so the natural order is restored.
In most cases, this is a single peck and is not a problem. Unfortunately, this can get out of hand and might even lead to cannibalism and death in extreme cases.
Introducing new birds to the flock can steer up pecking. So, try putting the new birds in a cage within the coop. The other chickens can see your new member but cannot peck.
After a couple of day they can be let in together. Or you could add new chickens at night by carefully placing them on the perch. The birds will mostly settle down with only minor upsets.
Other things to be aware of that can ginger feather pecking are:
- poultry rationing needs top meet the nutritional requirements of the chickens
- high light levels when spring approaches
Chicken require certain levels of protein made up of a series of amino acids and it is imperative these are met or else they will search for protein from elsewhere – the feathers!
Why do chickens lose their feathers?
They will pick them off the ground and consume them; this causes them to pluck them out of themselves or their flock mates.
Because they need extra protein during feather regrowth, they will go after feathers of other birds (ince feathers are made up of 80%).
Make sure you feed the best and high quality good ration to your girls and boys and do not make p your own feed or ration excessive titbis and corn, as it can cause obesity and deficiencies. Low salt can also cause similar problems.
Prevention | How to Stop Chickens from Pulling Out Feathers
Now that you have answers to your question: Why do chickens lose their feathers?
Prevention is often better than cure, distractions such as hanging up fresh greens, cereal blocks, nailing up a Swede cut in half and giving them lots of space to forage and range will help.
Chicken Vet Anti Peck Spray can also be sprayed on areas affected in the pecked birds body for 7 days as this has an undesirable tatse, discouraging the remaining birds from pecking one another.
If cockerel damage is a problem then it is highly important to separate the lovors and again give the victimized hen some Chicken Vet Poultry Multivitamins to better encourage feather regrowth and aid her often slightly traumatic recovery.
Why do chickens lose their feathers, now you know.
Establishing The Pecking Order
If only a single hen is pecked at more often than often, her skin might break and this is a big problem as chickens are attracted to blood.
You can apply tree pruning sealer on the affected area to help protect the injured chicken. The sealer will become hard when tried and will offer the chicken enough time to recover.
The sealer is black so the chickens won’t even dare peck at it and if they do, it will rub off on their beak so you know which roo or pullet has been bullying.
You can then spate the bully/bullies from the rest for a few days.
To do this, simply place them in a separate smaller pen for a few days. Want to know the best part? The bully gets knocked down the pecking ladder by one or two by the other hens or roos because the bully is considered “NEW”
Plus, when you add new chickens to your existing backyard chicken flock, there will be some ranking and fight for position in the pecking order and as a result of your chickens will lose their feathers on neck, chest or tail region.
This struggle should calm down a few days if you done chicken introduction properly. However, if you still discover that they are still pecking at each other’s feathers you will separate the new and old chickens for a few days and then attempt to reintroduce them to one another.
One major reason your chickens continue losing feathers or bully one another is because ethere isn’t enough room in their run or coop.
Chickens need a minimum of 3 square foot each inside the coop and 15 square foot each inside the run. If their space is less than this, they will bully each other and peck out each other’s feathers.
Parasites and Disease
Aside moulting, another reason why feather loss can be flock-wide is when your chickens have a disease or are stricken with infected parasites like mites.
Parasites can and will cause your hens to stop laying eggs and lose their feathers.
The most popular chicken parasites are red Mites and lice. Mites will live inside your chicken coop and only appear during the night to suck blood from the poor chickens. On the other hand, lice actually live on the chicken’s body so they are easier to spot.
If any or two of these scenarios occur, you can use poultry dust from your local hardware store to eliminate the parasites.
To treat mites, you can spread the poultry dust in the coop bit if you are treating lice, you will need to apply the poultry dust directly on your chickens.
To prevent one or two parasites returning make sure you clean your chicken coop on a regular and wash your hands both before and after handling your chickens.
If your chickens keep losing their feathers for more than 12 weeks and there is no obvious reason as to why, make sure you visit your vet to double check they are ok.
Surprisingly, roosters can also cause chickens losing their feathers as well.
When roosters mate with hens, they hold on to the hen’s back with their beak – this is referred to as treading.
When this occurs, the rooster can quite easily pull out feathers out of the hen’s neck and back. If the rooster only mates with a certain hen often and often, the balding can become very obvious!
Good news! If your rooster has lots of hen to service his needs, then this balding won’t be obvious.
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Change in Diet
A quick change in a poultry’s feeding is one of the triggers of a moult.
In fact, this was one of the harshest method industrial grade farmers use to force their chickens to moult in order to improve the quality of eggs laid. The Good news is, this is now illegal in many places.
Changing their diet can reduce the level of protein content your chickens are getting and this can cause them to moult.
Remember, I previously wrote the importance of giving your chicken’s good quality layers pellets and what happened when we stopped giving our chickens pellets.
If you desire healthy, happy chickens, you need to make sure they get access to a high protein diet, and the easiest way to do this is via layers pellets.
The primary thing to remember is that when chickens normally lose their feathers it’s completely harmless but it can also be a cause for alarm, so ensure you give your chickens a thorough inspection when/if they do lose their feathers.
Change in diet is also part of why do chickens lose their feathers….
How To Help Chickens Grow Feathers Back
Molts usually take around 2 or 3 months to complete, but some chickens often take as long as 4-5. By the time they’ve finished molting and are now fluffed up for winter, the shorter days (and reduced light) signals to them to rest their reproductive cycles.
Which means that your chicken won’t be laying much. You must make sure they’re properly fed and have the required protein level in them to get them through their molts. When/if they lack sufficient protein, they may seek their own sources elsewhere – even if they have to peck and eat the other chickens’ feathers!
You can amp up the protein in the feed to 20 or 22 percent for hens going through hard molts. If you’re mixing your own feed, you can achieve this by adding more servings of high-protein seed and grains, like sesame and triticale.
Legumes like lentils and split peas are also great sources of protein, and can be served cooked for a hot treat on a cold day.
For soft or hard molts, it’s excellent to supplement your flock’s daily feed with high-protein treats in the form of black oil sunflower seeds or dried mealworms.
Be careful when spoiling your girls with dried mealworms; the ultra-high protein content (around 0%) means it’s easy to overfeed when you see them all eager and excited. In fact, a small spoonful per chicken per day is plenty.
Ease up on the extra protein as your chickens complete their molt process. When they regain their energy over winter, try one or two of these tips to keep them happy and healthy while we all wait for the arrival of spring!
Enjoying this why do chickens lose their feathers article….Keep reading for more
When Do Chickens Moult
Chickens will normally go through their first adult molt at around 8 months. Commonly, adult molting occurs in the late fall or summer and the replacement feather are completely grown in within 8-12 weeks.
How long does chicken molting last? It lasts for 8-12 weeks (this is when the feathers regrow as well).
The most occurring trigger for molting is a decrease of daylight hours and the end of an egg-laying cycle, which coincidentally happens with late summer or early fall.
However, there are other causes of innocuous moltinga s well and they include:
- Lack of water
- Extreme heat
- Hatching a clutch of eggs and
- an Unusual lightning conditions. For example, unexpected removal of a light bulb in the coop emitting light all night.
It’s sad that this process is common in commercial egg-laying factory where the farmers force molt of its flock for enhanced egg production and efficiency. In order to force a unified molt, the farm withholds any feed from the birds for 7 days to stress their bodies into molting.
This practice is cruel and is already outlawed in the United Kingdom.
So, why do chicken lose their feathers? Now you know!
Chicken Molting Or Sick: A Guide to Sick Chicken Symptoms
What do you see when you look at healthy chickens?
Their feathers are glossy and in place, the wattles and comb are waxy looking and full of life and color! The eyes are clear and bright!
Healthy Chickens are Talk; an aweful lot
Chickens communicate wiyj one another during the day and even night.
If you spend enough time with your chickens, you will recognize some certain sounds – some can eb to alarm you of incoming predators in the sky, or some injured flock member.
These sounds are different and greatly differ from the regular squawking and clucking they make. Another alarming sound is the respiratory sound.
Coughing, raspy sounds, and heavy breathing sounds are signs of serious illness and should be looked into quickly. With the constant uprise of avian influenza spreading across the country.
It would be wise to familiarize yourself with avian influenza symptoms. Always isolate the bird with sick symptoms and reduce the chances of a contagious disease spreading across the flock.
Healthy Chickens have Healthy Droppings
Some might thing I’ve gone nuts to talk about this.
Pay attention to your chicken’s droppings. There are two basic types of droppings that are excreted on a daily basis.
The first one is yje one you see in the morning, it is firmer and capped with white urine salts.
The second is runnier green or brown, fecal dropping,
Although these two droppings will have a slight odor you should notice if the appearance is really out of the normal range or if the odor is extremely out of the normal range for your flock.
Note: Certain beet veggies may temporarily turn the poop a different color, without the chicken appearing ill.
Healthy Chickens Have Healthy Appetites
Chickens who are not well will not eat much feed. Sometimes, they stop eating altogether. This is another reason why you must observe your flock when they snack on feed.
If one or more of your birds stays off to itself, does not come for food, and is not pecking at the ground for morsels or insects, something is most likely wrong with it.
What follows after is is weight loss, another sign of illness. Young chickens continue to grow and mature. However, a young chicken who does not eat enough will not gain weight like the rest of the flock.
Young birds will continue to fill out in size for the first six months. Even when egg laying sessions begin, some weight gain and growth can still be occurring. Older rooster and hens should be able to maintain weight.
Older hens that look small or stressed out may be suffering from illness you haven’t detected yet. Some birds love to eat free range and other prefers to eat from the feeder. Knowing what us normal for them is a clear indication of how they are doing health wise.
Healthy Young Hens are Laying Eggs
A lot of factors such as weather, molt, and placement of nesting boxes, age, and stressful environment can influence your hen’s egg laying speed and ability.
The quality of the egg shell can also indicate problems. Thin, weak shells can be caused by insufficient nutrition or insufficient mineral absorption. Knowing what to feed your chickens will help you avoid illnesses due to inadequate nutrition.
Chicken illness and diseases can be caused by a number of things. Parasites, molds, viruses, fungus, and bacteria are the infectious type of illness. In most cases, more than one bird will be affected.
Some sick chicken symptoms are short term, leading to a day or two of not feeling too good and having low appetite. Other diseases like the avian influenza can and most certainly will kill all of your flock in a few days!
I recommend you shouldn’t fear when sick chicken symptoms are observed. Using our chicken symptoms listed below, you can access your bird’s overall health.
First thing to do is to isolate chicken, to help prevent the spread of any contagious illness
Sick Chicken Symptoms
- Is the bird inactive or active?
- Does the bird groom itself or is it unkempt with ruffled feathers?
- Does the bird show interest in eating?
- Is the bird (hen or roo) coughing or expelling fluid?
- Can the bird stand on it’s own?
- Is the hen still laying eggs?
- Is the bird’s poop normal or abnormal droppings?
Like any type of animal, a healthy life and prevention will go a long way to prevent serious illness.
Supplementing with herbs, feeding an appropriate healthy diet, and treating your chickens with probiotic-rich foods will help them fight off many minor illness.
Fermented feed, apple cider vinegar (2 tablespoons in a gallon of water) and garlic powder added to the feed (sprinkled on top) will all also aid a strong immune system in your flock.
Sanitary and clean conditions are important as well. Taking off droppings that attract flies, keeping the coop dry and well ventilated and replacing soiled wet bedding immediately will keep your birds healthy.
Let us know in the comments below if you have other answers to why do chicken lose their feathers, signs exhibited by healthy birds and what methods you’ve used to help your chickens during their moults increase their production levels.