If you notice a lot of feathers in the chicken coop or in your yard, your chickens are molting and will soon grow healthy coats of brand-new feathers.
Chickens shed and grow new feathers every year or so, like the majority of birds. This yearly cycle of feather shedding and regrowth is completely normal and not a sign of illness.
A chicken typically goes through a progressive molting process over the course of 14 to 16 weeks in the late summer or early fall.
Stress During Molting
Stress is unfortunately unavoidable in a chicken’s life.
Molting can be stressful for chickens. And stress partially lowers chickens’ natural immunity to disease.
So while chickens molt, it’s good to try to reduce other stress in their lives. Check out my post, “Chickens & Stress“, for ways to reduce your chickens’ stress level.
Protein & Molting
A small amount of extra animal protein in your chickens’ diet will aid your chickens in molting
Check out my post: High Protein Foods for Molting Chickens
Dehydration & Molting
A chicken may experience a molt if it goes without water for 2 days.
Two days without water for laying hens may result in a molt and a prolonged period of low egg production.
Ovarian Atrophy & Molting
Either illness or extreme stress can cause the ovary of a hen to atrophy.
Emaciation, dehydration, and a neck or body molt are all indicators of atrophy.
Causes of ovarian atrophy include:
- Infectious diseases like avian influenza, exotic Newcastle, fowl cholera, and pullorum.
- Stress conditions like lack of feed or water, overcrowding, insufficient number of feeders, or poor diets.
- The hen ceases to produce eggs.
Mites & Molting
The appearance of molting out of season could be a result of depluming mites (Knemidocoptes gallinae).
The depluming mite is one of the most common feather mites. They feed on and damage feathers, chewing lines across them or damaging the feather base.
The depluming mite, which burrows into the skin at the base of feathers and causes the chicken to try to lessen the irritation by scratching and tugging at feathers, is particularly active in warm weather.
Fowl Tick & Molting
Another appearance of molting out of season could be a result of fowl ticks. In dry, warm weather, tick activity is at its peak.
The larvae of fowl ticks attach to a host and feed there for roughly a week, leaving the chicken to molt. When they return, they consume more blood, repeating the process till they become adults.
Signs of fowl tick infestation include:
- Disheveled feathers
- The chicken’s skin has red blotches, usually under the wings.
- Unease while roosting (when chickens fear getting bitten).
- Paleness and weakness
- Depressed appetite and weight loss
- Reduced egg production in hens.