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Written by Carole

If you have raised chickens for a couple of years then you have more than likely experienced molting chicken feathers everywhere.  Some of my laying hens are in the midst of moulting and it is affecting their egg laying abilities. The coop is full of chicken feathers, the hens are bare-necked and missing feathers everywhere; not a very pretty site. And the worst part is they just aren’t their normal perky fun chickens laying eggs everyday.

Moulting hen loosing feathers

Moulting hen loosing feathers

How long is the moulting process? It takes 9 weeks to produce a new feather. The moult can be as short as 2 months if the chickens are stimulated back into production. If not they’ll molt, replace the feathers, and wait for the longer days in spring.

What I notice during molts is they seem to look more unkept and the feathers are not as sleek. Some say the shorter daylight hours stimulates a molt but most of my hens normally start at this time of year, late August or early September. They are normally done before the cooler weather arrives.

As my hens start the molting process I try to help them along by adding additional nutrients to help the process. Feathers are almost pure protein, so when they molt a protein boost helps a lot. Some resources I have read recommend feeding cat food, which is high in protein. If you are like me and don’t have a cat, you can feed them Chick Starter that has more protein than Layer feed, along with Oyster Shells for the calcium. Other food items that are high in protein are eggs, cheese, yogurt, and meat.

Occasionally I mix up a paste mix made with yogurt for the hens. Here is the recipe I use which helps their digestive system:

1/4 cup plain yogurt
Layer crumbles
A small amount of fruit like strawberries, grapes, peaches, etc.

Mix all this together into a paste. After a couple of hours remove any uneaten portion (normally it is always gone).

Yogurt is very good for them. Plain is the best but the benefit of the culture to get their digestive systems back in line is worth the offset with the little sugar that’s in the flavored.

Do you have a recipe to help your chickens get through the molting process? If so share in the comments. Let’s help each other raise healthy, happy chickens!

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53 Responses to “Raising Chickens Includes Moulting Chicken Feathers”

  1. Wow! That was informative for me. I just started raising chickens early this spring. I had to go to Florida the last week in July and was gone for two weeks. When I returned my chickens looked awful (even the roosters) and feathers were everywhere. I am only getting two to three eggs a day with 28 hens that are old enough to lay. I didn’t know there was anything I could do to help. All my chickens are mixed breeds, but I love it. I have hatched a few from the incubator and my Bantam hen sat and hatched 11 eggs herself. I was thinking about getting into pure breeds for shows and competition. But I am learning all the time. Thanks for the info.
    .-= Randy Peterson´s last blog ..Returned and Tagged =-.

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Randy I’m also starting to invest in pure-breeds and the thought of showing at local fairs has entered my mind. If I decide to do so I will keep everyone updated. Chickens are so much fun!

    [Reply]

    Ed Reply:

    Randy, I live in South Texas and my birds have slowed down laying also. Then again, my birds aren’t a year old yet I have 9 birds and I only collect about 6-7 eggs daily. Where do you live that you only collect 3 eggs with 28 birds?

    [Reply]

    Beth Reply:

    Thanks for this information. I got my eight “girls” May 2010, they have just started molting in the last couple of weeks. We were worried that they were sick or beating up on each other. Now that we know this is normal, we can relax and help them through it.

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    jocelyn Reply:

    Why does my little girl want to lay down all the time. She’s always up and down. She appears to be molting I guess, and the other 14 just look at her. I’m concerned that she’s stressed.
    Please let me know what to do for her.

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  2. Some of our chickens have already started molting this month. I think the extra hot weather had a lot to do with it too. There are feathers everywhere in the chicken house. I thought some kind of varmit had gotten to them, there were so many feathers flying around.

    We also use the chick starter right now along with extra oyster shells.
    We get a good grind of feed at a local feed store that all the chickens and quails love.

    It has been so hot this summer, I am ready to molt too. Or maybe melt. LOL…

    Have a good day.
    Pam
    .-= GaFarmWomanPam´s last blog ..Citron Melon =-.

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Hang in there, Pam, fall is coming :).

    [Reply]

  3. Our Americanas have already started molting… the poor things look awful!! I’m with Pam- it’s been so hot I don’t know whether to molt or melt! LOL
    .-= Farm Chick Paula´s last blog ..Busy days winding down =-.

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    It has been extremely hot here and I am sure that was has triggered the molt throughout my flock. Hopefully it will be quick!

    [Reply]

  4. Little N. has 4 chickens entered in the county fair. Ours look great, but there are some that look pretty sad. Ours still have bright, glossy feathers & FAT! Keep your fingers crossed to get a ribbon!!

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    How did it turn out? I hope you got the blue ribbon.

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  5. His hen/rooster pair won 4th place in a very full class. The pair of hens would have placed better, but I didn’t know the answer to how to tell how many eggs a hen will be able to lay (has to do with how far the space is from one bone to the other and then how wide the opening is. . . The bigger opening means she can have bigger eggs and the space is determines how many are in the ovary . . .or something like that . . .).

    He says he is already to go for next year!

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  6. I can’t remember if I told you yet or not: one of the hens that didn’t go to fair liked the peace and quiet so much she is setting on a nest of 9+ eggs! She is eating well and I have been giving her watermelon rind instead of water left out there. It keeps getting spilled and I have a huge mess to clean up–easier to just offer her water every few hours than to disturb her. I will keep you posted! They have a black cochin dad and buff orpington moms. Won’t that be a silly looking batch of chickens?!

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  7. My RIR hen freaked me out today when I saw her underbelly. Lord, she looked sick until I realized she was molting as well. The heat in Austin has been overwhelming. Egg production is down as well.

    Glad I found your post!
    .-= Wendy´s last blog ..The Ugly Underbelly: Heat, Molting and Snakes, Oh My! =-.

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  8. Molting vs. mite infestation?
    We live in Colorado at 8000 ft. above sea level with 8 chickens (2-5 years old). We have had chickens for over 10 years. We have had an unusual summer- cool and wet. For the past 6 weeks, we have had lots of feather loss on the abdomen and under the wings, and most recently, a real drop in egg production. The birds act differently (our treatments or the mites??) We have treated the roosts, an coop and birds directly with a sorbitrate solution (2-3 times per week)for the past 3 weeks assuming that we have a mite infestation. We have never seen a mite.
    Any advice?

    ted

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Ted, I would say your birds are molting. Even if you did have mites you have treated enough to take care of the situation for now. I have read on different forums that the main opinion is that chickens will stop laying when molting. I don’t know if I agree with that but I do know that they slow down in egg production. Mine have been molting about a month and finally are about back to normal egg production. It varies by breed but all chickens shed their feathers including roosters. Both of my older roosters have shed all their tail feathers and are growing new plumage.

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  9. I have 30 adult hens both aracauna barred rocks silver laced wyondottes and rhode island reds. They stopped laying last summer and have only produced about 3-6 eggs per day since early summer. Their ages vary from 2 to 4 years. They get good feed and water and are free range. I closed them in for a couple of days thinking they might be laying somewhere else but the numbers are still very poor. I guess i need to get rid of the ones that aren’t producing, how do you tell if they are layers or not?

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Sandy, I believe it is time to renew your flock. From what I have read, hens at two years or older stop laying as consistently and eventually go down to nothing. One of the ways to tell if a hen is laying is to start watching the nest boxes closely and see if you get an egg. Or if you have the space, separate them into different pens.

    [Reply]

    Susan Reply:

    Sandy,
    My grandmaw(she was 89yrs. 22 yrs ago when she passed) always went by the color of their “Combs”…If they are Bright Red their pretty good layers,but if their dull or pale pink,they are not laying eggs or either they are wormy…I just had to put 5 of mine in the deep freeze cause I Know they aint wormy !
    I’ll just keep replacing them as they Stop laying…Good Luck To You Sandy !!

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  10. My question is about molting my barred rock hens are molting very bad its the last week of December, what is causing this and how can I help them!!

    [Reply]

  11. I have 21 laying chickens, I’m getting @ 13 day I was getting 18-20 a day, this all started a few weeks ago. This is March now. I noticed some of my chickens have no featehrs on thier back. Could it be moulting? Or is it caused by my roosters? It looks like some have scratches on their back. Do I not worry or does anyone have an anwser for me?

    [Reply]

    Judy Reply:

    I mean eggs, I got 21 chickens they were laying 18-20 a day. Now I only have @ 13 eggs a day I’m just clearifing my comment above.

    [Reply]

  12. Hi there, I’m in NZ and most of my chickens seem to be finishing their moult and getting some lovely new plumage. I seem to be getting 1 or 2 eggs aday from over 30 chooks. I was wondering what other readers feed their chickens to help get them back to egg laying faster? I have noticed evidence of mice /rodents so wondered if that would also put them off the lay

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Kiwi, I don’t know that feeding your chickens a certain diet will get them back to laying faster. But I do increase my protein during molting time to help bring on the new feathers. My feed of preference for this is Flock Raiser by Purina. It has 20% protein versus the 17% in layer. I use it year-round to give my Brahmas the extra protein in their diet and to help promote feathering for beautiful plumage.

    [Reply]

  13. Love this information stream, but what do you do with all those feathers??? I have only 5 hens and just borrowed a shop vac from my friend. Seriously, I was desperate to get rid of all those feathers, esp. from the hen house.

    [Reply]

    Frank Perkins Reply:

    My hens are starting to molt and I was wondering if there was any concerns about keeping them warm or out of the rain and are they more likely to catch cold? Should I keep them inside on cold rainy days? I guess what I am looking for is information on the care of molting hens.

    [Reply]

    Chris Reply:

    We have one molting in this cold as well, and I have the same questions – did you get any answers about what to do if the temperature is low?

    [Reply]

  14. I have about 80 hens and 12 roosters. 10 of the roosters are going to be for butcher in the spring, 32 or my hens are not old enough to lay and I got them so that when the moult starts I would have egg production for the winter as I sell eggs and can hardly keep up with my demand most of the time. Actually I don’t think I can get enough eggs to keep up with the need as I don’t even put a sign on the road, I just do all my advertising word of mouth. I missed the guess on the timing of the moult as mine started about the 1st week of September and are in full swing now at the end of Sept. Most of my hens are Plymouth Barred Rocks as that is my husband’s favorite breed. I just like chickens around and try to keep them healthy. Mine free range on our 8 1/2 acres in Northern Oregon. We keep a light on them to have more production and it still has dropped by 20%. My question is this do chickens return to production as soon as the moult is over?
    Thanks for the insight about helping with the moult, I have to work at getting my girls on some starter so they will do better. I had no idea feathers were all protein. Because of their free ranging I think they get lots of protein anyway. I plan to start sprouting grain to feed them fresh. I think that will cut the feed bill and get better production and the girls will be happier.

    [Reply]

  15. We also have chickens who are loosing feathers and reduction of eggs. My question seems a bit different since our chickens are loosing feathers only around their bottom area. They look like a baby with a raw bottom. Is this molting?

    thanks,
    vicki

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Vicki, I have had the same happen to mine so I believe it is molting. Eventually they do come back and prettier than before.

    [Reply]

    amanda Reply:

    vicki-

    i had the bare bottomed issue, but it did not seem to take care of itself so i started to believe it might be mites. take a look at this extension article on the subject:

    http://msucares.com/poultry/ma.....thers.html

    seems molting happens from the head down. if you have a concentrated loss around the vent area, it might be mites. we treated ours with pesticide and found the feathers began to return almost immediately after treatment.

    [Reply]

    Ann Reply:

    How did you treat with pesticide and what kind? I have one little hen in our flock with naked butt and seems to stay that way. She is droopy and not laying. The others seem find, but they are much bigger chickens.

  16. I have 4 hens in my backyard. Two are Buff Orpington.Just one of my
    “buffys” is molting. It’s almost December. Is’nt that a little late to be molting? I’m worried that she’ll get too cold.

    [Reply]

  17. I have three backyard hens as well, and their feather loss has been increasing the colder it gets over the last couple weeks. This is the first winter we’ve had them. They’re only about a year and a half old.
    We’ve insulated the coop with bedding and boarded up the sides to keep out the draft . . . should we do a heat lamp as well? We’re in Ohio and it gets down to high 20s overnight.
    When they molt, is it normal to still have the quill part of the feathers sticking out of the skin? At first, I thought it might be the two larger hens picking on the small one, but today the largest hen also has a bare patch with just feather quills on her back. Could they be pulling the feathers out themselves trying to ‘insulate’ the coop with feathers?
    Their egg production has also ceased with the cold weather and feather loss. I am going to try mixing cat food with their feed for added protein. Any suggestions are much appreciated!

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Abigail, The quill part is the new feathers coming in. It won’t be long until your hens are fully feathered and fluffy again. Adding protein to their diet during the molting period is a good idea. It helps in feather production. From what I have read about molting, the change in seasons and daylight hours trigger molting thus most start in the fall. In my experiences it normally last about a month per hen.

    [Reply]

    Abigail Reply:

    Carole,
    Thank you for your reply! Much appreciated!

    [Reply]

    Rob Reply:

    Hi Abigail – a 50 watt light bulb for an extra 3 to four hours a day will help and morning is best…Industry keeps 14 hours of light per day and the birds do not molt…gland in their eye is light sensitive and is the key to molt. When in molt all their energy is going into re-feathering and keeping warm…protein for the feather, fish, egg, cooked chicken and bones ground fine, the dinners salmon skin, cooked meat scraps all good sources…some added vitamin D helps as well. It takes two to three months…Two of our Rocks came out of molt in 8 weeks…I was amazed…the rest are New Hampshire Reds and just started molt but not all of them so we will see…last year it took 10 weeks…

    [Reply]

  18. I just added this site to my favorites. My 12 hens, Brahmas, Barred Plymouth Rock, Wyondottes & Rhode Island Reds were chicks in March of 2010. I’ve had great egg production, in spite of the very cold winter in Montana, but I been running a heat light, 24 hours for almost two months. My reds,on their tail area and brahmas,on the back of their heads, started molting a couple weeks ago and egg production is dropping dramatically. My biggest concern is the cold. Do they get cold? Is is unusual for them to molt this time of year? They have a chicken coop and confined yard, and on a nice day, I let them free range for a couple hours in the afternoon. I’d appreciate any information, this is my first experience with hens and I am loving it. They get grit, oyster shells, layor pellets,& water free fed. and I give them a small amount of scratch in the afternoons for a treat. Thanks

    [Reply]

  19. Hi, I live in Adelaide South Autstralia and its very cold here at the moment. I am new to keeping chickens and have 5 hens. About 8 weeks ago one chicken started losing its feathers around its neck mainly. I thought the other chickens were attacking her as they all seemed fine. So yesterday I took her to my friends house to nuture her back to help without the others picking on her. Now I think she might be molting. the others seem ok but 2 others only seem to be losing a few only feathers. I am only getting one egg a day.
    HelP!! what should I do??
    Are there laying days over?
    DO I use a pesticide?
    More protein?
    I really dont know what to do.
    Any Ideas?

    JEA

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    It sounds like she is molting. They will loose their feathers all over and look pitiful for a short while and normally do not lay during that time. It only lasts a few weeks. Hang in there and feed her some extra protein and she will be fine.

    [Reply]

  20. We have a RIR we call Roxanne who is the sole survivor of predator attacks (original flock was 8). Neighbor’s dog took at least the first 3 and we aren’t sure what took the other 4. Roxanne has stopped laying and appears to be molting. We have gotten 1 egg from her in the past 2 months since the most recent attack. We have bought 3 more chickens, 1 is already laying and the other two are too young yet. She seems to get along with them just fine. To the best of our knowledge she was laying at least 1 egg every other day prior to the last attack. Is it likely that she will lay again? Or is it possible she has post-traumatic stress disorder?

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    It has been my experience that if Roxanne is molting then this could be the cause of the slow down of egg production. That is normal during a time of moult. But also the stress from recent attacks will cause a slow down of laying but usually only temporary, meaning a few days only. Best wishes to you and Roxanne.

    [Reply]

  21. So along with decreased egg production during a molt, would molting side effects also include; soft shelled eggs on the roosting boards and very liquid stools?

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    It could. Just continue feeding and watering and possibly adding some vitamins and they should progress well.

    [Reply]

  22. My hen is demonstrating the molting pattern, like losing feathers, and not laying eggs,etc. However, a few things bother me too. 1). Not eating much, and less active. 2). Before she started to lose feathers, she layed a soft-shelled egg before she stopped laying all together. 3). We have a rooster that constantly pecks on her and chases after her. Can she has something else going on besides molting? Please help.

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    I would add some protein to her diet to see if that helps. I have experienced something like this before to but not being a vet I don’t really know what is wrong with them. Sorry I’m not much help.

    [Reply]

  23. Thanks for all the useful info! I was sure my girls were done for!! Now I know to buy a bag of kitty chow and wait it out. Frankly, im glad to be free from the chore of washing muddy eggs ( it’s been rainy here)!!!

    Thanks!
    Jennifer

    [Reply]

  24. I have three wonderful hens and a fantastic, lovable rooster. It appears a hen and the rooster are moulting. Do roosters moult???

    [Reply]

    Carole Reply:

    Yes Jean, roosters molt same as hens. Mine are in the process now also.

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  25. well u dont wana feed yo chicken eggs or it mite eat its own egg wen its laying egg dontcha?

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  26. Like bread is a living thing and as Julia Child says it takes time and can’t be rushed the same holds true to some degree for chickens…Chickens at the equator as I am informed do not molt… so light is important…make sure min hours of light are met.

    Every three days I use our food processor and our herb grinder…In spring and early summer I take many of our extra eggs, hard boil them, food processor grind and freeze for the molt…we have 40 birds, New Hampshire Reds. So I put up one dozen egg packs and use a sandwich freezer bag…I have 24 in the freeze…hopefully more than I will need. Not all have started molt but some have and some are through molt and laying again…those birds took about 8 weeks to start laying again but they are Rocks not Reds and the white eggs give them away.

    2 cups layer mash, some good but cheap vitamin tablets (2)only, about one cup of thawed eggs(shells included), fish oil if you have it for the vitamin D,if you have a cheap source for herring or other sea fish use them cooked, fillet that salmon for dinner? Zap the skin lightly in the micro wave and blend in the food processor…chickens will love you and your eggs will have higher good cholesterol content and will not taste fishy, 1 table spoon – oyster shells ground in herb grinder to fine powder blend the mix and it will start to clump (you have made crumble). Crumble needs little to no pebble grit …I make one batch for each day. So I do this times three and refrigerate. In a large bowl I mix the rest of the feed and the blend together…this ensures better even feeding over the flock. I feed every day twice a day by hand.

    Do not feed tomato vines or potato vines or skins even cooked can kill the birds.

    I grow in the garden three rows of swiss chrad, each row about 100 feet long…depending upon the soil there is about 7% dry weight of Ca and Mg in swiss chard…It is snowing here in Vermont but not terribly cold…some of it is still standing and good for feed…even if frozen they do not care, they love it and go for the swiss chard before spinach or anything else we give them out of the gardens. During the harvesting we do not need oyster shells with the swiss chard. It is easy to grow and in almost any soil. We always return the shells in the food processor almost always. Feed the swiss chard with some spring lime and miracle grow one a month ensures a good harvest…have extra? Dry it and blend it into you feed. Drying on the lawn works just fine or on the drive way.

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  27. I came home today to find my rooster’s neck seems naked. I looked closely and saw he has quills there with very small red feathers growing. He is only 5 months old and our hens haven’t produced a single egg yet. We got them very early April. He can’t be molting yet, can he? He is my lap buddy and I get concerned over him. Any replies would be great. Am I even gonna get eggs this year?

    [Reply]

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