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Written by Carole

Chicken feathersA trail of chicken feathers…late September…ah ha!  It is a sure sign that the moulting process (or molting as some may call it) has begun for some of my chickens.  At least Pepper by the feathers in the picture.

What is moulting?  Molting is the process of shedding old feathers and bringing on new ones.  During this time the hen will normally slow down in production of eggs or stop laying totally.  The timing is determined by the breed and age of the chicken.

When I first got my chickens, which was in December a few years back, the chickens had already passed this stage for that year. I’m guessing they did since I’m not really sure of their age.  Come about June, one in particular starting looking a little sick and became lethargic.  As the feathers started dropping and little “pin feathers” came into place, I quickly had a self-taught lesson in molting.

Ugly, the part Americana hen, was the victim at the time and that was how she got her name.  She was not a very pretty sight.  She lost all her feathers off the rear end and tail feathers.  At that time I thought it was because she was one of those rumpless chickens.  Turns out she was just moulting.

Moulting hen
Well that was three years ago and she still gets to be the victim every year. She is looking pretty dismal right now. She’s feeling so bad she didn’t want me to take her picture…chicken running

Now Pepper on the other hand, is in the middle of the moulting process but it has not affected her disposition as it does Ugly.
Moulting chicken

She is still her friendly self even if she has new little pin feathers popping out everywhere.
Pin Feathers on chicken

Lacy is losing her feathers lightly but has a bald spot on her back.
Molting bare spot
The feathers are coming in but the negative side is when a hen is in the molting process, the bare skin is a major attraction to some of the other chickens and  if they get the opportunity they will take a peck at it.  (Pepper is really bad about doing this).  So much so that the chickens will peck each other to the point of bleeding at times. If that happens I recommend separating the hen who is moulting so she is able to recover from the constant pecking and able to bring on her pin feathers.

As you are bird watching in your backyard, you will probably observe some of your visitors in the process of molting also.  I have seen some Cardinals land on my feeder that were definitely not pretty to look at.  But it is kind of like the ugly duckling who became the swan, after they are through their process they are more beautiful due to the new feathers.

During this time make sure your chickens get plenty of good feed to help them remain healthy while they are going through the process.  If you would like to maintain your current year round egg production, try adding six month old pullets about this time of year to fill the gap for the older birds that have stopped laying due to molting. When the pullet reaches a year old next spring/summer, the older birds should be laying again to maintain your current egg production.

So if you have an over abundance of chicken feathers at this time of year, do not fret, it is just part of chicken raising.  Roosters and hens alike will shed the old feathers but when they are done it is like having a brand new hairdo.  They look so much healthier with beautiful new feathers.


15 Responses to “Is it Moulting, Molting, or Snowing Feathers?”

  1. Ugh, my chickens (especially my Aracaunas) look awful right now!!!
    By the way, I LOVE the new header!!! It’s awesome!

    Farm Chick Paulas last blog post..This girl is a woman now…


  2. Paula, My Aracauna is never pretty but she looks really bad right now. Thanks for the comment on the new look. I love getting feedback, especially good!


  3. Just yesterday I was looking at one Americauna hens and thought , Man you are looking bad. Must be molting!

    Wendys last blog post..Chicken Fetish


  4. Hi there

    we are in New Zeland and its coming into Autumn (fall) so I guess the southern hemisphere equivalent of late September. So one of our two gorgeous girls ( A little fluffy white bantam, not sure of the breed) is molting I assume and has stopped laying. So thanks for your info, loved the web site.

    kind regards

    Lara Donaldson, Wellington New Zealand


  5. Great info on moulting, one of my rhode island’s is not feeling well during her molt. Especially loose stool and lathargic, comes and goes. What kind of “good feed” do you give your hens during the molt? More protien? Add anything to their excisting feed?? Thanks.


  6. Thanks so much for this post – our rooster has a huge bald spot on his back almost exactly like the last chicken you posted a picture of. I thought he must have been horribly infested with mites but DH and I haven’t seen any or had any bites from our egg-hunting so it wasn’t adding up to me.

    Thanks for solving the case of the bald chicken.


    Angela <

    Angela Englands last blog post..New Kids – Baby Milk Goats Have Arrived!


  7. I am so glad I came across your website and your pictures. I was ready to put my old black hen down cause I thought she was dying…..luckily she is just moulting and I thought to research it first…
    Thanx so much


  8. I just bought my chicks this past April. They are about 22 weeks old and I thought the other chickens was plucking the tail feathers out. I thought that chicks had to be laying eggs and a little older to go thru the molting stage. My hens haven’t even started laying eggs yet. Is this normal for them at this age?


    Carole Reply:

    Tausa, As chicks grow they shed feathers bringing on their adult plumage so it is normal for chicks to lose feathers. Molting usually doesn’t happen until after the first year of growth. With feather loss in a chick you do not seem to notice it near as much as you do when a chicken is moulting. So no fear, it is normal.


  9. Now I get it. Only my 2 Aurucanas have stopped laying as we don’t get any beautiful green eggs anymore and they’ve been replaced with feathers feathers everywhere!
    Can’t wait for more green eggs, we actually had to buy some eggs last week to make up for the loss of supply!


  10. My vets friend said we should supplement oats to our hen when moulting. We have a reduction of eggs at this time. But they keep up the good work. While gardening I make sure they get the slugs, bugs and other creepy critters. Making sure they get grass everyday and they have fun with bags of leaves the neighbors rake-up. Happy with the girls for putting on a good show.


  11. My Americauna has moulted and has gotten new feathers now. It’s been a few months but, she’s still not laying. How long does this process normally last? I’m hoping she hasn’t stopped laying altogether.


    Carole Reply:

    Kelly, I’ve got some hens that molted last fall and still haven’t laid but I’m expecting it anyday since the days are starting to get longer now. The amount of daylight affects the laying habits of hens also.


  12. Several of my chickens lost feathers a year ago and they have not grown back yet..in fact they are losing more should i be worried? is this a diease? several other hens are beginning to show same thing..


  13. I have 7 chickens and 4 of the 7 are losing feathers around the neck. When they are moulting is it just the tail feathers or can it be around the neck?
    Or do they have mits or somthing else? if so what can I do?


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