It is a horrible sight to see your flock losing their plumage. You have done all your best to keep your flock healthy, but there seems to be a problem when the chickens shed feathers. The problem may seem simple at its onset.
However, you got rattled after seeing the drops of blood oozing from the root of their feathers. Worry no more, as there is always a solution to this normal case.
Keep reading to find the causes and remedies for losing feathers in your chickens.
Table of Contents
- 1 Reasons for Feather Loss on Chicken
- 2 At What Age Does A Chicken Begins Shedding Feathers?
- 3 What are the Disadvantages of Molting?
- 4 Will Chicken Get Mite Infection in Winter?
- 5 Can Baby Chickens Lose Their Feathers?
- 6 How Long Will It Take for the Regrowth of Chicken Feathers?
- 7 Wrapping Up
Reasons for Feather Loss on Chicken
There are many causes why chickens are losing their beautiful plumage. One of the culprits is molting, which occurs yearly in adult birds aged 16 months and above.
Feather shedding occurs from the head to the entire body. It happens from four to twelve weeks or more. When it comes to chickens, they molt yearly, especially during the fall season.
You have to take molting (sometimes spelled as moulting) as a healthy process, where the chickens regrow their hair after the shedding process is over. Molting impacts the ability of the chickens to produce eggs. Sometimes hens may stop laying eggs when their feathers are falling.
Chicken owners should allow their flock to take a respite from laying eggs to build up reserved nutrients in their bodies.
Molting can benefit chickens because it helps maintain their ability to escape enemies and the elements. Since molting requires a lot of energy, birds, including chickens, do not shed their feathers during migration or breeding season.
The molting period occurs after breeding when their food sources are abundant. The chicks do not need so much care during this period that the birds can concentrate on regrowing their feathers for warmth and flight.
Another typical period for molting is before the breeding season when they have a lot of food supply and no chicks to care for and develop their breeding plumage.
What to Do?: To prevent inadequate nutrients during molting, you must provide your chickens with reliable and rich food resources. Give your birds a secure home that makes them comfortable, as some feel shy and elusive during molting. The chickens find solace in their safe shelter, and there is no reason for them to leave their stead.
Mating & Overbreeding
Overbreeding is another reason why feathers are shedding in your pet chickens. The problem arises when roosters mate with the same hens, which leads to baldness.
You can detect the problem by looking at the back of the hen’s comb and neck. It is the favorite area where the rooster grabs using the beak to secure the feet during mating. The rooster treads the hen at the back using his feet. When he frequently mates with the same hen, it leads to feather loss.
Overbreeding is inevitable, especially if your rooster is aggressive. The problem also occurs when there are more roosters than hens. The ideal number to prevent feather loss is ten hens for every rooster.
What to Do?: One of the effective methods of preventing baldness in your hens is to fit them with a chicken saddle. Instead of holding onto your hen’s back, the rooster gets hold of the saddle when treading. The rooster can no longer pull the plumage out of your hen’s back and head.
Another solution is to place your rooster with several hens so that he cannot concentrate on one hen and balding is less noticeable. Culling or re-homing the roosters is another option.
You must also isolate the wounded hens and treat the affected areas with topical medicine. Wait for the feathers to regrow before you return the hen to the coop.
Bullying & Pecking Order
There are several reasons why chickens pluck the feathers from their family members. Roosters are born naughty, and they enjoy pecking each other.
Backyard birders should pay close attention to this behavior because it will result in injury and cannibalism. If you see the bully, remove him from the flock and place him back when the hen has recovered from the injuries.
Overcrowding contributes to bullying as chickens become agitated due to overheating and lesser space to move around. The chickens become stressed, so they peck their fellow chickens and pluck the feathers to relieve their boredom and frustration.
Like humans, chickens have a mind of their own and giving them things to make them busy might be of help. Such items as perches, tree stumps, dust baths, waterers, feeders, and leaf piles can make them active and unmindful of their flock mates.
Chickens have a hierarchy status known as the pecking order. The weaker chickens or hens get bullied by superior chickens who think they are the flock leaders.
Hens are the common victims of the pecking order as the roosters quickly notice them, especially if they are few. Broody hens who pluck their breast feathers are common targets of bullies. Their flock mates would peck at their bloody red flesh.
What to Do?: Isolate the wounded chicken from the flock. Cover the bloody red flesh on the broody hens’ breasts with a tree pruning sealer to dry quickly. Give the injured chicken time to recover before returning to the pen.
You may also isolate the chicken bully or apply a blinder for several days. Place the culprit in another small pen for a few days. When they return to their original cell, the culprit is considered a new face, so the opposite happens. It is fun to see that the rooster gets bullied by the angry hens.
Another method to counter bullying is to introduce new chickens properly to old chickens for a couple of days. When there is resentment in the flock, introduce the new chickens again to acquaint each other.
You can also avoid overcrowding by giving the chickens enough space to move. Experts recommend at least three to four square feet of coop space per chicken and at least 15 square feet inside the run.
A predator attack can cause a lot of problems in your chickens. Many feathers are falling, and the chickens grow unhealthy due to stress. Your flock feels uneasy and insecure as the attack becomes intense.
The victims feel their environment is no longer a haven for them. The cycle of predator attack keeps coming back if you do not address the problem. The hens stop laying eggs due to this problem and will undergo the molting process.
What to Do?: The best remedy to avoid predator attacks is to have ample space for your chickens to run around and escape. Build a large pen, chicken runs, or coop with abundant food and water.
The chickens feel secure if they live in a predator-proof shelter, so try to follow the standard size of 3 to 4 feet of coop space and 15 square feet of chicken run space. Add more perches in the stead to stay away from the predators.
Although bullying is a common problem, resolving the overcrowding can lessen the issue, and your chickens will grow healthy and more productive. Falling feathers will only happen during molting season and not because of predator attacks.
Preening is part of a chicken’s behavior, where they lose their attractive plumage. The chickens preen their feather to take the oil from their preen gland at the base of their tails.
They use their beaks to spread the oil all over their plumage to keep it shiny and healthy. Preening also removes the broken and old feathers to give way to new growth.
What to Do?: You cannot control your chickens to stop preening because it is their normal behavior to keep their plumage in top shape. The best that you can do is to become an observer and enjoy the sight instead of worrying.
Broody hens are easy to spot. Mother hen fluffs and fluffs her wings, growl at anyone and run after you if she gets close. The angry hen is ready for a fight with anyone else.
Broody hens might be problematic in your flock, but they are adorable mother hens. They love to pluck their feathers on their breasts as soon as they start creating their nests.
They pluck their downy breast feathers to use them to line their nests and warm the eggs directly on her skin while incubating them. The hen’s keel bone develops a bald spot due to feather plucking.
What to Do?: Since broodiness is a natural habit of broody hens, backyard birders cannot do anything except watch the hen. Broodiness is a normal behavior of hens acting like she wants to hatch their eggs.
The hen sits on top of the eggs (some are not hers, but she stole from other hens). She keeps sitting all day long, believing she can hatch all the eggs. In most cases, the eggs do not get hatched as they are not fertile. Let mama hen do her thing, as this behavior will pass over time.
A fungal infection lurks in your flock’s vent and can cause bald spots. A vent is part of your chicken’s body that has a small opening where it expels waste and serves as a reproductive opening.
Vent gleet is a disease that leads to white to yellowish discharge from the vent. It also leads to severe feather loss. Usually, the feather loss takes place around the vent. The infection is similar to vaginal yeast infection in women.
What to Do?: If you believe that the white, yellowish discharge is vent gleet, bring your chicken to the nearest veterinary clinic immediately. Vent gleet is a contagious disease, so seek immediate help before it becomes a menace.
Keep the coop, pen, and nest boxes clean by replacing the bedding regularly. Clean the waterers and feeders after every use. Since the cause of vent gleet is poor gut health, add a few tablespoons of apple cider vinegar to every gallon of water.
Use a plastic waterer instead of galvanized system when feeding the water with apple cider as the vinegar can cause a chemical reaction, which can be toxic to your chickens.
Home Remedy for Vent Gleet
1. Fill a washing-up bowl with half full of hot water.
2. Add two tablespoons of Epsom salt to the water.
3. Hold the hen and let it sit in the water to soak the vent for ten minutes.
4. Remove the hen from the water and pat dry with a clean old towel.
5. Evenly spread a Canesten cream along the vent area towards the inside entrance.
6. Repeat the steps every 48 hours and apply a generous amount of Canesten cream.
7. Feed your hen with probiotics by giving a solution of water and apple cider vinegar.
If symptoms of vent gleet persist after a week of treatment, bring the hen to a veterinary clinic for the possible herpes virus.
Poor Nutrition, Diseases & Gut Problems
Feather loss is one of the symptoms of infection and diseases in chickens due to poor nutrition.
Some uncommon diseases in chickens associated with feather loss include gangrenous dermatitis, malnutrition, cutaneous Marek’s polyomavirus, and fowl pox.
If malnutrition causes the loss of feathers, you must provide your chickens with a healthy feed mix containing trace elements, vitamins, and minerals. Like humans, chickens may suffer from kidney infections and digestive problems.
The most common diseases in chickens that can cause feather loss, especially in the lower abdomen, include renal infection and gut enteritis. Both problems can cause excess urates (uric acid) and diarrhea, which softens the feathers because it is acidic.
The affected skin gets bald and reddish due to feces. The feathers will grow again after the chicken recovers from the illness and go through molting.
Protein deficiency affects the plumage of your chickens. They also need higher levels of amino acids and proteins to develop and keep their plumage healthy. Buy feeds enriched with protein and other nutrients.
Please read the label and nutrition facts to know the number of nutrients it contains and the proper application of the feed. The application depends on your chickens’ gender, age, and health conditions.
High protein supplements or treats, such as black soldier fly larvae, are available on the market. BSFL converts organic waste into nutritious pet foods, poultry feeds, and fish food.
Tips on How to Prevent Molting/Feather Loss Caused By Nutrition Problems
Protein-Rich Feed: Protein is essential when your chicken is molting, as its feathers contain 80 to 85 percent protein. The feed should have 20 percent protein, prebiotics, minerals, vitamins, and probiotics. A high protein diet enhances the growth of healthy feathers and encourages production.
Complete Layer Feed: Provide your hens with complete layer feed containing high protein when they start laying eggs for 7 to 10 days. It can protect your hens from digestive problems and allow them to adjust their tastes to their feed. New feathers will start growing when they get used to this feed.
Chickens are prone to parasitic infections causing feather loss and unproductive. Among the common parasites that attack the feathers are red mites and lice. Red mites lurk in the chicken pen and coop. They suck the blood of chickens at night.
Lice are annoying as they cause itchiness and inflammation on the skin of chickens. They suck the blood out of the chickens. You can easily detect their presence as they lurk in the skin.
What to Do?: Sprinkle poultry dust in the coop and pen to get rid of mites. Apply the poultry dust or spray the solution all over the chicken. You can also use safe insecticides like Pesten, absorbacide, or diatomaceous earth.
Apply the insecticide a few days after the first treatment to prevent the recurrence of mites and eggs. Always clean the chicken coop regularly. Wash and disinfect your hands before and after handling the chickens.
At What Age Does A Chicken Begins Shedding Feathers?
Molting begins at an early age of eighteen months old or roughly one year and six months. Since then, molting has occurred every year. Feather loss usually takes 18 weeks, and plumage regrowth could take up to sixteen weeks or more.
What are the Disadvantages of Molting?
Although molting can benefit birds, it can be dangerous if there are insufficient food sources to shed their plumage correctly. They are prone to predators because of their inability to fly due to a lack of fathers.
Their plumage serves as protection and insulation from extreme weather conditions. Insufficient nutrients while molting may also lead to thinner and poorly formed feathers that could be difficult to recover in months or years.
Will Chicken Get Mite Infection in Winter?
Mites are rampant during the hot summer season and wet weather. They also survive in colder temperatures, so don’t be complacent. Always clean the chicken coop daily and sprinkle the area with poultry dust as they find solace in dirty surroundings.
Can Baby Chickens Lose Their Feathers?
Yes, baby chickens can still suffer from feather loss due to juvenile molting. It can happen six to eight days after hatching.
Male baby chicks experience the second juvenile molting eight to twelve weeks after hatching for the growth of their ornamental feathers.
The baby chickens lose their downy feathers, not because of pecking from bullies, but to give way to actual feathers.
How Long Will It Take for the Regrowth of Chicken Feathers?
Chickens can wait several weeks to regrow their feathers, whether it is due to preening, molting, or pecking. Molting could take up to three months, affecting the ability of hens to lay eggs.
Feather loss is a normal process that chicken goes through during their existence. Some feather loss could be due to preening, overcrowding, stress, bullying, pecking order, molting, poor nutrition, pest, and other causes.
If the reasons are due to molting, you should not worry, as new plumage will grow after a few months. Backyard chicken owners must not be complacent if the feather loss causes bloody bald patches on the chickens’ neck, legs, back, and abdomen, as there might be underlying problems.
Maintaining a clean shelter, food, and water for your chickens is vital to keep them safe and healthy.