Why are my chickens losing their feathers?!

Fall has come upon us with the onset of cooler weather and shorter days. It is the time of year when you may go out to the chicken coop and find chicken feathers all over the coop! You quickly take a head count and find all your hens are accounted for; no injuries, no blood. After a sigh of relief, you come to one conclusion. Yup! It is molting time again!

Molting Hens Photo Credit: Luke Harlow

What is Molting?

Molting or the shedding of a hen’s feathers is a natural response to the decreased light in the fall time and the replacement of new healthy feathers. A chicken’s feathers contain a large amount of protein and thus the molting process uses a tremendous amount of energy from the hen. This is an annual process that can typically last between 7-8 weeks, but can vary from 4 to 12 weeks based on the breed, strain of the bird, individual bird, as well as overall stress, sanitation, and health.

 

Why are my hens no longer producing eggs?

With so much effort being used for feather production, egg production will dramatically decrease as the hens stored energy is being used to produce new feathers instead of eggs. Because of the huge amount of energy needed for new feathers, many hens will completely stop egg production around this time. Chickens are also more susceptible to disease or illnesses during this time as most of their energy is being diverted to feather production. It may be a good practice to avoid introducing any new chickens to your flock during this time.

 

Molting Process Photo Credit: UGA

Tips for helping your hens through the molting process:
  • Avoid Stress: Any stress should be avoided during the molting season. Sanitation issues, in-fighting, predators, harsh environmental conditions should all be minimized to reduce the stress on molting hens to allow them a smooth transition from molting back to egg production.
  • High Quality Feed: Molting uses a large amount of energy, so make sure your birds have a good quality, high protein diet. It should be noted that providing good quality protein may not help start egg production again.
  • Handling: Limit handling the hens during this time to avoid pain as new feathers will be sensitive.

 

A good point to take home with molting is that is process, while annual, is temporary and a rejuvenated hen will start producing eggs again. For further information on molting or egg production loss:

Molting Fact Sheet

Why Did My Chickens Stop Laying Eggs

Factors Affecting Egg Production