As the nights draw in and the daylight hours reduce your hen may begin going through her annual feather moult. It can be quite alarming when you see your beloved chicken is losing her feathers, the sudden change can be very dramatic and happen overnight. Although there are other reasons a chicken can lose her feathers the main cause is when they go through their annual feather moult. Don’t panic! It is completely natural and apart from some extra feed requirements there is not much to worry about.
Pet Chickens just like other animals go through a natural cycle when they need to reproduce new feather growth. Just like with cats, dogs and even humans, old growth is shed and new fur, skin… feathers are gown. The moulting process allows your chickens to shed old and worn feathers and then re-grow fresh, shiny, new ones. It is a natural cycle and will occur usually at the change of the season from summer into winter as the daylight hours are greatly reduced. The feather moult also allows your laying hens time to rejuvenate their reproductive organs as they will usually stop laying during this time.
3 Reasons Why A Chicken Can Loose Feathers.
- Mites and Lice. These are one of the main alternative causes for father loss in chickens. Have a very good look at your chicken’s skin, part the under-fluff especially around their back ends and see if you can see any nasty creepy crawlies on their skin. If you have a mite or lice infestation that has caused feather loss you should be able to actually see them and there should also be tell-tale signs of lice/mite debris, paling of the combe and wattle and skin irritation. This should be treated immediately. How to Treat Your Chickens for Lice and Mites.
- Broodiness. This can also cause a hen to lose feathers but is more prevalent in pure breeds and bantams such as Silkies, Pekin Bantams, Polish Hens etc… and less seen in larger hybrid hens. A broody hen will also stop laying; however, unlike a feather moulting hen a broody hen will sit on her nest continuously. Broody hens will sometimes pluck her feathers from localised areas on her body most likely the chest area and the base of her tail, she uses these to line her nest to help keep it warm. Sadly, there is not much you can do to discourage a broody hen but being able to spot the difference between a broody and moulting hen is always good to know as your moulting hen will need a more protein rich diet during her moult.
- Shock Moult Stress. Sometimes chickens suffer with stress, this is more widely seen in smallerbantams and pure breed chickens but can occur in any breed of hen. Their environments are very important to them as well as their flock mates. You may see your hen lose feathers if you have made some changes to their run, house, if there has been a fox prowling at night, you may have introduced new flock members or there has been a sudden loss in your flock that may be felt more deeply by one hen in particular. Look at your set up and watch their behaviour to see what you can do to resolve this.
- Sudden and dramatic loss of feathers.
- Pale combe and wattles.
- Reduction or even complete stop in egg production.
- Increase in appetite especially for proteins.
- New feather growth.