The Chickens are Molting! The Chickens are Molting!

Molt  verb  \ˈmōlt\  : to shed hair, feathers, shell, horns, or an outer layer periodically

grow and resist molting chicken

Poof!

Chickens molt yearly, usually starting in very late summer or early fall.  I’ve read that it doesn’t happen to them until they are about 18 months old, however I’m noticing it in several of our new (8-month-old) girls this year.  My older girls (all about 18 months) are now molting for the first time.

During this time egg productions slows (or more likely stops) for the duration of the molt. The molt may last from 2-3 months.   Or 1-2 months.  Maybe. Or perhaps 2-4 months.  Or could last until natural extended daylight returns in spring. (Ugh. Please tell me no!) It depends on who you ask. Which I suppose makes sense because the molts will vary wildly and may not even be noticed for some time.

If I look at our flock closely, I can tell a few of them have lost some feathers.  On quick glance, or to most people, they might just look a bit messy. (Who am I kidding? As the Ladyfriend as prone to reminding me, no one thinks about our chickens quite as much as I do. They actually probably look normal to everyone else.)  Anyway, my point is that unless your chicken is a fast molter you might not notice it right away.

However, some seem to lose feathers in big chunks and look pretty rough.

grow and resist molting chicken

Oh, poor Annie. Looking roughed up!

grow and resist molting chicken

Molting polish chickens are ridiculous looking. She initially lost some feathers in the middle of her big 'poof' just above her eyes. Now she is starting to lose it down the side of her neck. Sad, sad chicken.

grow and resist molting chicken

Aspen has lost all her head feathers, save one.

Molt-erific aren’t they?

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14 Responses to The Chickens are Molting! The Chickens are Molting!

  1. Jennifer says:

    They look a little monstrous…which is so appropriate given Halloween being right around the corner.

  2. Lise says:

    Haven’t tried it yet myself, but a knowledgeable poster on our local chicken forum suggests extra protein during this time will help speed the process along.

  3. Ellen says:

    Just went through this with my Light Sussex. After getting over the broodiness, I got eggs for a few weeks and then she started molting. Aaack! But she’s back on track now and looks gorgeous with her new feathers.

  4. Jenn says:

    My hens look so ragged and awful right now. The Rhode Island Red has huge swaths of exposed skin on her back. They’re so miserable when they molt, too. Uncomfortable & cold. Poor things. I’m glad mine are molting earlier this year than last (by about 2 months). Last year some of the girls were nearly naked in 20-degree weather.

    As for egg production, we didn’t get a single egg from December-April from 9 hens. I’m considering a light this year to encourage them to lay over the winter months. It’s hard to justify feeding 50 pounds of feed/month to a flock of slackers!

  5. Inder says:

    Oh gosh, they do look beat to sh*t, as a friend of mine would say. Poor things!

  6. Green Bean says:

    Our coop looks like someone had a pillow fight in it!

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  9. Amy says:

    We are encountering our first molt now. There are feathers everywhere!

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  11. Ruth Ward says:

    Well now I feel some better. I wasn’t sure what was happening with my favorite chicken, Awesome, a speckled Sussex. However her demeanor has changed too…she isn’t her usual friendly curious self … is this normal? She usually follows me and jumps at whatever I may be carrying, or pecks my toes….today, she was off to herself and acting more like a chicken instead of a puppy. She is 17 months old.

    • Yep, totally normal. Mine are all acting bizarre. The feather follicles are tender during the various stages of falling out/regrowth, so they generally act pretty skittish.
      Now my black australorp is having the worst molt I’ve been. She looks half-plucked.

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