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#15219 - 06/26/05 11:42 AM early moult?

Hi, everyone.
Both of my chickens are hiding in a corner most of the day these days, one of them has been losing feathers gradually and is showing pin feathers, the other is losing feathers very quickly! They have both not laid any eggs for a couple of weeks, at least. I know moult usually occurs in the fall when days get shorter. My girls are on a wierd schedule, since they are pets. They go to "bed" late and wake up late. Is this moulting? Do chickens get kind of inactive during a moult? Do they lose lots of feathers all at once? confused

#15220 - 06/26/05 12:04 PM Re: early moult?
CJR Online   content
Coop Master

Registered: 07/16/02
Posts: 8483
Loc: Montana
Molting is an individual thing with birds. While we think of fall being molting time--and it often is with flock of layers--same breed, same age, it is not always that way. Birds can molt in reaction to other things than seasonal change of "coat" (like an annual shed of dogs and horses, for instance). Shocking fright, move to new location, sudden weather change, some sudden feed changes--all can trigger a molt or partial molt.

All birds do not molt the same way. Some drop most feather in a very short time and are almost naked and uigly looking for several weeks, and this can happen in summer or winter! Some birds lose feathers a few at a time all year, and seldom look "out of condition", except when the tail feathers are missing. They take about 6 weeks to regrow full length on a male.
New feathers grow in rapidly after a molt, but it is a drain on the system to grow a whole body of feathers--and can be helped with higher protein feed. Hens can hardly be expected to produce both eggs and feathers at the same time and very rarely lay at all during a molt, nor until they have recovered from the process.

Most birds do not become inactive during molt, however, and you might look for other reasons--in fact they do not seem to notice their wretched looks at all. Parasites, internal or external, mites and lice can cause feather drop, or poor conditrion-- but not necessarily, for mites and lice, as often you have to search through the body feathers (especially around the vent area) to locate them. They live on blood and can cause anemia and death of birds with high concentrations of them.

We always seem to have feathers in our coops and pens, some loss is natural most of the time. People who show their birds may use additives to help promote best quality plumage--but just an adequate diet should take care of feather-health for most of us.


#15221 - 06/26/05 05:04 PM Re: early moult?

Thanks, CJR, I appreciate the information. I don't know why they are both hiding out these days. One of them is at the tail end of a strange ear infection, the other was fine until recently. Now they are both kinda mellow, with feathers falling out! Chickens are such a mystery. . .


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