Molting: the naked truth

There comes a time in every chicken’s life (usually around 14 – 18 months old) where they start to lose all their feathers, look gangly and downright ugly. But don’t be alarmed! This is a natural process that occurs annually. This process is called molt.

example of a chicken going through a hard molt

This would be considered a hard molt.

What is molt? Molt is the natural shedding of feathers and regrowth of new ones. This usually happens in the fall as day length shortens. It is the chickens way to refresh old feathers and grow new ones for the coming winter. Molt happens in an expected order, starting at the head, down the back, breast and ending on the wings and tails.

There are two types of molt that chickens can go through, hard and soft. A hard molt means all feathers are lost at nearly the same time. A soft molt, however, means feathers are lost over a longer period of time. Chickens use molt to build up their nutrient reserves and typically slow or even stop laying eggs during this time. Though they are not laying eggs, it is important that your chicken continues to need a high quality diet since feathers consist of approximately 85% protein!

How to help your chickens get through molt
40 lb. Feather Fixer Bag ImageThe best thing for your chickens in molt is to offer a feed that is high in quality and protein such as NatureWise Feather Fixer™. Feather Fixer™ is a complete feed, so you don’t have to worry about finding other protein supplements to feed along with layer feed during molt. It is simple and easy. In addition, Feather Fixer™ is optimized in other ways; it has organic trace minerals, which are more bio-available to the chicken than regular forms. Especially important are zinc and manganese which are needed for feather growth.  This is a newer feed, so ask your favorite retailer about their plans to stock it today!

Another way to help your chickens through molt is to reduce stress as much as possible. Try to avoid handling your chickens, and bringing new birds into the flock, if possible. Molt is a normal process, so your chickens shouldn’t act differently, even though they make look very different. In total, molt will take between 4-16 weeks, depending if it is a hard or soft molt. You do not need to add any medications or other vitamins if you are already feeding a high quality and high protein feed. So don’t panic the next time your chickens start to lose their feathers and stop laying eggs! Instead, use these tips to help ease the process.

8 thoughts on “Molting: the naked truth

  1. where in my area can i find this feed thereis tractor supply and farm bureau and southern states also lights at stone mill

    • Hi Nelda! If you go to our website at http://www.nutrenaworld.com you can find a “where to buy” tab in the upper right hand corner. If you input your zip code it will show you a list of retailers in your area. It is a great idea to call ahead first to be sure the product is in stock as it is very new – also, Tractor Supply stores vary on if they carry Nutrena poultry feed or not, so it’s a good idea to check with them ahead of time!
      Hope this helps,
      Tiffany

  2. This new feather feed, is it considered organic?

    2nd, I have noticed that my hen last year lost all her feathers were the roosters tend to mount her at. Is there anything I can do to keep her feathers on. She did regrow them in time for winter. But it was close.
    I thought it was a molt but she was bald only in that area. Now they are starting to look bad again. So I know it is just a matter of time and she is going to be bald there again.

    • Hi there,
      The Feather Fixer feed is considered natural, but not organic. Your hen losing feathers on her back can be caused by the “treading” that the rooster does when mating. To help prevent this, you need to make sure that you have the right hen to rooster ratio – you should keep 10 – 12 hens for every rooster. Sometimes one hen is the favorite, and to help her you can find a chicken apron or saddle online – these items fit over the hen’s back to protect the feathers and skin on her back. Thanks for the great question!

  3. I have a 2 yr old chicken that is in her first molt. Her best buddy died recently, and she seems lost with out her. With that said, I am having another issue with her. She has all but stopped eating, has quit laying, I thought due to molting, and has very runny poo. It has black parts to it, but other than that it is a milky watery poo. She has lost a lot of weight. She was always a more robust chicken, and now she is just thin and feel her every bone. She is not as perky as usual. I wormed her a month ago with Ivermectin, but no improvement. Any help would be greatly appreciated. I don’t want to lose her!

    • It sounds like you may need to consult your vet. Did your other bird die of a sickness? If so, it may have spread to this bird as well.

  4. Great information! I have 6 peeps that are about2 1/2 years old they are slowing egg production. I have one that is going through a hard molt. when is the best time to “harvest” them? I have 9 young birds that have not started laying yet. 1-2 eggs per day – feed is getting expensive. Do you have information on humane way to kill them. They have had a good life and I want the end to be quick and as pain free as possible. Thanks

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