Several chickens on my farm are molting. This is when they shed a lot of feathers. Often to the point of exposing bare skin.
It’s normal and healthy for chickens to experience seasonal molting. Over time feathers get dirty, break, and wear down. When the days become shorter in the fall, and the temperatures decline, chickens will begin to lose feathers in preparation for winter. They will grow new plumage that is healthier and warmer for the cold days to come.
(This post contains some affiliate links. See my disclosure.)
The process of molting can take several weeks or a few months and is different for every bird. Some chickens will have a soft molt where they only lose a few feathers at a time, and new feathers grow back slowly. Hardy layers often experience a hard molt where they lose a lot of feathers all at once, and new ones grow in more quickly.
Egg-laying is usually halted during a molt. Some birds continue to lay during a soft molt, but less frequently.
There are steps that can be taken to support the flock during this time:
- Offer a higher protein diet
- Keep the coop clean
- Limit handling the birds
- Check birds for sores or injuries
A flock feed like Purina Flock Raiser is a good option for higher protein. It can replace layer feed during molting and provide birds with the nutrients they need. Having a tray of oysters shells available will support the calcium needs of any birds still laying.
My ducks and goose already eat the flock raiser feed. I keep a feeder in the free-range area that all of my birds can access. In my chicken coop feeder, I use Purina Home Grown layer feed as several of my girls are still laying. If I didn’t already have the higher protein feed out for my other birds, I would have switched it out.
If you use a different brand of feed, just compare the protein content on the packages of layer and flock products. I primarily use Purina based on comparing cost, what my birds prefer, and what is available at my local feed store.
My birds are always up for treats. Sunflower and pumpkin seeds from my garden provide a protein boost. Mealworms are also a popular protein treat.
My chicken coop is a mess during molting. I use sand on my coop floor and need to rake more frequently to keep the area clean. Feathers are high in protein, and the birds will eat them. A coop should be cleaned to prevent disease.
Growing new pin feathers can be painful for chickens. The birds should not be handled unless absolutely necessary. Avoid sweaters or harnesses for any pet chickens during this time.
Regular visual checks of the birds are important. A peck from another bird can cause wounds more easily on bare patches. A topical medicated spray can be used to help heal peck wounds without putting pressure on sensitive growing pin feathers.
Seasonal molting is a normal process chickens go through. A high protein diet and a little extra care will result in a happy and healthy flock that is ready for winter.