It's always scary to see your chickens losing feathers. Sometimes you automatically assume they're sick or they've been attacked by a predator, but have no fear because we're here to talk about what causes feather loss and how to cure it!
One of the most common reasons of feather loss in chickens is molting. What is molting? It's when chickens shed their old feathers to replace them with new ones. It happens each year, usually in the fall because there are less daylight hours. Oftentimes, they lose feathers in their neck area first, and it will move down their back and to their tail. Molting lasts about six weeks, but sometimes can take 10-12 weeks.
Chickens feathers contain about 80% protein, and they need protein to lay eggs, so out with the old feathers and in with the new in order to keep laying eggs!
Some chicken owners ask if they can stop the molt. The answer is no, however there are ways to speed up the molting process. If you give them food with a higher percentage of protein, it will help. The whole reason they shed in the first place is because of lack of protein in their feathers, so giving them food like game can help increase their protein intake, therefore speeding up the molting process. If you've read any of our past blog posts, you'll know that apple cider vinegar mixed with their water helps boost their immune system with vitamins and minerals, which will help them with their protein intake.
If you've only noticed one of your chickens losing feathers, it could likely be a broody hen. When hens are broody, they isolate themselves and often won't leave their nesting boxes, and they rarely eat. They will pluck their own feathers in order to be more connected with their eggs. You know when humans have babies, the doctors encourage skin to skin contact? That is the same with chickens. Broody hens pluck their feathers so their skin is in direct contact with the eggs.
If one of your chickens is being bullied by the rest of the flock, it's common that their feathers will get plucked. Find the chicken that's the culprit and isolate them in a separate pen for a few days. That will ensure the chicken gets bumped down in the pecking order and it should solve the problem.
Disease or Parasites
Parasites can be the cause of your chickens losing their feathers, and when this happens it disrupts the egg laying process. Poultry dust will remove parasites and lice. If you're getting rid of mites, spread the dust in the coop. If you're treating your chickens for lice, apply the dust directly on the chickens.
Come back next week to learn about more reasons your chickens could be experiencing feather loss and how to cure it! In the meantime, check out our last blog post!