It can be a frightening sight, walking out towards your chicken coop and seeing feathers scattered everywhere. My first thought is usually the worst. Has a predator broken into the coop and attacked my chickens? Luckily, I haven’t ever lost any of my chickens to a predator, and chicken feather loss is normally much less serious.
The most common reason for a chicken losing their feathers is the annual molt; however, this isn’t the only reason.
Let’s take a look at the most common reasons why chickens lose their feathers and our two favorite cures:
Chicken Feather Loss Due to Annual Molting
The first and most common reason why chickens lose their feathers is the ‘annual molt.’
A molt is when a chicken sheds its old feathers and replaces them with new feathers. Chickens molt during the end of the egg-laying season, in the fall.
This is normally closely linked to daylight hours. So, during the fall, when there is a drop in the number of daylight hours, you can expect your chickens to start their molt.
You will notice when they start to molt, they lose feathers around their neck first. This will spread to their back and then move to their breast until finally, their tail feathers drop out.
The typical molt lasts around 6 weeks. However, older chickens molt much slower and can take them up to 10-12 weeks.
In addition to their feathers dropping out, you will also notice that their comb will lose some of its colors, and it won’t be a vibrant red any longer.
Finally, during a molt, you will notice that the number of eggs they lay will greatly reduce and most likely stop altogether.
This is because chickens need lots of protein to make eggs, but also, their feathers are 80% protein.
Your chicken can either molt or lay eggs, and it doesn’t have enough protein to do both at the same time.
Can You Stop Their Molt?
When people find out their chicken is molting, the first question they ask is, can you stop the molt? Well, not really. But you can help speed it up.
We mentioned above that when chickens molt, they require much protein to make their new feathers. So the first thing you can do is stop feeding them layers of pellets and give them food with a higher protein percentage.
I like to feed my chickens game bird feed during their molt because it is 20% protein- this is double the amount of protein in layers pellets.
BEST FEED FOR CHICKEN MOLTING
Scratch and Peck Feeds – Naturally Free Organic Layer Feed
- High in protein to help chickens’ grow back their feathers.
- This feed is organic and non-GMO.
- This is by far one of my hens’ favorite layers feed.
In addition to changing their feed, you can also give them tonics. Personally, I don’t give them any tonics, but a commonly used tonic is apple cider vinegar.
You can mix this in with their water supply to give them a boost of minerals and vitamins.
One supplement we do give our chickens is ginger powder, and we’ve written about this extensively here.
You can mix ginger powder up with their game feed, and it helps boost their circulation and spread vitamins and nutrients throughout their body.
THE BEST APPLE CIDER VINEGAR
Broody Chickens Can Cause Chicken Feather Loss
If only one of your chickens has lost their feathers, it could be that she is just broody. A broody hen wants to hatch their own chicks, and she will lay on top of its eggs all day long.
You will easily notice that she is broody because she won’t leave the nesting box and rarely eat.
When they are broody, they tend to pluck their own breast feathers out, so their skin is directly connected with the eggs.
This isn’t healthy for your hen if it continues for a long time, so make sure you read how to stop a broody hen.
Pecking Order and Chicken Bullying Can Cause Chicken Feather Loss
Chickens can also lose their feathers when they are being bullied. If you’ve kept chickens for any length of time, you know that they often jostle and compete to move up the ‘pecking order.
The pecking order is the chickens ‘hierarchy of status,’ and chickens at the top control the rest of the flock. Whilst this jostling for pecking order is normally harmless, occasionally it can turn into bullying, and hens get singled out and targeted.
I’ve found the more aggressive breeds are genetical ‘closer’ to the original jungle fowl.
If a single hen is being targeted, its feathers will get plucked out, and its skin may also get broken. Broody hens often get targeted because they have plucked out their own breast feathers, and the other chickens will then peck at the red flesh.
This can be very dangerous because chickens are attracted to blood to peck the injured chicken even more. You can spread tree pruning sealer onto the cut to help protect the injured chicken.
The sealer will dry hard nearly straight away and will give the chicken time to recover. Also, the sealer is black, so the chickens won’t be anywhere near as keen to peck at it, and if they do, it will rub off on their beak, so you know which hens have been bullying.
You can then either isolate the culprits or use a blinder for a few days.
I always prefer to isolate the culprit instead. To do this, I place them in a separate smaller pan for a couple of days.
Interestingly, when the bully returns to the pen, they get knocked down a peg or two by the other girls because the bully is considered ‘new.’
You will notice when you add new chickens to your existing flock, there will also be some jostling for position in the pecking order, and as a result, some of your chickens will lose their feathers.
This should settle down in a few days if you introduce the chickens to each other properly.
If you find they are still pecking out each other’s feathers, you will need to separate the new and old chickens for a few days and then attempt to reintroduce them to each other.
The final reason chickens will bully each other is because there isn’t enough room in their coop or run.
Chickens need at least 3 square feet each inside the coop and 15 square feet each inside the run. If they have less than this, they will bully each other and peck out each other’s feathers.
Chicken Feather Loss Caused by Parasites and Disease
In addition to molting, the only other occasion when feather loss can be flock-wide is when your chickens have a disease or are infected with parasites.
Parasites can cause your hens to lose their feathers and also stop laying eggs.
The most common parasites are lice and red mites. Mites will live in the chicken coop and only appear during the night to suck blood from the chickens.
Whereas lice actually live on the chickens’ bodies, so they are easier to spot.
In both cases, you can use poultry dust from your local hardware store to remove the parasites. If you are treating mites, you can spread the poultry dust in the coop, whereas if you are treating lice, you need to apply the poultry dust directly onto your chickens.
To prevent either of the parasites from returning, make sure you regularly clean your chicken coop and wash your hands before handling your chickens.
If your chickens have lost their feathers for over 12 weeks and there is no obvious sign as to why make sure you visit your vet to double-check they are ok.
Just one of the diseases that might cause your chicken to lose feathers is vent gleet. This is a fungal infection in your chicken’s vent, which is where they expel eggs and waste.
While the feather loss from vent gleet is usually close to the vent, it can be anywhere.
If your chicken develops vent gleet, consult a vet. Prevent it by keeping the coop clean and giving your birds proper food and water.
Roosters Can Be The Cause of Chicken Feather Loss
Surprisingly, roosters can be the cause of chickens losing their feathers as well. When roosters mate with hens, the rooster holds onto the hen’s back with their beak- this is known as treading.
When this happens, the rooster can easily pull the feathers out of the hen’s neck and back. If the rooster only mates with a certain hen, then the balding can be very obvious!
Fortunately, if your rooster is placed with several hens, then this balding won’t be noticeable.
Chicken Feather Loss Can Be Caused by Stress
Chickens can also lose feathers when they are experiencing high stress levels in general. Stress can be caused by:
- Addition of new birds
- Moving coop
- Presence of predators
- Aggressive pecking order
If you think your chicken is stressed out and need to chill out a bit, consider what’s upsetting them and remove the stressor.
For example, If a predator is lurking nearby, you might not know it, but your chickens certainly do. Feather loss and extensive rooster crowing (especially at night) indicate an unwelcome visitor nearby.
Change in Diet Can Cause Loss
A sudden change in a chicken’s diet can inadvertently trigger a molt. In fact, industrial-grade farmers used this common technique to force their chickens to molt and improve the quality of eggs they laid. Fortunately, this is now illegal in many places.
By changing their diet, if you’re not careful, you can reduce the amount of protein your chickens are getting, and this can cause them to molt.
I’ve previously written about the importance of giving your chickens good quality layers pellets and what happened when we stopped giving our chickens pellets.
If you want healthy, happy chickens, you need to make sure they get access to a high protein diet, and the simplest way to do this is through layers pellets.
Another Reason for Chicken Feather Loss Could Be Preening
Preening is yet another reason that your chickens might lose some feathers. The difference is that they will only lose a few, and they will do it themselves. In fact, compared to the other reasons, this is hardly noticeable or not even noticeable.
You know that your chickens spread the oil from their preen gland (by the base of their tail) and use their beak to spread it over the feathers. They also sometimes remove unsightly feathers.
Boredom Can Also Be A Cause
Like any other animal, your chickens might get bored if you don’t give them enough space or activities. Sometimes, that boredom can lead to them picking out their feathers, whether from frustration or to give them something to do.
Luckily, this is typically an easy fix. You need to give your chickens a bit more space and some distractions.
Reasons the Chicken’s Feathers May Not Come Back Right Away
You solved the problem, and your chicken isn’t losing feathers anymore, but new feathers aren’t growing. What happened?
Sometimes, the feather breaks as it emerges. It can get stuck in the skin, making the chicken’s body think that there is a feather there.
If that happens, you will have to wait until the chicken molts again and sheds the feather. Then, a replacement should grow in its place.
Even if you got your chickens’ feather-pecking under control, they might still pick some of the new feathers growing into place.
Unfortunately, pin feathers are really tempting, especially when surrounded by the red of irritated skin.
How Can You Encourage the Chicken’s Feathers to Return More Quickly?
Luckily, you can do a few things to help encourage your chicken’s feathers to return more quickly. These include:
- Only giving snacks and treats in moderation.
- Letting your chickens enjoy a dust bath.
- Confirm your chicken is getting the proper diet.
- Adding sea kelp or kelp meal to their diet.
- Keeping the area clean.
- Using Blu-Kote to dye the area slightly blue and reduce the urge to peck.
- Removing the chickens missing feathers from the flock temporarily.
- Using aprons to cover the area.
- Maintaining the right proportion of roosters to hens to prevent over-mating.
The key thing to remember is that normally when chickens lose their feathers, it’s completely harmless.
However, sometimes it can be a cause for concern, so make sure to give your chickens a thorough inspection if/when they do lose their feathers.
Common Questions About Chicken Feather Loss
If you still have any lingering doubts about feather loss, the following should help clear them up.
What Causes Feather Loss in Chickens?
The most common reason for feather loss in chickens is molting or molting, which is natural and involves replacing older feathers with new ones.
How Do You Treat Feather Loss in Chickens?
Inspect your chickens by pushing apart the feathers to look for the cause of the loss. Once you figure out what caused the feather loss, you can address the problem at its source.
How Do You Tell If Chicken Is Molting or Has Mites?
Look for signs of mites or lice, such as decreased activity, dirty vent feathers, pale combs, appetite changes, weight loss, reduced egg production, ragged-looking feathers, bald spots, and feather-pulling.
How Often Do Chickens Lose Feathers?
Molting typically happens about once a year, starting at around 18 months old. Expect the process to take 8-16 weeks.
What Do You Feed Chickens for Feather Growth?
Let us know in the comments below what methods you’ve used to help your chickens during their molts.
Read Next: Chicken Molting: What Is It and How to Fix It
Disclosure: We may earn affiliate commissions at no cost to you from the links on this page. This did not affect our assessment of products. Find full disclosure here.
Growing Feathers Back
Provide dietary protein - Make sure your chickens have a diet rich in protein. Offer protein-rich treats such as meal worms and sunflower seeds in moderation. Prevent boredom - Keep your chickens happy and busy so they don't get bored and start to peck each other.
A high-protein complete feed can help hens channel nutrients into feather regrowth and get back to laying eggs. For organic flocks, try switching hens to Purina® Organic Starter-Grower when molting begins in order to maintain organic status and provide a higher level of nutrition for feather regrowth.How long does it take for chicken feathers to grow back? ›
The time it takes for a chicken to regrow a single feather takes weeks, and typical molts can last as long as three months. Sometimes, chicken keepers will notice that egg production slows or even ceases when their hens molt or they are replacing lots of feathers.Why are my chickens losing feathers and not laying eggs? ›
To chickens, it's a sign that it is time to renew their feathers. Losing feathers and re-growing them is called molting and occurs every year when the days get shorter. During molt, chickens typically stop laying eggs and use this time to build up their nutrient reserves.How do you cure feather disease? ›
How is beak and feather disease treated? Unfortunately, there is no treatment for the disease and it is usually fatal. Supportive care can be given and a stress-free environment can extend the life of the bird for quite some time.How do you restore feathers? ›
Feathers that are tattered or messy can be moved back into shape with the use of mist, warm cotton compresses, or light steam. In the case of feathers that are falling out of a mount or broken in two, the pieces are reattached with small amounts of adhesive, or adhered to a splint to restore the feather's structure.How can I help my chicken heal? ›
Use a clean towel, gauze, or paper towel to apply firm, even pressure to bleeding injuries until the bleeding stops. I use Vetericyn Poultry Wound Care Spray for cleaning and treating wounds 2–3 times a day until wound have fully healed.What food is high in protein for chickens? ›
- Dried Mealworms. At 53 % protein, Dried Mealworms are by far our chooks' favourite protein-rich treat. ...
- Dried Soldier Fly Larvae. ...
- Insects. ...
- Seeds. ...
- Non-medicated chick starter. ...
- Sprouts. ...
- Worms. ...
To stimulate feather growth in parrots, expose them to sunlight or artificial UV light to remove feather-degrading bacteria. Also, parrots need protein (amino acids), vitamins (A, B-complex, C, and D), and minerals, such as calcium. Ensure that your parrot gets sufficient sleep and experiences minimal stress.Can chickens permanently lose feathers? ›
Chicken Feather Loss Caused by Parasites and Disease
In addition to molting, the only other occasion when feather loss can be flock-wide is when your chickens have a disease or are infected with parasites. Parasites can cause your hens to lose their feathers and also stop laying eggs.
The most common reason for this is simple: chickens moult their feathers once a year, usually in the autumn (fall). It's nature's way of taking out old plumage and preparing for the cold by re-growing new, perfectly formed feathers.Can feathers regrow? ›
The answer is a process called "imping"—short for implantation—in which wildlife rehabilitators implant broken feathers with new ones, enabling their patients to return to the wild. The replacement feathers eventually molt like a normal feather. (See National Geographic's pictures of beautiful feathers.)Do mites cause chickens to lose feathers? ›
Infestations of feather mites or lice can cause a reduction in laying, pale combs and wattles, anemia and even death! Infestations can also cause feather loss, usually on the back, because a bird may over-preen and pluck her own feathers in an attempt to get relief.How do I know if my chickens have mites? ›
Typical signs of a mite infestation are scabs near the vent, eggs on the feathers and feather shafts and a light colored bird's feathers may appear dirty in spots where the mites have left droppings and debris. A heavy mite infestation can lead to anemia and death of a chicken.What vitamin helps with feather growth? ›
Biotin is a water-soluble vitamin that helps support bird feathers, skin, beak, and nails by helping the body break down fats and carbohydrates,” vets tell us.Can feathers be repaired? ›
Imping is the method of repairing broken or damaged feathers. A feather replacement is done by joining a donor feather to the shaft of a broken feather using a dowel and glue. The repaired feather will subsequently moult out as normal and a new feather will grow to replace it.What causes feather disease? ›
Psittacine beak and feather disease is caused by the Circovirus. It is spread from infected birds to healthy birds by direct contact, usually from the dust of feathers, dander or feces; the disease is sometimes transmitted from contact with an infected nest box. Infected birds can also pass on the virus to their young.Can you make feathers fluffy again? ›
Feathers and boas naturally dry out over a period of time and lose both their fluffiness and fullness. To restore your feathers and boas back to their original soft and fluffy look, we recommend that you agitate and steam them. This is always a good place to start in order to make them look more attractive.Do Broken feathers grow back? ›
Damage to feathers is permanent until the body replaces them according to a predetermined timetable (molting) which can be as long as a year. Feathers that are molted are regrown right away, but feathers that are broken are not replaced until the broken feather is molted.How do you make feathers pretty again? ›
A steam iron works well, but I like to use the steaming spout of a teapot. Just be careful—use a glove so you don't get scalded. You are really using a combination of heat and steam. Move the feather slowly back and forth in the steaming spout for a few seconds.
- Aminoglycosides (treat intestinal infections)
- Bambermycins (prevent the synthesis of the cell walls of bacteria)
- Beta-lactams (two types: penicillins and cephalosporins)
- Ionophores (prevent intestinal infections)
- Lincosamides (combat joint and bone infections)
- Cocciprol 100g (Coccidiostat - AMPROLIUM) ...
- Amprolium 200 100g (Coccidiostat ) ...
- Avitrol Plus Wormer Tablets 100tabs. ...
- Worm Out Tablets 50tabs. ...
- Kilverm (Vetsense) ...
- Piperazine (Fowl Wormer - INCA) ...
- Oxymav B (Antibiotic) ...
- Triple C (Antibiotic - Vetafarm)
Oregano is being added to poultry diets at commercial chicken farms to work as a natural antibiotic. Add some to your backyard chickens regiment for a happy, healthy flock....What is chickens Favourite food? ›
Lettuce, kale, turnip greens and chard are great greens options. Watermelon, strawberries, and blueberries make healthy snacks for chickens when fed in moderation. A few flock favorites include: Vegetables: Lettuce, beets, broccoli, carrots, kale, swiss chard, squash, pumpkins and cucumbers.What do you feed weak chickens? ›
You can feed your chicken hard-boiled eggs, mealworms, fresh or thawed corn, yogurt, human-grade cooked meats, grapes, cantaloupe, cherries, apples and fresh greens, such as grass, clover, lettuce, spinach and kale. Another option that you can explore to feed your sick chicken is known as the 'Rickets Diet'.What should I feed my chicken daily? ›
In addition to a good quality poultry feed, a variety of fresh fruit and vegetables can also be given daily. Examples of raw fruits and vegetables that can be fed include: vegetable peels, bananas, apple, berries, carrot, bok choy, silver beet, spinach, cabbage or broccoli.How fast do feathers grow back? ›
The standard answer is approximately 12 months. In other words, the average bird goes through some sort of moult at least once a year. When the bird goes through a moult, the damaged feathers should hopefully be replaced with new ones.How do you make feathers grow faster? ›
- Free-Range the Yard. ...
- Enlist Garden Clean-Up Help. ...
- Offer Chick Feed. ...
- Feed Cooked Eggs. ...
- Bulk-Order Mealworms. ...
- Cut Carbs and Scratch.
Vitamins that your bird needs include vitamin A, E, D3, and B-complex. Vitamin A is considered an important skin vitamin that helps with the health of the eyes, feathers, reproductive system, and immune system. Vitamin A can be provided as beta carotene, which converts to vitamin A as needed.Is turmeric good for chickens? ›
It is concluded that turmeric is beneficial to minimize inflammatory effects of vaccination in commercial broiler chickens. Turmeric prevents and reduces stress and negative effects of inflammation and stimulates growth performance of broiler chickens.
Sunflower seeds are a good treat for your chickens. They're widely available, chickens typically love them, and for a treat, they're quite nutritious. They contain methionine, for example, an important amino acid for birds.Why is my chicken losing feathers and red skin? ›
Parasites like lice and mites can cause irritation and a loss of feathers, if left untreated. Warning signs your chickens might have parasites include: Droopy, listless behaviour. Irritated skin.Can a bird live without feathers? ›
No, all wild birds have some type of feather at some part of their body. In fact, birds cannot fly without feathers. This is because feathers provide them with enough surface to generate lift to glide.Do birds feel pain in their feathers? ›
A bird's feathers have no nerve endings, so birds can't necessarily feel when a feather is damaged or compromised—even if the bird's survival depends on replacing it.Do bird feathers heal? ›
A bird's blood feather will heal on its own once the bleeding has stopped, but you need to make sure that you help the feather clot. You should apply pressure to the wounded feather with sterile gauze and add a clotting agent like cornstarch, flour, or baking powder to the area.What are the signs of mites? ›
- nasal congestion and sneezing.
- itchy, red, or watery eyes.
- itchy nose, mouth, or throat.
- a cough.
- chest tightness.
- difficulty breathing.
Feather mites can be seen as tiny dots when the feathers are held up to a light. The mites and their eggs can also be identified using a microscope. Your veterinarian will check your bird's feathers for mites at the yearly well-bird health check.How do you treat bird feather mites? ›
Treatment. When your veterinarian has identified the mites as feather mites, sprays, powders or other medication will be prescribed. Treatment can administered orally or by injection, apart from the sprays and powders. During and after the treatment, thoroughly clean the bird cases and nest boxes.What is a natural remedy for chicken mites? ›
Putting garlic or garlic juice in chicken's diet can help since most of the parasites don't like the taste of it in the chicken's blood. You can also create a mix of water, garlic juice, and a type of essential oil (like lavender), and spray it directly on your chickens and around their coop.How did my chickens get mites? ›
Lice and mites are generally transmitted by wild birds who carry the parasites coming into contact with the coop, or your chickens. Therefore keeping an eye on critters like turkeys and other native birds is important for your flock's health.
Make sure carpets, rugs, curtains, and furniture are all thoroughly vacuumed. Vacuum bags should be immediately removed from the vacuum cleaner and sealed in a bag and put in the freezer. This will kill the mites.How do you make garlic spray for chickens? ›
Combine ¼ cup (about 55 mL) of garlic juice with 2¼ cups (500 mL) of water to make a 10 percent garlic juice spray. To control northern fowl mites, apply the spray to the affected chicken's vent weekly for 3 weeks, and thereafter as needed to maintain control.What disease causes chickens to lose feathers? ›
- Just one of the diseases that might cause your chicken to lose feathers is vent gleet. ...
- While the feather loss from vent gleet is usually close to the vent, it can be anywhere.
- If your chicken develops vent gleet, consult a vet. ...
- Preening is yet another reason that your chickens might lose some feathers.
The most common reason for this is simple: chickens moult their feathers once a year, usually in the autumn (fall). It's nature's way of taking out old plumage and preparing for the cold by re-growing new, perfectly formed feathers.Will pulled out feathers grow back? ›
Birds naturally lose and replace their feathers regularly. Since feathers are naturally recurring, like human hair, they usually grow back after being pulled out. In some cases, however, underlying skin structures are so damaged by plucking that feathers won't return.Is apple cider vinegar good for chicken? ›
The short answer to this question is: Yes! Apple cider vinegar is safe for chickens as long as it's used in moderation. Most chicken keepers who add this acidic supplement to their hens' diets only use a tiny bit at a time, which is enough to provide the extra level of wellness support they're looking for.How do you cure a chicken disease? ›
- Feed Chickens A Healthy Diet.
- Add Supplements to Their Feed.
- Add Apple Cider Vinegar to their Water.
- Fresh Herbs and Snacks.
- Make Sure Their Forage Area and Coop is Safe.
- New Castle Disease. It is caused by a highly contagious virus that infects the respiratory and nervous system. ...
- Gumboro/infectious bursal disease. ...
- Fowl Typhoid. ...
- Fowl Cholera. ...
- Pullorum Disease. ...
- Fowl Pox. ...
Meat, fish and seafood are all great sources of protein for chickens, but not all chicken keepers are comfortable with them. If you do want to feed your birds meat or fish, always ensure it is fresh and remove any uneaten scraps after an hour or so.What vitamins help birds grow feathers? ›
NEKTON-Biotin supports a smooth molting process and feather regeneration. NEKTON-Biotin contains all essential vitamins, amino acids, minerals, trace elements and 200,000 µg biotin/kg. NEKTON-Biotin gives birds a smooth and shiny plumage.
Feathers grow from follicles in the skin (like hair) and the growth of a new feather from the bottom of the follicle pushes the old one out. The process is a gradual one and occurs in sequence across an area of skin to ensure that there are no 'bald' patches.What does garlic do for chickens? ›
Garlic, like apple cider vinegar, is thought to stimulate the appetite and helps promote growth. Deters parasites. The allicin contained in garlic is thought to make the chickens' blood, which the mites feed off, taste undesirable. If you prefer a natural mites preventative, garlic is worth a try.Can too much apple cider vinegar hurt chickens? ›
Apple Cider Vinegar and Chickens in Moderation
While vinegar can help dissolve calcium and make it more bioavailable, excess calcium can actually do the opposite. If you add too much acid your body will use the calcium in your bones as a buffer! Yikes! Don't do that to your poor hens, because they need their calcium!
There's really only one thing chickens need to drink: water. And as a bonus for backyard chicken keepers, it's inexpensive, and freely available.