Have you ever noticed a chicken losing feathers? Well, this could indicate that they are molting. This is a completely natural process. If you haven’t owned chickens before, then you may be confused as to what is going in. Thankfully, you have the information on this page. We are going to run you through absolutely everything that you need to know about chicken molting.
Do Chickens Molt?
Yes, chickens molting is simply the process of chickens losing their feathers and gaining new ones. It is a completely natural process, and most chickens are going to be molting somewhere between once and twice per year.
So, if you spot your chickens losing feathers, it isn’t going to be an issue.
There is nothing wrong. Now, we are going to go into a bit more depth on this throughout this page.
Why Do Chickens Molt or Lose Their Feathers?
Chickens molt because feathers do not last forever. As the year goes by, the feathers are going to be taking quite a battering from the elements.
Chickens will be getting into fights. Feathers do not constantly ‘grow’ either. This means that, over time, they are going to start to deteriorate.
The whole purpose of feathers is to provide a chicken with protection from the elements, and over time, these feathers are not going to be providing the same amount of protection. Even a small break in the feathers can result in chickens having a bit of cold air hit their skin.
This can be uncomfortable, and it can cause illness. This is why it is going to be a major problem if your chicken is not losing feathers. Not only could this indicate a problem with the natural balance of their body, but it could also mean that they will suffer from other illnesses later on down the line.
Think of molting as a chicken starting to replace the protective layer that they have on their bodies. If they didn’t molt, their feathers would constantly fall apart. They would have zero protection, and chickens would be unlikely to last anywhere near as long.
How Long Do Chickens Molt for?
This is going to be massively dependent on the chicken, usually for 14 to 16 weeks during the late summer or early fall.
For some chickens losing feathers is going to be incredibly quick process. They will have lost their feathers and regained them all again in a time frame as short as a couple of weeks.
For other chickens, the process could last a couple of months. It doesn’t really seem to be dictated by the breed all that much. It is very much going to be on the individual chicken.
Some backyard chicken owners have found that there are ways to try and speed up the process. A lot of this will be through the introduction of a special diet (which we are going to discuss soon).
However, there is only so much you can speed everything up. This is still going to be a natural process. Let it happen naturally.
In nearly all cases, chickens who do have a ‘longer molt’ will actually start with their molt a little bit earlier. This mean that they are still going to be ready with a new, fresh coat of feathers for when the colder months and the winter start to roll in.
If they don’t, then you may want to try and do a little bit to give your chickens some more protection from the elements e.g. keep them inside on the colder and wetter days until the molt has been completed.
How Often Do Chickens Molt?
A chicken can molt between one and two times per year.
However, molting is more likely to occur just once. If your chicken is almost constantly in a state of molt, then this could indicate that there are underlying health conditions.
The same as if your chicken is molting and a little bit distressed about it. Molting is completely natural, and it should not cause any pain to the chicken. If they are in pain, then it means something is wrong and you will need to look into it further with a vet.
When Do Chickens Molt (Losing Feathers)?
You will find that most chickens are not going to start molting until they are at least 18-months old. Others can take a lot longer than this (and, of course, some are going to be a lot faster).
This is dependent on the breed of your chicken, so you may want to research your breed to see what age the chicken starts. In many cases, particularly with younger chickens, you may not actually notice that the molt is taking place. It is a rather slow and gradual process at the start.
Chicken molting starts sometime around fall/autumn. This is a process that is going to continue through to the winter. By this point, the chicken will be protected from the elements. After all, it would have replaced all of the damaged feathers.
Chicken molting happens in a specific sequence. Starting from the head and neck and up to the tail.
Molting Chickens Diet
It is unlikely that your chickens will be laying that many eggs during their molting period. This is because all of their resources will be directed towards molting. This means that you will need to switch up their diet a little bit.
When a chicken is laying eggs, the primary component of their diet will be calcium. However, when they are molting, they do not need the calcium as much. Instead, they are going to need to get a lot more protein into their diet.
Sometime around the start of fall, you will want to start transitioning your chickens onto a special ‘ chicken molting diet’. Thankfully, you do not need to do much here.
You can purchase specialist chicken feeds that are packed to the brim with protein. You may want to trim down other aspects of the chickens diet at the same time too e.g. if you are giving your chickens regular fruits and vegetables, then you may want to scale this back a little bit.
This ensures that your chicken is able to take in as much protein as possible from the feed that you have given them.
Once the chicken has finished molting, you can give it back it’s normal food without any issues.
See also: Chicken Breeds (Types of Chickens).