Monday, October 24, 2016

Why is my chicken losing its feathers?

Your chicken is molting.

Molt is nature’s why of “rebooting” poultry. 

When the days got shorter and cooler chickens will slow down, stop laying and lose their feathers. They don’t have to be laying when they molt. They will take six weeks or more to grow feathers back and resume egg production. 
Photo via Flickr

Birds can go through either a hard molt or a soft molt. A hard molt means all the feathers are lost almost at once so molting is over relatively quickly. A soft molt means the feathers are lost and regrown gradually. Sometimes you may hardly notice a soft molt, except as a reduction in laying. 

There are actually two juvenile molts before a chicken's first annual molt. The first mini molt begins at 6-8 days old and is complete by approximately 4 weeks when the chick's down is replaced by its first feathers. The second mini molt occurs between 7-12 weeks old and the chicken's first feathers are replaced by its second feathers. It is at this time that a rooster's distinguishing, ornamental feathers will appear 

Waterfowl molt a little differently. The first molt occurs shortly after nesting. Drakes trade their gaudy breeding plumage for drab brown feathers known as "basic" plumage. The second molt occurs from fall to early winter. Only the birds' body feathers are replaced during this molt, in which drakes develop their brightly colored "alternate" or "nuptial" plumage. 

The manner in which waterfowl molt their flight feathers, or primaries, is unique among birds. Most birds undergo a "sequential molt," in which their flight feathers are lost one at a time from the innermost primary feather to the tip of the wing. This allows many birds to retain their flight capabilities while molting. However some waterfowl undergo a "simultaneous wing molt," losing all of their primary feathers at once, which renders them flightless for 20 to 40 days.

Ask further questions in the comment section.

--Dale, aka Turkeyman