It's late summer/early fall and your birds are half naked and the coop is full of feathers,at first if you don't know what is happening you might panic and wonder if there's a parasite or something attacked them but none of that it's molt. Birds shed there old feathers and grow new ones,molting occurs as summer daylight gets shorter and winter gets closer.
As molting goes on egg production and energy levels will go down due to loss in protein and nutrients. Molt usually lasts around 7-8 weeks from start to finish but molt doesn't just happen in late summer/early fall it happens in any change in food,water,daylight hours. Birds will molt late summer/early fall,late winter/early spring,and any changes in food,water,and daylight hours such as broody hens. New feathers that are coming in have a vein filled shaft that will bleed if broken or cut so handling is not a good idea while molting is going on cause it can be very painful. The feathers have a waxy like casing around them that falls off as they are rubbed against something or the bird is preening which falls off a little later on in the feather growing process.
There are ways you can help your birds out during molting that will help there feathers grow and get a little closer to better egg production:
1.) Increase there protein intake by giving them higher protein food such as switching them to meat bird grower or special molting feed for about a month,give them higher protein treats such as canned and dry cat food,tuna,cooked hamburger,black oil sunflower seeds or other goodies.
2.) Reduce stress in the birds by not doing a lot of loud work around them,adding any new birds,changing things around.
3.) Less handling the better so you don't brake any feather shafts and rubbing them is painful so less handling for the molting period.
4.) Add a heat lamp for extra warmth if your in a colder climate so your birds don't get too cold.
As you can see here one of my black sex-link hens are about half way through her molt, as you can see there are some lose feathers and the waxy like casing over the new feathers coming in. Here it was cold out and while free ranging she came back to the coop for some warmth in the straw.
Here she is after her molt with her new feathers and she's back to laying and being herself again,always great to see them laying and enjoying life
If you would like put a heat lamp in the coop for some extra warmth while there in molt if your in a colder climate it might be a good idea so your birds don't freeze or get too chilled. Over all keep your birds happy,give them high protein treats/food,handle them as little as possible and add some extra heat in the coop if your in a real cold climate or area and your birds will be happy/healthy/and soon be back to laying those delicious eggs you love so much. And it's great to know your birds are happy and healthy while going through this molt. Hope this helps you newbies to molting and others that raise birds!!