2-Year-Old Hen Has Never Molted -- What Gives?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by GardenerGal, Nov 28, 2011.

  1. GardenerGal

    GardenerGal Songster

    Dec 20, 2008
    I got this white leghorn hen as a "rescue" in March 2010, and in the time she's been here she has never molted. She has the feathers she came with, and is getting very patchy and scraggly.

    My suspicion is that she is a "Pearl" production leghorn from McMurray hatchery, and there may be some genetic issue going on. They have been playing with making a longer laying hen, and in so doing maybe they found a mutation that halts or delays molting. Since molting hens don't lay, it would pay for them to make a hen that doesn't molt, yes? I guess that would be okay for battery hens (grrrr) that are kept in a climate controlled setting, but my poor girl is living in a barn and run with her pals. If it weren't for the molting problem she would be a happy camper.

    The genetic thing is my best guess, but I am wondering whether anyone else has ever had this happen, and if so did the hen ever molt normally? I may have to get some of that polar fleece and make her some clothes if she can't grow a new suit herself. [​IMG]

  2. OldChurchEggery1

    OldChurchEggery1 Songster

    Sep 27, 2011
    Perhaps you can look up some information about how to force a moult. I've read about how to do it somewhere but I cannot recall where I saw it. I've never heard of such a thing so I wish you luck. Having scraggly old feathers is no good with the chill of winter setting in!
  3. Pele

    Pele Songster

    Feb 25, 2011
    I for one am pretty disgusted with most commercial practices and breeding programs, but this is one area where they are actually not messing with chicken DNA in a bad way.

    Commercial facilities actually force their hens to molt as a method of increasing egg quality. They generally do so through decreasing their lighting drastically, and by witholding food. Granted, this isn't an awesome thing to be happening to the birds either [​IMG].

    It's hard to say why your hen isn't molting at all. You could try to keep her in a darkened dog crate for a couple of days to see if you can encourage her along.

    Good luck with her, and bless you for giving her a better life!
  4. Imp

    Imp All things share the same breath- Chief Seattle

    I have had several breeds of chickens over the years. I have had only once a chicken go through a hard molt. Just mini molts off & on. But they seem to look good, and refeather swiftly.
    Is she getting enough protein to regrow feathers?
    Could the others be picking at her?
    Could she be picking out her own feathers?

    Good luck,

  5. DDRanch

    DDRanch Songster

    Feb 15, 2008
    Quote:Ditto on Imps comments. I don't know about Hatchery practices.

  6. GardenerGal

    GardenerGal Songster

    Dec 20, 2008
    Thanks for the thoughts and comments, folks. It helps.

    Yes, she gets plenty of protein. I have about 30 chickens, along with waterfowl too, and they all get Blue Seal layer pellets (I think that's 14% protein), as well as supplemental "snacks" that include fish/shrimp meal, and other sources of animal and plant proteins. My flock has a lot of older birds (7, 8, 9 years old) as well as young ones, but none have had a problem. All of the others molt at regular, normal intervals in keeping with day length, while this poor leghorn keeps laying and doesn't molt. I did read a description of the McMurray "Pearl" layers that states they lay 10-12 weeks longer than other layer breeds, but she lays all year without taking any molt break.

    It is good to learn that they are not messing with DNA, though!

    She has all of the original feathers she arrived with in March 2010, when I suspect she was 5-6 months old. The primary flight feathers on one wing had been clipped, and she still has them! She has lots of bald areas, especially her abdomen, and there have not been any signs of replacement plumage. The others do not pick at her and she doesn't pick her feathers out. She does preen, but never plucks her plumage.

    I put a brood lamp in the coop so she can get under it if needed, but she eats well (goes on her roost at night with a full crop) and shows no signs of discomfort. I just don't have any answers. I may try isolating her and doing a light reduction to see if she molts, but I'm almost afraid to because I wonder if she will grow new feathers at all.

    Anyway, thanks again. I appreciate the suggestions. And if anyone does read this who has had a non-molting hen, I would really be interested to hear about it.
    Last edited: Nov 29, 2011

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