bare back in winter

Sep 20, 2017
276
304
156
Washington State
We have a hen who is one of our rooster's favorites, and her back has gotten quite bald from all the mating over the summer. The weather is getting cold around here, below freezing every night now (23-27 in the forecast for the next few nights). Pretty soon daytime temps will be dropping below freezing too. We are worried about her missing all those feathers in the cold.

This hen hasn't started molting yet and there are no pin feathers visible. I've heard that hens usually molt right after they come out of being broody. She went broody in March and hatched some chicks. She didn't visibly molt after they hatched, but is it possible that she had a very soft molt at that time and it went unnoticed? Do chickens even molt in springtime?

If she is done molting for the year, my understanding is those feathers won't grow back in until the next molt, i.e. next year. If that is the case and her back remains bare through, will a saddle apron keep her warm enough in freezing weather? Our wintertime temps can dip to zero or lower.
 

Egghead_Jr

Crowing
10 Years
Oct 16, 2010
7,482
3,547
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NEK, VT
She should be starting her fall molt now.

I'm under hened for cocks around here too. Penned the bare backs up this summer after breeding to allow feathers to grow. Once they started put them back with flock. Sure enough, bald again. Here it is November with 8 inches of snow in forecast for next week. Wouldn't you know it, she started showing feather growth for this fall molt last week. Haven't had many eggs in three weeks. The molt here is over the halfway hump. Your climate and birds will vary to mine but assure yourself those bare backs will grow before deep winter.
 

RWise

Songster
7 Years
Dec 25, 2012
1,270
1,009
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Oakhurst Oklahoma
My girls do not molt together, and it can be hard to look at with snow or ice everywhere, but they do fine. Only 2 of my older girls have started the molt, more will follow, and it's getting colder..
 

Shadrach

Roosterist
Jul 31, 2018
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Catalonia, Spain
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We have a hen who is one of our rooster's favorites, and her back has gotten quite bald from all the mating over the summer. The weather is getting cold around here, below freezing every night now (23-27 in the forecast for the next few nights). Pretty soon daytime temps will be dropping below freezing too. We are worried about her missing all those feathers in the cold.

This hen hasn't started molting yet and there are no pin feathers visible. I've heard that hens usually molt right after they come out of being broody. She went broody in March and hatched some chicks. She didn't visibly molt after they hatched, but is it possible that she had a very soft molt at that time and it went unnoticed? Do chickens even molt in springtime?

If she is done molting for the year, my understanding is those feathers won't grow back in until the next molt, i.e. next year. If that is the case and her back remains bare through, will a saddle apron keep her warm enough in freezing weather? Our wintertime temps can dip to zero or lower.
I’m not completely certain about the biology in this but I think your hen will grow back missing feathers whether she molts or not.
When I’ve had injured hens here and they’ve lost feathers (often large patches plucked by a hawk) the feathers grow back no matter what time of year it is and whether they moult or not.
I used to get a few hens with bare backs from mating when I fist got here. Once the ratio of hens to roosters got sorted out and the groups became stable this stopped. They also grew their feather back before moulting.
I think, moulting and normal feather replacement growth are different.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
Premium Feather Member
8 Years
Nov 27, 2012
96,592
130,337
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SW Michigan
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I have 2 bare backed hens, SLW's...been bare for months and months.
Initially they lost their back feathers due to being 'weak feathered' in conjunction with treading wear.
I do think they are eating their own pin feathers, they start to grow back then disappear.
Actually only have one left, the other went to stew due to other issues...time will tell if the one left molts and grows them back in for good. She's shedding a few feathers but is still laying once or twice a week.
Had have bare-backs over winter before, don't think they suffered too much
 

Criticalicious

Crowing
Feb 25, 2017
915
1,693
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New Market, VA
You may want to add extra protein to help feather growth, whether that means switching to grower/broiler feed or adding treats like Grubblies, etc. If chickens are eating their own feathers, either they are bored or they need more protein.
 

HollyWoozle

Songster
Jun 12, 2018
512
1,202
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Bedfordshire, United Kingdom
I’m not completely certain about the biology in this but I think your hen will grow back missing feathers whether she molts or not.
When I’ve had injured hens here and they’ve lost feathers (often large patches plucked by a hawk) the feathers grow back no matter what time of year it is and whether they moult or not.
I used to get a few hens with bare backs from mating when I fist got here. Once the ratio of hens to roosters got sorted out and the groups became stable this stopped. They also grew their feather back before moulting.
I think, moulting and normal feather replacement growth are different.

I agree with this. When we have had injuries and feather loss here, the bald patches have always grown back well regardless of the time of year (when they have been separated or the cause of the feather loss has stopped of course).
 
Sep 20, 2017
276
304
156
Washington State
Thanks all! I hope our Chantrelle's feathers do grow back. Our rooster is barely mating with the hens the past month or so and still her feathers are not coming back in. She appears happy and healthy otherwise.
 

Mosey2003

Crowing
5 Years
Apr 13, 2016
3,041
4,924
391
North-Central IL
I would not use an apron now, it may interfere with her ability to fluff up all her feathers.

Last year basically everyone hit a hard molt about NOW and they were really bare and raggedy through February almost, and nobody died of cold. So she'll probably be fine.

Next year, either house the male separately or get aprons on them before the wear starts.
 

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