Broody and molting hen, or should I get her to a vet?


Aug 5, 2016
Broomfield, CO
I'm sorry to say this is my first post on BYC, and of course it would be in a moment of some panic. With that said, my wife and I have been caring for five hens since we bought their house in February. So far, it's been relatively uneventful, but very rewarding. One of our hens though has been acting very strange the last few days. Every time we've gone to check on the girls, she has been huddled in the nesting box. She's been there in the morning before work and in the evenings when I go out to close up the coop. I asked my wife to check again before she went to work this afternoon, but I got a text message with this image:

I went home this afternoon to check on her again, and there she was still still just hanging out. I tried tempting her out of the box with some meal worms, but she didn't budge. I poked at her some, and she grumbled but wouldn't move. I finally just picked her up and put her outside. She stretched, fluffed, poo'd and immediately starting pecking at what was left of this morning's scratch and the meal worms, but that was also when I noticed that her neck was missing a (what I would call) significant number of feathers.

It wasn't until then that I realized just how many feathers are scattered around the coop. I had noted seeing a few near the water and food dishes over the last few days, but now I was seeing the tufts mixed in with the bedding and scattered around the floor. We weren't caring for them last summer, so I have no reference of what a normal molt would be for these girls. I've read dozens of posts in the BYC forums about molting though, which have helped to assuage my fears. I'm hoping that it's normal, but the missing feathers are all on one side of her neck, and a noticeable thinning of her tail. It's also possible that the other chickens have just been pecking at her, she was taking up a lot (if not all) of the nesting box time. We normally get 2-3 eggs a day, but there was only one egg under her. Despite there being three boxes, all five hens adamantly use only the one. I imagine that the other hens have been very frustrated, and once I had removed her from the nesting box, a couple of the others took shots at her head/neck.

I let the flock into the garden for a bit, and watched to see her behavior. She didn't seem to exhibit any of the signs of being egg bound, no waddling, no distension or pallor. She drank and ate happily once she was out of the box. She kept up with the flock and dug in the dirt. At worst, she seemed to be itchy, stopping several times to fluff and shake and then preening intensely. I took this video while she was out, hoping to get more eyes on her behavior.


After reading through all the posts about brooding hens, and how bad molting can get, I've pretty much talked myself out of an emergency vet visit. Besides, all of the avian vets in our area are closed now (I called...). I'm just wondering if any one with more experience would say otherwise.

Thanks for your time.
She does sound a lot like a broody hen. The neck feathers missing are odd. Any breast feathers missing? That's normally where they pluck them out from. But my broody is missing her tail feathers and I have a feeling she's the one responsible. So, in other words chickens can be a pain. Molting doesn't normally happen in the summer. Usually the fall or winter months. But their are exceptions. My best guess is she's a very determined broody who's plucking her feathers out to insulate her nest. The only way to get her to stop is putting her in a wire dog crate. Take the plastic pan out so she's standing on wire and place a few bricks under so it's off the ground. This will allow air to travel through and cool body temp. Put her food and water dish in their. After a week you should be able to release her from "broody prison". I have heard of giving them aspirin to break theit tempature too but I can't remember how much to give. Hope this helps and good luck :)
Last edited:
Thank you. I'm going to try to separate her over the weekend. Hopefully she'll snap back to normal. As long as its nothing life threatening, I'm okay with her being moody.

New posts New threads Active threads

Top Bottom