Can Feather Loss Be due to stress?


In the Brooder
7 Years
Oct 12, 2012
We have a cuckoo maran who has (over night) started loosing her feathers, we have a shed for the coop and a large run off that, some chickens sleep outside an some inside, plus a camera set up so we can watch them from indoors, make sure all is well, the cuckoo a silkie an a 2 month old roo sleep together on the top shelf in the shed. On Saturday night around midnight we noticed on the camera screen the roo had either jumped or fell off the shelf 6 feet high, I went down with the torch an he looked frightened, I offered him back onto the top shelf, after a few minuets he hopped back on, I looked around and thought no more of it, Sunday we went into the run an noticed feathers? a good hand full, my first thought was a fox, but there where no entry points, plus all the birds where there, then I noticed the top shelf also had another good hand full spread around just like they had just fell from the bird while she stood, I checked her all over there where no bite marks or any blood, she just has some bald skin, she eats well, but today I`ve noticed she is jumpy, I`m wondering if something scared her sat night, People can turn grey or even loose there hair though shock so is it the same for chickens? up to Saturday everything was fine, not 1 feather anywhere, there is no bullying with the chickens they get on really well with each other, If something did scare the birds Saturday night is it possible for stress to cause feather loss, any one else had this problem?
I`m looking at her now walking around the garden, she looks mottled where some feathers are changing colour, just picked her up and her feathers are coming out in my hand bless her, any ideas anyone, before I take her to the vets

If her feathers are faded then they are old and in need of replacement. She will drop all those and replace them with new ones.
I've heard of stress-induced molting but I think it's more of a long-term stress than a single event. At least, none of mine molted after a predator incident and you'd think having a hawk standing on you and yanking out your feathers would be about as stressful as it gets!

FWIW, I also think regular molting makes them grumpy, fidgety, and not wanting to be touched. I happen to have a few hard molters in my flock and it was really extreme and sudden when it started.
Stress can cause molting but often its not a full molt, more of a mini. It's one of those things that can happen but doesn't always happen.

But yours sounds like a full-fledged days-are-getting-shorter molt. I've got one right now that was laying an egg a day a week ago. Right now she looks awful, like big chinks fo feathers were pulled out, sets around kind of fluffed up and definitely wants the others to leave her alone. I think grumpy, fidgety, and not wanting to be touched is a good description. A good thing about this is that she will probably be over the molt and back to laying fairly soon, not like those that you have trouble telling they are molting.
Hi Eggsoteric/ CMV/ debid/ Ridgerunner

The cuckoo is possibly getting on, not sure of her age we got her with the silkie and the young roo, I guess that's why lay kip together, she lays most days a lovely dark brown egg, was even thinking of getting mated with another cuckoo to continue her nice eggs
they are the best of them all for flavour, and she gets not more treats than the others, we have 14 birds in all, is molting not a summer thing?
it's getting colder in the uk now, Take care allways
No, molting is a just before winter thing. Birds are constantly losing and regrowing feathers regardless of the time of year, but a molt is typically just before winter. My best layer won't start molting until late November. She finishes up right around Christmas. I worry about her freezing whenever she molts. My lesser layers can molt anytime from September on. My worst layer molts from July to November. She spends so much time molting that she never lays.
Hi Mistress

Thank-you I have learnt something, I will still keep an eye on her but can relax, knowing about the molting
Here are a couple of articles on molting and feather loss that might help you. I especially like the info on the fast versus slow molters, the order they lose feathers, and the stuff on the juvenile molts, but there is quite a bit of other good info in these.

Mississippi State describes molting

Kansas State feather loss

The fall molt is simply due to the chicken's feathers wearing out and needing to be replaced. Winter is a lousy time to raise baby chicks for broodies in the wild, so in the fall they quit laying eggs, shed their feathers, and use the nutrients that was going into making eggs to grow those new feathers.

With the slow molters it is not always that obvious they are going through a molt. With the fast molters it is really obvious. Here is a photo of one of my fast molters from a few years back. I have one now that's worse than this. And like CMV, I have some that are real slow. A photo of them would not show anything.


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