chicken losing feather

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by kirby, Jan 5, 2008.

  1. kirby

    kirby Hatching

    Jan 5, 2008
    my buff orpington is losing her tail and 'bottom' feathers. we have just two birds in a large coop with run and they often free range. we don't see any mites and cannot figure out what may be causing it, or how to stop it.

    any tips and/or advice would be greatly appreciated.

    thanks and happy new year to all.

  2. speckledhen

    speckledhen Intentional Solitude

    She's molting, I bet. They lose feathers in those locations when they exchange old feathers for new ones.
  3. kirby

    kirby Hatching

    Jan 5, 2008
    thats what i was hoping, but even if she is only nine months old and we are in oregon and its fairly cold?
  4. SpottedCrow

    SpottedCrow Flock Goddess

    Yep. A chicken moults 3 times in it's first year.
  5. pollysmum

    pollysmum In the Brooder

    Dec 24, 2007
    Each year chickens molt, or lose the older feathers, and grow new ones. Most hens stop producing eggs until after the molt is completed. The rate of lay for some hens may not be affected, but their molting time is longer.

    Hens referred to, as "late molters" will lay for 12 to 14 months before molting, while others, referred to as "early molters," may begin to molt after only a few months in production.

    Late molters are generally the better laying hens and will have a more ragged and tattered covering of feathers. The early molters are generally poorer layers and have a smoother, better-groomed appearance.

    Early molters drop only a few feathers at a time and may take as long as four to six months to complete the molt. Early molters are usually poor producers in a flock.

    Late molting hens will produce longer before molting and will shed the feathers quicker (two to three months).

    The advantage of late molters is that the loss of feathers and their replacement takes place at the same time. This enables the hen to return to full production sooner.

    The order in which birds lose their feathers is fairly definite. The feathers are lost from the head first, followed in order by those on the neck, breast, body, wings, and tail. A definite order of molting is also seen within each molting section, such as the loss of primary flight feathers before secondary flight feathers on the wings.

    The primary wing feathers determine whether a hen is an early or late molters. These large, stiff flight feathers are observed on the outer part of each wing when the wing is spread. Usually 10 primary feathers on each wing are separated from the smaller secondary feathers by a short axial feather.

    Molting birds lose the primary feathers in regular order, beginning with the feather nearest the axial feather and progressing to the outer wing-tip feathers. Late molting hens will lose primary feathers in groups of two or more feathers, whereas early molters lose feathers individually. Replacement feathers begin to grow shortly after the old feathers are shed. Late molting birds can be distinguished by groups of replacement feathers showing similar stages of growth.

    Estimating Duration of Molt
    The time a bird has been molting can be determined by examination of the large primary wing feathers. Length of molt can be estimated by allowing six weeks for the first mature group of primaries and two weeks for each additional feather or group of feathers. If the primary feathers are not fully-grown, the time of molt can be estimated based on the feathers' present stage of growth.

    A primary feather reaches half its full length after two weeks, two-thirds its growth after three weeks, and completes its growth six weeks after the old primary is lost. The growth rate of the replacement feathers is the same for both early and late molting hens.

    Often pullets undergo a partial molt, involving the neck and tail feathers. This condition can usually be eliminated by purchasing pullets hatched in April or later in each year and by following proper management practices. The length and incidence of a molt are influenced considerably by the bird's body weight, physical condition and environmental conditions such as nutrition and management.
  6. PatShea

    PatShea In the Brooder

    Mar 8, 2011
    Thank you for the info it is sure good to know.[​IMG]
  7. Moxiechick

    Moxiechick Songster

    Jan 15, 2010
    Thanks for the info! [​IMG]

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