Chicken molting

Discussion in 'Managing Your Flock' started by Andi, Sep 2, 2009.

  1. Andi

    Andi Songster

    I have a small (6) mixed flock of 14 week olds. All are pullets and there's 1 cockerel that will be stock as soon as he starts to crow (close neighbors). The cockerel is pretty, so I'm going to enjoy him while I can. 1 of the girls is a cornish cross that's hitting the stock pot with the cockerel when he goes.

    Anyway, I'm wondering when chickens molt. I live in Minnesota, if that matters. I did a search but can't find what I'm looking for. Is it weather or seasonal, or age? If its seasonal, I'd think starting to molt when its starting to get cold at night wouldn't be an evolutionary very smart thing to do. We've been having temps at night dipping into the lower 40s. On top of that, it seems like they just got their adult plumage.

    I've noticed more feathers in their run lately and wonder if molting is what's happening. I did read that it starts with the head feather first. The feathers I'm seeing look like they are from all parts of the body. I've seen wing, tail, and an assortment of softer feathers. The feathers appear to be mostly from 1 bird with a few from 2 other birds. All my birds are different colors, with no 2 the same. You wouldn't be able to tell by looking at the birds that they've been loosing feathers, so its not like they are loosing massive quantities. Its just got me concerned.

    The cockerel is getting to be a pest, but I don't think he's pulling that many feathers, or at least not by himself.

    Unfortunately, because I have close neighbors, my chickens don't get to free range. They do have a run that's 8'X16', so they have plenty of space. I also have been using DE and am happy I don't have any flies. Seeing I'm using DE to the point of not having flies, I'm guessing it should be enough to prevent lice.

    Any words of wisdom to ease my worries?
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009

  2. sunket77

    sunket77 Songster

    May 21, 2009
    Texas Hill Country!
    I was wondering this myself but I live in Texas...
    sooo bump!
  3. MimiChick

    MimiChick Songster

    Apr 8, 2009
    Glocester, RI
    I'm in New England and I've been wondering about molting also. My 3 girls are somewhere between 12 and 16 weeks and I've been seeing feathers everywhere lately. I actually saw my white Ameracauna shed a wing feather yesterday, but none of the girls are looking at all bald. So, can anyone give us poor newbies a little more info about the molting process for young birds? Thanks for any help.
  4. Fowl Visions

    Fowl Visions Songster

    Feb 15, 2009
    Keystone Heights, FL
    I'm no expert but I believe a chicken does not molt until somewhere around a year old. With growth a chicken will bring on new feathers thus shedding the old but molting is bringing on a lot of new feathers during a certain time span and you will see your birds looking distressed and ruffled.

    Mine usually molt in late summer; the heat tends to bring it on. Most of my birds right now (19 layers) are in some stage of molting and are either almost a year old or past.

    Here's a pic of one of my birds in a molt stage. Notice the feathers hanging out of her tail, the white patches where buff feathers are missing and new ones are coming in, just the whole ruffled (disheveled) look. This was about a month ago and she know is about done.
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009

  5. Matt A NC

    Matt A NC Crowing

    Feb 22, 2007
    Morganton, NC
    Babies molt several times until they are full grown and have their adult feathers. Then they will go through their first adult molt the next fall.

    For example: Once this springs hatchlings are in their adult feathers, they will not molt until next fall(2010).

    As far as adults molting, the normal time is Late Summer into the Fall. There are always exceptions to this and some just flat out go against the norm. I have had birds go almost completely naked in the dead of winter.

    With my birds a molt normally starts with the body and works forward. The head being the last. That too is not always what happens.

    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009
  6. Andi

    Andi Songster

    Okay, that helps. Its good to know that other birds of the same age are doing it now, too.

    From what I gather, they're loosing some feathers now just because they are growing. Its not a full molt though.

    It makes me wonder if its like a normal molt, because of the time of year, but isn't full blown just because they are young and the feathers are hanging on tightly because they are still so new.

    I have a lovebird that goes through a couple molts a year. Would I be right in understanding that chickens only go through the one in late Summer early Fall?

    Oh my! Full molt in the winter here in Minnesota would be deadly. Well, she'd get to live in the house for a while, despite what the other family members said.

    MimiChick, I love your sig. Me, too. Its almost done though!
    Last edited: Sep 3, 2009
  7. dancingbear

    dancingbear Songster

    Aug 2, 2008
    South Central KY
    Our weather has been really weird this year, and for the first time, I've had chickens molting off and on all year. Usually, with mine, it's a full molt in the fall, and sometimes a light molt in the spring.

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