Extremely slow, full molt

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by janinepeters, Dec 25, 2010.

  1. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I live in the northeast, where the weather is now cold, and I am concerned about my 2.5 year old buff chantecler who rather suddenly lost many of her feathers about a month ago. Her head and neck feathers are growing in slowly but surely. Some of her wing feathers never fell out, so those remain. However, most of her breast, much of her back, and both her thighs are bald. In those areas, there are some tiny little nubbins coming in, but most feathers seem to be arrested in development before fluffing out. The coop is not heated, but is well insulated.

    Her behavior has been pretty good for a molting hen. Sometimes molters seem to prefer the solitude of the coop when I open the door for "recess" in the afternoon, but this one has been fairly active, staying with the flock most of the time...until this past couple of days. Temp has been in 30s during day, and in 20's at night. Yesterday and today, she appears to be struggling - hanging back away from the flock, sometimes shivering. This is not unusual for what I've seen of molters, though. It's just new behavior for her. And, without her feathers growing at any appreciable rate, and the winter only beginning, I worry that she will not make it through the winter.

    I watch and make sure I see her eating and drinking everyday. And she is. Droppings appear within normal limits. She has been sleeping in a nestbox at night, to keep warmer, I assume. She and the other 16 chickens get layer pellets, a few cups of scratch grains mixed with birdseed (which is rich in nuts and sunflower seeds) each day, whatever they scavenge from the compost bins, and whatever they forage from the yard and garden (when there is not snow covering it).

    She is in the mid-lower end of the peck order, but definitely not at the bottom. There is one hen which occasionally pecks her tail area, but I have not seen anyone peck at any other part of her body, so I do not think cannibalism is contributing much to this, if at all. Last year her molting pattern was totally different - She lost only a few feathers at a time, so that you could hardly tell she was molting.

    Two of other hens (barred rocks) started molting later than this hen, and are now almost totally done, with nice warm feathers growing quickly.

    While I have had other hens undergo full molts, none have gone so slowly as this one. Is this within the realm of normal molting? If there is something wrong with her, what might it be? Is there anything I can do to encourage faster feather growth?
     
  2. Miss Lydia

    Miss Lydia Running over with Blessings Premium Member

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    To help with feather growth sounds like you have it covered pretty good, I haven't done this but adding more protein to what your already giving will help, canned tuna in water, some dry cat food, yogurt, scrambled eggs and mines favorite mealworms. I have a couple bantams that are slower at getting back their feather from molt and this is what I've been doing, if your still worried you might want to seperate her from the rest until you see her bounce back more. Also I gave my chickens Poultry drench in their water every other day for support.
     
  3. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    I had one that took forever with her hard molt, about 3 or 4 months, and she still didn't get as bare as yours has; she had some bald patches but they were small, amybe quarter sized, and there was just a little remnant of feather on the rest of her. She's now through with all that, and really pretty in her new feathers. I'd be concerned, too, but I kind of think it's still within normal range, just from looking at pictures on here.

    I guess you could get her a saddle or apron or whatever you want to call it, to help cover up all that bareness. If you have xome polarfleece fabric or an old garment you don't mind cutting, you can make one in a few minutes with nothing but a pair of scissors:

    https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=407575

    I've made and sued several of these. You may have to cut a couple of them before it fits right. Hint: their backs are only about 2" across.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Dec 25, 2010
  4. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Thanks for responding. It's reassuring to hear that this may still be within the normal range. It just seems to be going sooooo slowly. Everyday I go out to see her, I hope for signs of progress, and there is virtually none. Once her head/neck feathers grew in, further feather development seemed to stop. I've never seen a chicken stay so bare for so long.

    Regarding saddle/apron: I have not had good experience with putting clothing on a chicken. I once put a saddle on a hen because the rooster had been a bit over-zealous in mating her, and had worn the feathers off her back. When I put the thing on, some of the others - the rooster and several top ranking hens seemed frightened/confused by it, and began attacking her. I took the thing off immediately, but I am sure they would have killed her if I had let it go on.

    I've become somewhat of a minimalist in terms of chicken care, over the years, finding that interventions done with good intention often make things worse. However, I will try adding some more protein to her diet. It's so cold today, and there is a blizzard in the forecast.
     
  5. jjthink

    jjthink Overrun With Chickens

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    A bird that is clearly cold (shivering is really cold and means "I am pretty miserable here...") needs extra warmth to get through difficult times.

    JJ
     
  6. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    On the saddle, this did not occur at all with mine; the saddle wearer acted a bit odd for a couple of minutes then everyone totally ignored it. Actually I have one wearing one now, it's been on a few months; her feathers have grown back but I'm reluctant to remove it in the middle of winter, in case she has less undercoat because of it. I work with a piece of black polarfleece and even I can barely see it; maybe that has something to do with it.

    Anyway it was just a suggestion. Truth is I no doubt tend toward minimalist myself. No heat, no light, not the best wind protection even. When egg production dropped, I closed them in their large fenced yard for a couple of days to see if there were eggs under a bush somewhere, got no more eggs, so I let them loose to free range again. They wander around maybe 3 or 4 acres. That's about all I've done with them for a year or so, other than food and water and throwing pine shavings on poop. I watch them daily, for fun, but if someone had a cut under her wing or something, I'd probably never know it. They do get a round of epinrex around once a year. Might make it a drug that gets tapeworms next year. I did recently learn how to get them to eat BOSS so now they get a handful every day, what with cold and several of them still in molt.

    I've never seen one of mine shiver. I did go out there after dark when it first got down to 15 or so. They were more snuggled than usual but I clearly disturbed their sleep, so I got out of there.

    Here's hoping your molting bird is just a bit strange in her molting ways, and all will be well.
     
  7. fiberart57

    fiberart57 Chillin' With My Peeps

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    A shivering molting chicken was talked about in another thread and I think the resolution was to bring the hen in until she got enough feathers to stay warm. A miserable, shivering chicken is in distress.

    I can see where a coat might cause consternation among the chooks, but what if you got some polar fleece approximately the same color as the chicken? Perhaps the rest wouldn't be so riled.

    I had a Buff Orp that was really slow to lose her feathers and grow them back and watched her with the cold. Fortunately she got enough of a covering on her before we hit single digits but I had a large carrier ready to do if necessary.

    I actually like the minimalist approach myself because I have a demanding full-time job. But I made the decision that I would bring them in if I had to if they were in danger of freezing during the molt. I fed them a variety of extra protein during the molt: ground beef, eggs, lentils, and cat food and since it's my first molt I wasn't sure how much, if any, faster their feathers grew back.

    Good luck,
    Mary
     
  8. janinepeters

    janinepeters Chillin' With My Peeps

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    I did take her in today, but she died within a few hours anyway. I had put her in the brooder box in our breezeway, and heated it up to the 40s with a heat lamp.

    She was still eating this morning, but today was our coldest day so far, with temp only in the 20s. As the day went on, I could see she would die tonight if not warmed. I have seen chickens shiver while molting many times before, but if molt is progressing well, and it's not this cold, they do very well. They look miserable and I am sure they feel miserable, but shivering is actually adaptive - the muscle activity generates heat, which warms them. If they get plenty to eat, they can manage for awhile, but not indefinitely. The lower the temp, the less time they can tolerate it. I've seen a full molt in late December only once before, but in that case, feathers were growing in really quickly, so the hen didn't have to feel cold for long.

    I like to leave them be if at all possible, because once you take them in, there is the possibility that warmth will further slow the molt, and, if she is separated from the flock for an extended period, reintroduction might be tricky. There is also the chance that a power outage would kill her, with the sudden drop in temperature due to loss of the heat source. The chance of power outage tonight is pretty high, as we are expecting blizzard conditions.

    Does anyone think I heated her up too quickly? Jumping 20 degrees in about an hour -- could that have stressed her?

    Sorry if I don't sound totally devastated, or if you think I did not take her in soon enough, but I have been through so many chicken problems in the past. I used to take them to the vet, do other heroic deeds to try to save them, but it seems like one problem often just leads to another, so I've backed off a lot, and try not to get terribly attached. If I were a "real" farmer, I would have eaten her a couple of weeks ago, but I cannot seem to kill or eat anything I personally take care of.
     
  9. Judy

    Judy Moderator Staff Member

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    Sorry you lost her. My personal feeling is there was something wrong inside. I don't believe that little heating up would harm a chicken. I wondered when I first read this thread if there was an internal problem causing such extremes in molting.

    Our personal approaches to chicken keeping probably don't vary a lot -- except I kill and eat mine.
     
  10. jjthink

    jjthink Overrun With Chickens

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    So sad. So sorry she didn't make it [​IMG]

    I think an extreme molt with extreme weather conditions along with evidence of distress requires a helping hand at the right juncture to best ensure getting them through the rough time. My hen Ellie just got through a bad molt and with extra warmth and TLC she came through and is back to her power house self. My roo BJ never has been cold tolerant (but handles the summer heat better than others) and so I provide ceramic heat lamps. He is a treasure whom I would do anything for and hopefully it'll get him through again this time - he's around 9 so getting less able to cope. The lamps don't make it as warm as bringing them in the house so the differential is not as difficult for them to adjust to though if I have a really sick or clearly freezing bird I put them in the house and figure out the temperature and social integration a little later.

    JJ
     
    Last edited: Dec 26, 2010

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