feather mites or moulting?


Nov 14, 2009
I have 8 pullets and roos, 18 weeks old, that are losing a lot of feathers. There have been a lot of their feathers in the coop and in the run at intervals and it's increased again lately. I have noticed a lot of pecking and preening, and occasional ruffled looks, so have been checking them over regularly. About a month ago, I did see a few tiny black critters on one or two birds, and on myself after handling them. I've been dusting them and the shavings regularly with DE and in the last 3 or 4 weeks have seen no more black critters on them or on myself. They have no sign of scabbing or eggs at the base of the feathers. They have nice clean skin, also at the vents. But today I noticed one of them has a hard, dry raised area under the wattles, and I wondered if that might be mange, which I understand can be due to parasites. So I went and bought some Sevin 5%. I was prepared to treat them all tonight, but first checked them over again, and once again, see no reason to believe they have mites or lice. So I searched a bit online, and came across the matter of "feather mites". Has anyone heard of feather mites on chickens?

Here is a site that speaks of the benefits of feather mites, and relates it to moulting. http://www.dandydesigns.org/id34.html

, they have been losing a lot of feathers, so this got my attention. According to this site, feather mites can be beneficial to birds. Is that true of chickens perhaps? Do chickens get feather mites?

And another search yielded this information at https://www.backyardchickens.com/forum/viewtopic.php?id=548451 posted not long ago:

First moult –
when down is replaced by the first juvenile plumage occurring at 6-8 days and ending at 4 weeks.
Second moult –
when the first juvenile plumage is replaced by the second juvenile plumage. This occurs over a number of weeks starting between 7 and 12 weeks of age.
Third moult –
occurs in the hen at 16 to 18 months. This is the 'moult' of most importance for producers.

This would suggest then that my pullets and roos could be moulting (a little late for the 2nd moult). I have noticed each time I check them that they have a lot of broken off quills or new quills at the base. They have a lot of soft down under their feathers. So is this normal moulting, a little late at 18 weeks? We had a very cool wet spring and a cool wet start to our summer, and we had some coccidiosis and worm problems and lost some of the chicks a month ago, so is this a delayed "2nd moult"?

Five of the birds are lavender orpingtons, and 3 are wheaten marans. They all have the downy base at their feathers, which looks very clean. They're still getting grower mash, 17%. They look healthy and the feathering is clean and healthy looking. Some of the pullets could have redder combs maybe, but they have fairly small combs, and I'm not sure how red those will get.

Is this all normal (aside from the one with the abscess)? I've decided to hold off on treating them as I'm not convinced we have a mite or lice problem. Any thoughts on the points I'm raising here?
Chickens can and do go through moults prior to their first big moult. They don't always go by a textbook schedule, however. Mine went through "mini moults" and there were feathers everywhere! If you are not seeing bugs, or eggs at the feather base, and they are feeling good and looking healthy otherwise, I would think it could be a natural feather loss.
Ive got 17 month olds and they are moulting. I wasnt really sure til I read up on it. Wasnt sure of when and exactly what it looked like. Anyway like Yay posted they dont necessarily go by a a schedule. Birds in Maine would probably go into moult before say some in Florida. Also stress and heat related stress can put them into a moult,forgot what its called but read it somewhere online.
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