Hen loosing feathers and behaving odd.


In the Brooder
7 Years
Nov 10, 2012

I've had many of my concerns and questions answered without having to post, this forum is very helpful! But I was wondering if anyone could give clarification with this one.

We have three hybrids. Just over a year old now. This last week, our Sussex Star (our usual dominate sentry hen), has lost a lot of feathers, including her tail. First impressions was that she was pulling them out herself, but now unsure if she's moulting and she just helps the loose ones out. I have checked her for mites, but haven't found any, and covered her in some anti pest powder just in case.

Her behavior has also changed, she seems depressed and uninterested in most things. She does eat, but doesn't seem to have the appetite she used to have. She's never been an easy hen to catch, but has been more so this last week and does her best to outrun. She often hangs around the coop, but still wanders around the garden (they are free range). At night, I lift up the nesting box and she seems happier in there, but some gentle persuasion sees her heading back onto the perch with the other two.

I understand this time of year sees a slow in egg laying. We are currently getting 1/2 per day. But not sure if it's our Sussex Star that's slacking.

Any suggestions/advice would be welcomed. Thanks in advance.
When they get about 18 months old, they have their first BIG molt. Some hens end up outright naked. They're also molting on a cellular level, it starts internally before the feathers drop.

She doesn't feel good as the body does this. Her energy drops, eggs stop. Give her protein based treats, to help speed the process and make sure she's not having a worse time of it from lack of protein. Most layer feed only has 16% protein. To grow a chick, starter has 22%+. To get that hen into new feathers, she needs as much protein as starter, at least.

You can switch her to a grower, or offer some cat food soaked in water (30%+ protein), mealworms, waxworms, shelled sunflower seeds, etc.

I add 2 new birds every year, so every year, the previous years birds go through this. The older and younger sets keep us in eggs while the others "regrow" themselves and take a break from laying.

The length of the laying break differs. I've had some wait until February to restart laying. Some would continue to lay 3 eggs a week through the molt. The one who's finishing her molt now, her tail is half way grown back in, already back to laying for the past week.

She lost her whole tail and all her butt fluff, and at least half of the feathers around her front and sides. She had a bare butt for some 2 weeks.

Some hens molt heavier than others. I have two that never did a heavy molt.
Thanks for the reply. The moulting seems to have slowed, but her behaviour and mood is still different. I put mealworms (her usual favourite) and Sunflower seeds neither of which she was crazy about. I'll be getting some cat food today for a trial. Thanks again.
Hens can be ornery when moulting so watch out. Some are just beasts! I throw some high quality cat food down ( which they LOVE) for extra protein. Just to forewarn some hens do not lay again until spring after a moult and some do. Artificial lighting may help.

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