Hen not eating during hard molt


In the Brooder
Apr 8, 2015
One of my hens, Scarlet, started a hard molt a few weeks ago, but for the past week I've noticed a significant plummet in her appetite. She won't eat neither her regular layer feed nor the high protein feed I bought for her, and she even reluctant to eat the high-protein treats I put out for her (scrambled egg and a little bit of tuna). Although I've gotten her to eat some scrambled egg over the past few days by hand feeding her, she would only eat a tiny amount. The one thing that really entices her seems to be scratch, which I know for a fact isn't nutritious for her, but I haven't even had luck getting her to eat eggs mixed with it and when I mix a little into her feed she would just brush the feed aside to peck the scratch kernels out.

I have seen her drink some water yesterday and the day before, and her stools are small sized (as expected), dark/black in color (along with the white urate), and look slightly runny but not completely liquid. She also seems alert and will sometimes hop up and perch on the edge of the hutch whenever I open it.

What really concerns me is that ever since last week I noticed she's been walking low to the ground like a crawl. At first I thought it was because the weather may have been a little chilly for her (although it wasn't freezing) and she was trying to keep warm, but even since I began keeping her in a hutch indoors, she still has that gait. I found this thread that described similar symptoms and suggested it could possibly be a protein imbalance as a result of growing all those feathers at once: https://www.backyardchickens.com/t/443905

But of course Scarlet doesn't want to eat so I'm at a loss of how to get some food in her.


Premium Feather Member
11 Years
Nov 23, 2010
St. Louis, MO
What the scratch will give her is energy. Sounds like she needs it.
You could try some agave nectar or other sugar source in her water and see if that perks her up.
Stick with what she will eat for now for energy, vitamins, minerals and protein.


Premium Feather Member
12 Years
Dec 11, 2009
Colorado Rockies
Sometimes a chicken will eat their food if you present it in a different form. For example, if you feed dry crumble or pellets, try moistening them or fermenting them.

If you normally feed fermented feed, try serving dry crumbles or pellets. I feed fermented feed normally, but if a chicken is sick, I have had very good results feeding them dry feed until they gain strength and feel better.

If your chicken is showing signs of weakness or sickness, try Poultry Nutri-drench for am additional nutritional boost

song of joy

9 Years
Apr 22, 2012
Central Pennsylvania
I just went through this with one of my hens. She was in a very heavy molt and covered in pin feathers. She had little appetite, and was having trouble walking. She walked low to the ground, like a crawl and sometimes sideways.

I isolated her in an outdoor mini-coop with her own roost, water and food. She was not very hungry for flock raiser pellets at first. She did seem hungry for apples, scrambled eggs (with a little water added during cooking), and scratch mixed with flock raiser pellets. Her appetite gradually improved daily over the course of a week. Each day, I gave her a scrambled egg with a couple drops of Poly-Vi-Sol infant vitamin drops (without iron), which really seemed to help.

After 10 days, I released her to go back with the rest of the flock as she was stronger and most of her feathers had come in. I think she would have just gotten weaker and weaker had she not been isolated and given fortified food.

I'd keep trying foods with a higher water content, like scrambled eggs, apples, and ground beef or venison with some water added. Scratch is OK too along with these foods, but be sure to provide grit so it can be digested.

I think it's important to keep the hen within view of the rest of the flock, as they are social animals and may not react well to be completely isolated from any contact. Also, a hen may not react well to an abrupt climate change (e.g., being moved from outside to inside).

Best of luck to you!
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