Hens losing feathers, is this okay?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by rooster55, Nov 26, 2013.

  1. rooster55

    rooster55 Hatching

    Nov 26, 2013
    It's been really cold the last few weeks and even though they sleep in a heated and insulated coop, I'm worried about during the day when they are free ranging. Some of my hens are losing feathers on their backs right before where their tail feathers start. I'm not sure if this is from my roosters mating them, (the roosters have been mating for months now and this is the first time I've seen the hens losing feathers) The hens are around 10-12 months old. I would like some help on this topic to see if this is alright.
  2. theoldchick

    theoldchick The Chicken Whisperer Premium Member

    May 11, 2010
    If they are disease and parasite free, you could have a good old fashioned molt occurring in your flock.

    Do they look like this:



    While molting hens look scruffy and change on a daily basis, you want to see nice new feather coming in.

    Make your you have enough protein in the diet. You can add cat food, a product called Calf Manna made my Manna Pro (I think), and various insects. Meat scraps work well, too. Even if your hens are free ranging, when the weather turns cold protein sources(insects) are gone and you need to supplement the diet.

    You could also have a rooster over mating the hens and tearing out their feathers. You can let the hens wear aprons or remove the roosters from the flock.
    Last edited: Nov 26, 2013
  3. rooster55

    rooster55 Hatching

    Nov 26, 2013
    Thank you for reply! @theoldchick I'm pretty sure they are just molting, right around now would be there birthdays, which I read is when the molt occurs.
  4. BantamLover21

    BantamLover21 Crowing

    Jul 24, 2013
    Check them for external parasites. Look on the feathers and skin near the vent, under the wings, and beneath the neck feathers for moving black specks (mites) or yellow blobs (lice). If you see any, treat by dusting with 5% Sevin dust, poultry dust, or by spraying with another mite/lice spray. Clean out the coop and spray it with vinegar, liquid Sevin, or a mite/lice spray. This should get rid of the mites, though you should redust/spray the birds 7-10 days later to kill any hatched eggs.

    Its also possible that your birds are molting. That is common in 1 to 1 1/2 year old chickens, especially as the days get shorter and cooler. If this is the case, you should see some feathers in their quill form growing in the bare areas. Most birds molt without help, but if you think they're having trouble, try increasing their protein intake. Feed a higher protein feed, like chick starter or game bird, see if they like cat food or scrambled eggs, or give them a handful of black oil sunflower seeds daily.

    The only other possibility that I can think of right now is that the feathers are being ripped out by a rooster, or another aggressive hen. Some hens seem to be more prone to overmating; you may want to get a special "hen apron" to put on the more badly de-feathered birds. If possible, isolate the rooster(s) and see if the feathers grow back in.

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