they do shed their feathers, and get pretty new ones - but in the meantime they look rather awful. I'm not sure if it has anything to do with new feathers being warmer in winter - maybe.
The ones who are hardest hit seem to be my second year chickens - the younger ones had an easy molt - the older girls are looking like someone kicked them under the bed with the dust bunnies, then dragged them through the hayfield a few rounds.
Spazz is the worst with her tail
my two australorps look like they've been shaken in a burlap bag too many times, also.
hope their feathers come back in soon - gonna be very very cold here next week. (20 degrees below normal temps, they are saying.)
Wild birds molt all (or, in their first year, almost all) of their feathers every fall (in temperate North America), because the drawback of feathers is that they wear out relatively quickly, and lose their insulating and aerodynamic properties. Molt is actually a whole-body process - not only are they replacing feathers, they are also replacing some muscle and skeletal tissue. It's a major physiological undertaking, and boy, does it look awkward! Like puberty once a year... <shudder>
I've noticed that in domestic birds, molt timing gets a little... strange. Do everyone's chickens molt in the fall, or do they seem less tied to an annual cycle? (I had a canary once that molted pretty much nonstop for all the years of his life).