Losing feathers...is she maybe molting?


10 Years
Mar 19, 2009
This is Reepacheep, our brown leghorn. She's losing feathers all around her neck. Is she maybe just molting? I thought they had all done that back in November when I was constantly sweeping feathers out of their roosting area, but I don't remember any of the chickens looking this scraggly (of course, back then, they spent most of their time snuggled together under the heat lamp so maybe they were & I just didn't notice.).

The feathers on the back of her neck are kind of hiding the bare area. She occasionally raises those up and there's nothing under there. Other than that, she seems normal. She is eating, drinking, loves roaming about the property, has discovered the joy of dust baths in the barn and is as flighty as ever.

This is my first year with chickens...these guys are almost exactly one year...so I don't have much experience to draw on!
Looks like a molt to me.

Each year chickens molt, or lose the older feathers, and grow new ones. Most hens stop producing eggs until after the molt is completed. The rate of lay for some hens may not be affected, but their molting time is longer. Hens referred to as "late molters" will lay for 12 to 14 months before molting, while others, referred to as "early molters," may begin to molt after only a few months in production. Late molters are generally the better laying hens and will have a more ragged and tattered covering of feathers. The early molters are generally poorer layers and have a smoother, better-groomed appearance.

Early molters drop only a few feathers at a time and may take as long as 4 to 6 months to complete the molt. Early molters are usually poor producers in a flock. Late molting hens will produce longer before molting and will shed the feathers quicker (2 to 3 months). The advantage of late molters is that the loss of feathers and their replacement takes place at the same time. This enables the hen to return to full production sooner.

Good Luck!
Whew! She stopped laying back in November when it started to get cold and hasn't started back up, yet. I've read leghorns are sensitive to cold, so wasn't that worried.

Glad to hear she's probably just molting. Hope she'll be done soon, because we miss her eggs! She was always the most regular until it got cold and she got a bit of frostbite on her comb. (Wouldn't you know the heat would fail on the coldest night of the year?)
All the literature says that hens moult between 1 year and 18mos. But our Ameraucana moulted at 8 months and our Barred Rock moulted at 10 months. It was kind of sad to see them become scrawny. They lost weight, their combs shriveled and turned pink instead of plump and red. Also, they didn't want to be picked up and ran from us. I missed them while were moulting. Now they are their friendly selves again. Be patient, they will come back!

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