Molting

Cluck2013

Songster
Jun 12, 2016
84
52
111
Wondering if all chickens molt. I have one hen molting right now, about the same time as last year, but she's the only one. Her and another hen are around 4 yrs old (barred rocks). I have another 3 comets around 3 yrs old. She is the only one that has ever molted. None of them have lost feathers like she has. They have barely lost any at all throughout the years.
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
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All birds molt yearly. Some do it quickly so you notice. Some do it very slowly so you don't. It can take 6 weeks to 3 months depending on the chicken and circumstances.
 

path.otto

Songster
Jul 10, 2017
222
468
172
Mason City, IA
It is going to be 11 degrees tonight here in north central Iowa. All of my girls are in various stages of their first "official" molt from naked neck, butt, and breast to a SLW who appears to be only missing a tail feather! Every morning for the past few days I've found an accumulation of feathers on the poop board that appear to be the equivalent of a whole chicken!

How can they survive in this cold with no feathers? I can't bring them all in the house so I've done what I can in the coop. I have a flat panel heater behind the roost and when they have all gone up to roost I enclose the roosting area to try and keep some of their body heat enclosed. There is still plenty of circulation but I hope it helps some.

I just want to hug them they look so pathetic!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
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It's cold here with molting birds too. They do fine. They snuggle up to a buddy and their body burns hotter than ours. Bringing them in the house could cause them to overheat. Leave them unless you fine one in distress that isn't moving much. Otherwise stop worrying. I have seen this nearly every year out of a few birds.
 

path.otto

Songster
Jul 10, 2017
222
468
172
Mason City, IA
Thanks, old hen! That was sort of written tongue in cheek but I did read an article today written by a well-known blogger to bring the hens in if they get too naked. My thought was how does she reintroduce them to the cold then? What a hassle!

I do feel sorry for them even though intellectually I understand it is dumb to equate the way chickens deal with cold to the way humans deal with the cold!
 

oldhenlikesdogs

Suffering Succotash
BYC Staff
Premium Feather Member
5 Years
Jul 16, 2015
44,806
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Wisconsin
Thanks, old hen! That was sort of written tongue in cheek but I did read an article today written by a well-known blogger to bring the hens in if they get too naked. My thought was how does she reintroduce them to the cold then? What a hassle!

I do feel sorry for them even though intellectually I understand it is dumb to equate the way chickens deal with cold to the way humans deal with the cold!
Well up to now your hen has acclimated to your outdoor temperatures. If you bring them in it's like if you were put on your winter coat and sit in a heated house. You would get darn hot after a bit, and would be uncomfortable. Even when we go outside in winter parts of us are hanging out similar to a molting hen. We can tuck hands and necks in to warm up. So can a chicken.

There's also a reason we use poultry down inside our warmest coats and blankets. Even with half the feathers gone your chickens are okay.

Some have discussed shocked birds when temperatures suddenly dropped. I haven't experienced that. I have seen huddled and shivering birds. They may look a bit miserable, but both are ways for a bird to warm itself up. I try not to feel bad, but sometimes I do, but I also know bringing them inside isn't the answer either unless it's an emergency and you want to keep them inside all winter.

You could look into heat panels or heated roosts, but in my experiences heat in any form isn't necessary. My molting birds certainly are doing it more quickly this time of year. Make sure you are feeding a higher protein ration to help them through it as quickly as possible. I sometimes make a warm mash on colder days for my birds too.

Long term forecast here in Wisconsin is talking about a warm up in December to the 40's, so at least there's that. Once January arrives with the real cold stuff my birds should be done molting and ready for the serious cold. Hopefully yours is too.
 

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