Moulting affecting coordination?


8 Years
Feb 25, 2011
Hi all, haven't been on the forums in a while because of RL, but I have a hen who is in heavy moult that I am concerned about.

She is roughly two years old and going through her first BIG moult. Everything seemed fine until I noticed two days ago that she has trouble walking. She'll take two to three steps, then dip really low like she's going to go into a mating crouch, then stagger like she's lost her balance. Then she'll slooowly stand up straight and repeat.

I've taken her inside and put her into a dog-crate with some water. She seems to have a really good appetite (I bet she's hungry, she's growing 70% of her feathers back!). I've given her some boiled eggs, and she's wolfing them down like there's no tomorrow.

So, my main question is, can a really severe molt make a chicken so uncomfortable that she staggers around like a drunkard? Or is it likely she's become protein deficient to the point of disorientation from growing all those new feathers?

Thoughts? Suggestions?


10 Years
Jun 9, 2009
Yes, a lot of people have noticed that chickens undergoing a heavy molt will sometimes develop an abnormal gait, often described as sideways walking, backwards walking, staggering, and/or squat-walking. I have seen this in a few of my own hens. No one seems to know whether the nutritional demands of a heavy molt alone is enough to cause this, or if the stress of the molt is reducing the bird's resistance to a disease she carries but for which she usually does not show symptoms.

In my own case, I believe my birds are carriers for a mild form of either Marek's or Newcastle, since I did have one bird with the full blown neurologic symptom of walking in circles. I put him down when he could no longer eat or drink on his own. I also have one hen who has very mild neurologic symptoms at her baseline (not just during the molt). She occasionally walks backward 1-2 steps. These symptoms have not substantially reduced laying in my flock. In fact, the one with mild chronic symptoms is a very good layer of huge eggs.

Watch your other birds for symptoms. Any who become symptomatic might get over it as their new feathers open up. Feeding mealworms to increase dietary protein and giving vitamins might help.
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May 2, 2020
Central PA
I know this post is almost 10 years old, I just noticed my own hard molting girl is doing this and wanted to speculate yet another reason.... Maybe there's pin feathers growing in tenderspots that poke painfully with a normal stride. It could be they're just moving weird to stop the sharp pain "down there"

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