Moulting? Preening? or Mites/Lice?

Tina D

9 Years
Sep 2, 2010
Dutchess County, NY
Hi all!

I'm so new to chicken keeping, I'm still trying to get a feel for what my girls are telling me.

When a chicken is picking at their feathers, and some fall out, how can you tell what the reason is? I have a very fluffy BO hen, who has lost a handful of feathers in the last couple of days. Maybe she's getting ready for the warmer weather? She has no bald spots or anything. But, she always seems to be fussing with her feathers. Not frantically, for the most part. So maybe just preening? I searched through her feathers as best as I could, and didn't see any bugs. But she is soooo fluffy, I guess maybe I could have missed some. She has arthritis, so isn't able to run around as well as my other girl. Maybe she's bored? I do baby her a lot, she spends a lot of time sitting on my lap, being pampered...

My other girl is a black Bantam cochin/polish. She isn't nearly as fluffy as the BO. I'm pretty sure she is just preening herself. She doesn't fuss with the feathers as much, and hers also don't fall out as much either.

Does anyone have a pic of a bird that is moulting, and one with mites? Just so I can see what it looks like...
If you've checked really good for parasites.....(places to look are near the vent, and also the neck area and under the wings), and your hen is bug free, then it is probably molting. My hens molt at different times....I just had my GLW hen molt. Very messy....I'm always picking up feathers because I just don't like to see them laying around.......

Some hens molt very slowly, so it doesn't look too bad, but others look like the plague hit and have really big bald spots.....When I watched Dorothy the other day, she preened herself and several feathers just seemed to fall out, so I'm sure she's molting. She looks pretty scruffy, but I don't see bald spots.
I'd guess that she's just preening, but a slow molt is possible. You will have no problem recognizing a standard hard/fast molt. If you've ever seen a dog with mange - that's what your birds will look like...break the camera pitiful looking
Looks like someone ripped open a feather pillow in the coop each morning...
A slow molt involves replacing the feathers over several months, so many don't even realize they've molted.
As chicmom suggested, do look around the vent (butt) area, neck, and under wings for bugs - if she's a lap chicken that shouldn't be too hard. Although I know you have to a lot of downy feather parting to do with orps.

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