Sometimes we see new chicken keepers come on here in a panic, or worried about their birds. The feathers are turning into needles, or shafts, or quills. Some people have thought this to be a mite or lice infestation, or any number of other problems, when in fact-- it is probably just molting! Now, there are conditions where feather quality degrades, including parasites, poor diet, poor vitamin absorption, lack of proper protein, etc. But birds do molt, or lose their feathers. Some chickens do this irregularly and slowly, losing just a few feathers at a time and replacing them over many weeks, and some explosively molt most of their feathers at once and look like half-naked, walking pincushions! And there are birds in-between. Others still may be curious about a broken 'blood feather' or 'pin feather'. These are new feathers growing in that are still being nourished by a supply of blood. If they break, they can bleed. Because it is not a flesh wound, the broken blood feather often has trouble clotting, and can re-open and bleed freely, like a straw. In the cases of a broken blood feather, it is generally best to carefully pull the entire feather and they apply pressure for a few minutes to the follicle to prevent bleeding. This hurts the bird, so only do this for broken blood feathers (most especially wing, tail, and leg/foot feathers on feather-footed breeds). Here is a visual aid I found this morning that really shows how a blood feather develops! You can see that the blood supply lasts until the feather is pretty much fully developed and unsheathed. The keratin sheath crumbles and falls off as the feather develops. Chickens generally need to preen this stuff off, so you will find a lot of it under their roosts and places they feel comfortable preening. It usually looks like white, dry potato flakes, but can also be blackish on darker breeds of chicken. This animation is by Rebecca Spano, all credit goes to her. http://squidlifecrisis.deviantart.com/art/Feather-Development-493394670 Anyhow I just hoped that this might help anyone that was curious! Molting is an important and stressful part of a chicken's life, so the more we know about it, the better.