very concerned about my fav. chicken I thought was molting


In the Brooder
10 Years
Apr 18, 2009
I hope I can make this clear enough to get some help for my poor girl. I am a first time chicken owner. We have five chickens in an urban backyard. We were having an issue of pecking, back in the winter, so I had to separate out two chickens who are now in a very large dog crate. They always have fresh water changed twice daily with occasionally ACV added, fresh layer crumbles added constantly, it never runs out. They also have access to grit and shell and recently boss. We sometimes give them food scraps but they are limited. About 6 weeks ago Gabriella began eating the eggs that were laid, a frustrating habit. She has grown nice feathers and gained a lot of weight in the cage. These two get outside to free range for hours each day, and when they are not free ranging their cage is outside, where they can peck at the ground andout in the fresh air, and at night it is in the garage with straw under it. They have been very happy and get much love from all of us. At the beginning of the week we went to take them out in the morning and noticed that Gabriella had lost a pile of feathers, I figured that she was molting as she has never done this and is about 18 months old. Here is what my current concerns are.
1. Gabriella is 18 months and when she was about 6 months old she got sick from some mold in the feed, none of the others got sick. I know she has not again got into anything moldy. In the winter I had to bring her in the house because she lost weight which we atributed to the pecking issue and not letting her at the food. I also had to bring in another chicken for the same reason. She and her roommate Nugget get along great and nugget really cuddles up close to her on the roost and looks to her for protection from the other hens when they are running free in the yard. So, I do not think she is currently stressed to bring on the feather loss or lack of apitite.
2. She lost a pile of feathers earlier this week, but they were mostly off her underside, and wings, not the typical head, neck and chest first. which is typical for a molt. And today I see she has lost her tail feathers. but not her sattle or bottom feathers. Poor girl.
3. I noticed yesterday that her crop seemed empty every time I touched her, even though there was plenty of food, and I did see her eat some. Today I brought her inside and fed her some crumbles with water to soak them to mash. She ate good and then her crop felt firm and noticeable but still quite small. I have added electrolites to the water today. I just added the boss Sunday when we noticed the molt-like- symptoms coming on because I read it may help with feather regrowth and some said it may help stop the egg eating. But, if I put boss in her food, I noticed just now, that she scoops out the food around the seeds to get just those. Maybe I should stop the seeds, or not give her them unless she has eaten some food?
4. Is there another reason for feather loss other than a molt? There does not seem to be any mites.
5. Is there a reason she may be eating and her crop not being full? I will be feeding her the mash, some scrambled egg and yogurt as of tonight.
6. About one month ago, we came home to find one of our chickens dead in the laying box. She seemed mostly fine before we had left for the day and she seemed as though she was going to lay an egg. We thought, at the time she had been egg bound as she had not laid the day before, had been laying soft shell eggs, and felt warm on her bottom the night before. I also had seen her sneeze for the days before she died, but no discharge, crusty nose, pooh was normal, and she seemed happy. Her comb was normal and she had not lost any feathers.
7. I Guess I would not have even related the two events since they were a month apart and I assumed that if one died from a serious illness the others would follow soon; the one dying and now Gabriella except that I think I saw Gabriella sneeze a few times while she was eating the warm mash. And when I picked her up she felt kind of warm, but I do not know what a normal chicken temp. is especially one who has lost her under feathers where my hand was holding her by nearly naked skin. And the empty crop made me worry that she is not eating enough, I will weigh her tonight to note whether she loses any weight. Gabriella was not in the coop and had only casual yard/free range contact with the dead bird, and noone else seems to be sick. Neither does anyone else seem to be molting although they are all the same age.

So, I am wondering what may have been the real cause of Little's death if now, a month later another chicken is sick. Is there a possible connection? Would a course of anti-biotics for the whole flock be in order or maybe just for Gabriella? Does molting ever cause a lack of appetite? What can I do to help strengthen her if it is the molt? What may be other causes of feather loss that might also fit with the lack of crop fullness? Is it just possibly that she is preferring the boss and not eating enough food. I was giving them about a handful of boss in each feeder bowl twice per day. Should I cut back and if so what is the recommended measurement of boss that would be beneficial? Is it possible that she is not eating enough as she preferrs the boss plus she is molting which is streessful on her and all is good? I think chickens make me more nervous than my babies did. I poked around the site, and just could not find anything that helped me know just what to do. She is our very favorite and I am afraid that we will just find her dead too, I want to prevent that. She still seems pretty strong, her pooh is normal, her comb is the normal red color, eyes are clear, and she does not seem particularly sick, but she also does not seem super well.

Beth (worried chicken momma)
Oh dear. It's difficult to know isn't it, as the symptoms are so vague but putting them all together it can be worrisome I agree. Since you don't know what is wrong with her (if anything) you could do some things that will help to boost her without treating anything specific. You could give her 3 drops of polyvisol per day on hard boiled egg. You can also make a mash of one boiled egg yolk, a little bit of plain yogurt, grated apple, oats, and a touch of honey. You could also put some poultry electrolytes in the water. Some people say one day with, one day plain water and keep alternating for a week or so.

Are they getting enough grit? You could maybe cut back on the BOSS a little bit, one handful per day. I don't really know how much is too much but it seems like it would be slightly harder to digest.

Good luck to you both!

Okay, I will try the food mash. Yes, I have been adding a pinch of grit to the food the past 3 days, but she also has free choice grit and shell in a separate place in her coop/cage. If someone could remind me, I think I can by the polyvisol at Wal-mart but isn't there one kind that is good and another that is not good for chickens, or am I thinking of something different? I was wondering if the seeds were the digestive problem also since that is added new just this week. Keep chiming in, I want to make sure I do all we can for her.

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