What is the earliest age chickens will go through molting??

saysfaa

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I'm pretty new too but I've been reading they go through a few "chick molts" the first few months. These don't follow the same pattern as the adult molts, they are noticable as loose feathers here and may be noticeable as gradual color changes in some breeds. But not the bare patches or raggedy look of adult molts.

Then they don't go through the full fall molt their first year.

Mine are ten weeks old and have been doing these chick molts for several weeks. Well, I don't know if any given chick is doing more than one chick molt. Or more than two, I guess... I can see the tiny chick feathers floating around and some that are clearly much larger.
 
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NatJ

Crossing the Road
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Chicks molt several times as they grow. I don't know the exact ages, and it probably varies a bit from one chick to another, but if you have very many chicks it can seem like there are always loose feathers around.

Unlike adult chickens molting, chicks usually do not get big bare patches when they molt-- they keep enough feathers at a time to protect them from the weather.

And it's not a problem if they pick up the shed feathers off the floor and eat them.
 

GC-Raptor

Free Ranging
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Chicks usually start to lose feathers around 4 weeks and continuously lose feathers as they grow.
As for adults my 2 Flocks of spring hatched chicks had their first molt going into the second fall/winter season, 18/20 months old.
My late summer hatched chicks also had their first adult molt going into their second fall/winter season. But were 15/17 months old.
Most molts lasted 5 to 6 weeks in my Flocks.
One of my Barred Rocks (late summer chick) did a patchy partial molt her third winter. She looked funny, a patchwork of shiny new feathers and dull feathers. GC
 

Ridgerunner

Crossing the Road
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Whats the earliest age that chickens usually molt?
I'm not sure exactly what you are asking so I'll cover a few things. First, each chicken is an individual. Every chicken on the planet doesn't follow the same exact schedule so your use of "usually" is a good way to put it.

Chicks go through what are called juvenile molts. They outgrow their feathers and need to replace them. I have not paid close enough attention to know from observation how many juvenile molts they usually have or when they have them. I've read two juvenile molts, I've read three. I've read different ages. When you read different things like that it usually means different chickens do different things.

The "regular" cycle with adult molts is that the feathers wear out and need to be replaced, so when the days get short and food in the wild gets harder to find they stop laying eggs and replace those worn-out feathers. They use the nutrients that were going to make eggs to grow feathers instead. Some hens start laying when they finish re-growing those feathers even if it is the middle of winter, some wait for the longer days of spring to start laying again.

Some pullets will have their first adult molt their first fall when the days get shorter. Some skip the molt their first fall/winter and continue to lay until the following fall. They don't all do the same thing. You will sometimes read that all chickens molt at a specific age. That's nonsense. The commercial egg laying operations control when they lay and when they molt, mainly by manipulating the lights. For these chickens there are no seasons so they do pretty much molt by age. But most of us don't manage their chickens that way. Some of us do provide lights in fall and winter to delay the molt so they keep laying.

Then there are the stress induced molts. These can be partial of full-blown molts. Stress can sometimes trigger a molt. Not always but sometimes and it often does not affect every hen in the flock. The stress could come from a change in the pecking order or living arrangements. Running out of water for a while or a predator attack may trigger one. A change in lights maybe. This type of molt can happen at any age and any time of the year.

The speed of the molt is controlled by genetics. Some are fast molters and some are slow molters. This is not about how fast the feathers grow after they fall out, it's about how fast the feathers fall out. Some really dump their feathers in huge batches and can have bald spots. For these the molt may be over in a little more than a month. Others lose their feathers so slowly that you can't tell by looking at them that they are molting, you just see feathers flying around. Then one day you notice that they look sleek with all nice feathers and they start laying again. A slow molt may last four months or so.

Chickens developed their molting pattern before they were domesticated. Now that they are domesticated food is a lot easier to find in the winter, they are probably better protected from bad weather, and we often have lights that can affect them, security or street lights for example. Most still follow that natural cycle but domestication and how we manage them can change that some.
 

aart

Chicken Juggler!
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Chickens molt and grow a new set of feathers 2-3 times before around 6 months of age, those are called the juvenile molts.
Some pullets will have a partial molt their first fall/winter.
Most birds will have their first full adult molt their second fall/winter.

 

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