Why are my 9 month old pullets losing feathers?

Discussion in 'Emergencies / Diseases / Injuries and Cures' started by vinita1980, Jan 18, 2015.

  1. vinita1980

    vinita1980 New Egg

    6
    0
    7
    Jan 18, 2015
    I'm hoping for some help. I am hoping that my hens have decided to molt in the dead of winter and that they're not sick.

    Doing some online searching, it seems like they could be losing feathers for several reasons. Here's what I've done to self-diagnose. Please tell me what I'm missing. I'm also uploading pictures in case you can be of help. My main concern is that it's been really cold and I'm worried about them without feathers. (It's mostly been neck and tail feathers.)

    I don't think it's lice. We've got 2 chickens losing feathers (it started with just one). We've looked at their skin and feathers. No eggs are present on the feather shafts, and we have seen no movement of little creepy crawlies.

    I don't think it's mites. The pictures online indicate that the skin would be irritated or have brown spots. We don't have that. I keep the coop clean--cleaning it daily, and I've tried to remove most of the spider webs. Pictures of my coop are below too in case you see anything. I use sweet PDZ as a bedding as it seems to have gotten chicken approved reviews, and we keep the nest boxes full of clean pine chips (with the golf-ball nest eggs). They also have a small sandbox to dust in if they like.

    I don't think it's protein/nutrient deficiency. I give them an organic feed with 16% minimum crude protein, 5% minimum crude fat, 3% max crude fiber, 2.5 % - 8% calcium, 0.6% minimum phosphorus, and 0.3-0.6% salt. We have also made our own chicken scratch that they get on occasion which includes a bit of corn, peanuts (which they love), meal worms, sunflower seeds, orange lentils, oats, raisins, wheat berries, flax seed, cracked barley (I can't remember what else we put in). We give them several handfuls a day. Plus, we have a compost area in the run, so they happily dig up worms and bugs all day long. When we're home, we let them out in the yard for a while to enjoy green things. We tend not to let them out when we're not home because a hawk has been hanging out above the run.

    It might be stress? It's cold. The hawk's been hanging around. There haven't been any other changes to the coop/run area and we haven't been handling them any more than normal.

    I don't think it's boredom. As you'll see from the picture of the run, they've got plenty to keep them occupied - a swing and a cabbage ball that they completely ignore, a mirror that they're interested in, and lots of things to jump or perch on.

    Pecking order? I would have said it's the pecking order as Pip, my wheaten Ameraucana, is at the bottom of the pecking order, but Penny, my gray mix (I think they said she was part orpington?), has been at the top of the pecking order. They're both losing feathers. (So far, my Wyandotte and Golden Comet seem unaffected.) There hasn't been any blood and the feathers that have come out don't look eaten or damaged.

    So are they molting or have I missed something? I've tried to include pictures (it's surprisingly difficult to get good pictures of chicken skin). Any information would be greatly appreciated.


    PHOTOS
    Pip and Penny are the ones losing feathers around their necks, their tails, and their downy feathers.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]


    It looks like new feathers are pushing through, which makes me think/hope they're molting. The skin is clear around the feathers. (This view from the tail above the vent.)
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]

    The feathers from Penny's feet are also coming off--but also look like new feathers are pushing through. The bottom of her feet are clean.

    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG]



    Pictures of interior of coop. The feathers inside were lost since I cleaned it out this morning.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    [​IMG] [​IMG]
    The run, bottom left is some sand for them, there's also a perch, the food, the cabbage, swing, hay bale and logs, and mirror. It's a 10'x10' space with a roof, so it stays pretty dry on rainy days like today.
    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    This is the hawk: This walnut tree is about 30 feet behind the run (to the left in the picture above).
    [​IMG]
     
  2. ChickensAreSweet

    ChickensAreSweet Heavenly Grains for Hens

    Looks like a normal mini-molt to me.

    They go through mini-molts before the first yearly major molt at around 18 months of age (fall/winter).
     
  3. Mac14

    Mac14 Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,200
    42
    191
    Jul 21, 2012
    Northern California
    Definitely molting.
     
  4. vinita1980

    vinita1980 New Egg

    6
    0
    7
    Jan 18, 2015
    Thanks! Do I need to be concerned about them being warm enough in 25-40 degree weather?
     
  5. Mac14

    Mac14 Chillin' With My Peeps

    2,200
    42
    191
    Jul 21, 2012
    Northern California
    I think they will be all right. I mean, you should keep an eye on them, but they should be fine for the most part. I've read that if you give them a little more protein, that they will grow back their feathers quicker. You might have to find something to confirm it.
     
  6. vinita1980

    vinita1980 New Egg

    6
    0
    7
    Jan 18, 2015
    Hi backyard chicken community. A follow-up question:

    My ameraucana's feathers have grown back and she has started laying eggs again as of today. Thanks for your words of wisdom.

    However, Penny, my gray chicken has continued to lose them and I think is now no longer the top of the pecking order. I think she is perhaps the victim of severe pecking around her neck. Any way to confirm that it's not also a moult?

    Also, do I separate her as well as the pecking culprit? What's the best way to let her grow her feathers back?

    Do I need to remove Henrietta, the bully, and if she lives on her own for 10 days in the cold will she survive (current temp: 25 degrees)? Do you think she can be rehabilitated and reintroduced once penny's feathers grow back? Here are pics:

    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
    [​IMG]
     
    Last edited: Feb 5, 2015
  7. Suzie

    Suzie Overrun With Chickens

    3,091
    622
    298
    Jul 9, 2009
    Auvergne
    Moulting can take quite some time...I would not be concerned for Penny unless you witness actual bullying...maybe give her some tuna fish and eggs to help boost her..if she has pin feathers growing in..it is natural process..

    One of mine is moulting at the moment..totally out of synch with all of the others...she is contented..and spends a lot of time snuggled in one of the nesting boxes..it is very cold here..in fact the river that flows through our land is frozen over at the moment...
     
  8. tarahharlin

    tarahharlin Chillin' With My Peeps

    71
    5
    51
    Dec 29, 2014
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Glad I found this thread! My Australorp started losing feathers a few weeks back. She's 10 months old. After inspecting her for lice, or mites, I noticed new feathers pushing through, so I guess she's going through a mini-molt. I was worried at first, but sounds like it's normal. Will she still experience a molt this fall?
     

BackYard Chickens is proudly sponsored by