Why would my chickens start molting in severely cold weather?

Discussion in 'Chicken Behaviors and Egglaying' started by CHICKEN BUFF, Jan 15, 2017.

  1. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Our particular area in eastern Washington typically experiences mild winters -- not too cold, little to no snow. THIS winter the temperature dropped to below zero and we got stuck in an inversion that is keeping things frigid. Oh, and nearly two feet of snow!

    Needless to say, my chickens think the world has ended. Some days it is simply TOO cold to leave their door open -- and they're not interested in coming out anyway. They have lots of room in the unheated coop, ample food and heated water, fairly deep bedding. Everyone is getting along well as always (no aggressive birds). I'm even getting a few eggs.

    A few days ago I noticed a couple of feathers. Today there are TONS of feathers, and I noticed that most of my 2-yr-old easter eggers are MOLTING!!! They have naked spots all over, and a couple have no "bloomers" left around their vents!

    Did the weather send them into shock? Are they crazy?

    They didn't molt at this time last year. And they already went through a light molt at the end of the summer. I keep the coop clean and everything is dusted often with diatomaceous earth --- I haven't seen any signs of mites, but maybe I'm missing something. The other birds - Polish and Cochin - are not molting at all, and seem fine.

    What am I missing?
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
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  2. redsoxs

    redsoxs Chicken Obsessed

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    Molt, often a fall occurrence, can happen in winter. One factor is stress. You said it was unusually cold there...that can cause stress. I think you may want to leave the door open during the day despite the cold...more stress if they feel enclosed and want out. You also said the chickens got along but boredom can lead to feather picking which could account for some of the missing feathers you've noticed. Here's a link about the molt: https://www.backyardchickens.com/a/what-happens-when-chickens-molt
    Hope you find some useful info! :)
     
  3. Folly's place

    Folly's place Chicken Obsessed

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    Chickens will molt 'just because it's time', over stress, light changes, whatever. Make sure their diet will support them, as a higher protein all flock type, like Flock Raiser, with oyster shell on the side. Molting birds will slow or stop egg production for a while, and a layer diet isn't best for them. I would also leave the door open as normal, so anyone who's interested can go outside. Mine hate the snow but are fine with colder days. A covered run is ideal, or shoveling a patch for them to enjoy. Yours probably root around under your coop, and blocking the wind north and west will help too. Mary
     
  4. aart

    aart Chicken Juggler! Premium Member

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    I have a couple 9-10 month olds that started molting a couple weeks ago.

    How old are your '2 year olds' in months?
    Will they be 2 this coming spring or 3.....assuming they are hatched in spring.

    What does "lots of room" mean?
    How many birds in what size(feet by feet) coop?
     
  5. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    Really good article, thanks! I've made sure that they have access to dry cat food to increase their protein, and also they already get sprouted grains a couple times a day so they have something to do. There's only been three days out of this arctic cold snap that I left the door closed, but maybe that was enough to stress them out - I thought they wouldn't mind since they've refused to stick their noses out the door since it snowed. Oops! So much for good intentions!
     
  6. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    In a "normal" winter, my chickens do indeed root around and dust bathe under my coop (I like the design for that). They have the run of the entire backyard, lots of grass (even in the cold months) and next to no snow. So the sudden deep snow and extreme temperatures are abruptly limiting for them. I'll leave the door open from now on, no matter how cold it is. Even if they don't go out (which they haven't so far), maybe it's good for their mental health to know that they could if they wanted to. After I read your suggestions, I put a dish of oyster shell in their coop. Thanks!
     
  7. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    The birds that are moulting were hatched on April 6 of 2015. So I guess they're about 21 months. Also, there are 12 birds (3 are 10 weeks old). Because they have such a huge area to free-range in daily, the size of the coop hasn't been an issue until now. They have 3 square feet of floor space per chicken -- maybe not enough if they're not getting outside. I will definitely leave the door open no matter what from now on!

    PS - my two ducks don't live with the chickens!
     
    Last edited: Jan 16, 2017
  8. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

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    I have several hens that were hatched at the same time as yours, and every last one of them is molting ;)


    And it's cold and snowing. :p been a gorgeous mild winter so far and they had to wait until the coldest month of the year to molt, go figure.
     
  9. CHICKEN BUFF

    CHICKEN BUFF Chillin' With My Peeps

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    That makes me feel so much better! At least my hens aren't alone (or crazy, LOL) :)
     
  10. shortgrass

    shortgrass Overrun With Chickens

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    Nope, not crazy ha-ha ;)

    I actually like that they do that; egg production drops off in winter, so they might as well molt while they're being useless. Just seems like they drop loads of feathers when a cold blast comes through and they have to snuggle and they look so mad about it.


    I'm glad I don't have to molt lol :D
     

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