If molting is the cause of feather loss, then providing protein rich feed can help you chickens feathers grow back. Other causes like bullying, parasites, diseases and brooding can cause feather loss.
The sight of feathers scattered in the coop is enough to send wave of concerns in new homesteaders. What can be more alarming is the discovery of bald spots on your chickens.
Don’t get disheartened.
But, it is important to know the cause of feather loss; so that you can you’re your chickens to grow feathers back.
If your chicken is healthy and there is no sign of parasites or lice nor it is being bullied, then loss of feathers can be due to molting.
Molting is the common process in chickens that helps them to shed old feathers and grow new feathers.
How long molting occurs, depends on age, feed and environment in which you’re raising chickens.
Apart from molting, there can be other causes why your chickens are losing feathers.
How to Help Chickens Grow Feathers Back?
Chickens feather loss is often caused by molting, which is a natural and common process in flocks.
Apart from molting there can be other factors like stress, protein deficiency, bullying, diseases and parasites and broodiness.
Below I’ve listed every possible cause and explained it to prevent in brief.
Simple steps to help your chickens feathers grow back
1. Provide adequate amount of protein-rich feed
To ensure proper growth of flocks, you should provide protein rich food.
Chickens need lots of proteins to produce eggs and grow feathers.
Especially, during molting, hens need to be given enough protein rich food.
Not providing enough nutrients often results in malnutrition and feather loss.
Include 25% protein in your feed.
These are protein-rich foods for your chickens:
- Dried mealworms
- Black soldier fly larvae
- High quality cat food
- Scrambled eggs
- Fish meal
2. Reduce stress
Stress may indirectly trigger molting and feather loss.
Identify various factors that cause stress and avoid them. For instance, limited space, low diet and environmental changes can stress chickens.
- Ensure proper spacing in the coop.
- Place dist bath and toys to avoid boredom.
- Supply enough food and water in the coop.
- Check for any predators to prevent stress.
- Provide adequate light and air circulation.
3. Help bullied chickens
Identify the bully in the flocks and isolate it.
Overcrowding and adding new chickens regularly may cause bullying and pecking.
Avoid overcrowding of chickens and be cautions when bring new chickens to your flock.
Provide enough space and feather friendly boxed in the coop.
4. Maintain good ratio of roosters in the coop
Having more roosters and fewer hens can result in aggressive mating.
Maintain good ratio of roosters in the coop.
For every 5 hens, keep 1 rooster.
5. Get rid of parasites and treat diseases
Lice and mites are common parasites that results in feather picking.
To get rid of parasites:
- Regularly clean the coop.
- Keep dust bath.
- Use diatomaceous earth to get rid of mites.
Avoid chicken diseases by treating fungal and bacterial infections.
Check this out: 101 ways to make money from homesteading
9 Reasons Why Your Chickens Lose Feathers?
To be able to get chickens feather grow back, it is essential to know the cause of feather loss.
If this is your first year of raising chickens, then you shouldn’t skip this section.
1. Molting Chickens Causes Feather Loss
Molting is a natural annual process that shreds old feathers to grow new ones. Supplying protein rich food, avoiding stress and cleaning coop regularly can help chicken regrow feathers.
A chicken undergoes several molts in her lifetime.
Often molting starts in late summer or early fall.
Below mentioned are few symptoms to know if your chicken is molting:
- Feather loss
- Chicken stops or reduce laying eggs
- New feather growth
- Reduce feed intake and may look sick
- Due to slowed metabolism, chickens poop less
Triggers of molting in chickens can be due to low day light, extreme heat, lack of water, stress and malnutrition.
Molting in adult chickens goes on for 2 months. However, in some cases your chicken can continue losing feather for 3-4 months.
Not everyone could notice molting. Few lucky homesteaders don’t notice feather loss, as new feathers grow right away.
Solution: Chicken needs protein for egg production and to grow feathers. To help your chicken grow feathers, you must feed them protein rich food.
Apart from including protein rich food, you must keep the coop clean and reduce physical stress. Give your flocks enough time to relax, so that they would regrow feathers quickly.
Can you stop chickens from molting?
No, you can’t stop chickens from molting, as it is a natural process. It helps chickens to get rid of old feathers and grow new to keep them healthy.
Instead, you must give them protein rich feed, add enough light and reduce stress.
Do chickens molt every year?
Yes, molting occurs in chicken annually.
How long do chickens molt and not lay eggs?
It takes 2-3 months to complete molting process.
As chicken needs protein to produce eggs and grow feathers, you must provide enough protein rich feed to avoid malnutrition.
2. Bullying or pecking can also result in feather loss
Overcrowding, low levels of protein in feed and pecking order causes bullying in chickens; where a group of hens target individual chicken resulting in stress and feather loss.
While molting chicken is a natural process, bullying is due to the aggressive nature of flocks to show their dominance.
Solution: Provide enough place in coop, so that every flock has its space. Provide protein rich diet and place dust bathing spots so that your chickens don’t get into boredom.
Isolating aggressive or severely injured flocks is best way to stop bullying.
Egg laying chickens undergo this natural instinct to incubate eggs. This maternal behavioral change is due to hormonal changes in flocks.
During this period, chickens eat and drink less, sit on eggs all the time and start to pluck feathers.
Feather loss during broodiness is temporary; once the chicken resumes it’s normal activity feather regrow.
4. Change in diet
70-80% of feathers are made of proteins. Low levels of proteins in the feed often results in malnutrition, which leads to feather loss in flocks.
Apart from proteins, other nutrients like amino acids, vitamins and mineral deficiency may cause molting and stress.
Solution: Provide protein rich feed. Consult your poultry nutritionist to determine a well-balanced nutritional diet.
5. Roosters can cause feather loss in chickens
Aggressive mating behavior of roosters can results in excess feather loss, especially on hen’s back and saddle feathers.
To maintain its dominance, roosters establish pecking order by damaging feathers of subordinate hens, particularly on neck and back.
Solution: To reduce the frequency of mating from aggressive roosters, you must provide enough space in the coop. Place feather friendly nesting boxed in the coop.
If needed replace the aggressive roosters with docile individual.
Also read: Are chickens warm blooded or cold blooded?
6. Parasites & Diseases
Lice and mites are common external parasites that irritate chicken skin, leading to feather picking.
Similarly, internal parasites like worms affect digestive system of flocks leading to malnutrition and feather loss.
Diseases like avian influenza, mycoplasma, Newcastle disease, marek’s disease and bacterial infection can trigger feather loss.
Solution: Get rid of parasites and treat your chicken for disease related issue.
Stress can be caused due to hormonal and environmental changes and malnutrition.
Suppressed immune system, increased preening and molting are triggered due to stress.
Solution: Ensure your flocks have enough space in the coop to run, fight and bath in the dust. Avoid sudden changes to the environment; make steady and gradual changes to the surroundings when separating chickens.
Chickens use their beaks to remove or consume parasites from its feathers to keep it-self well-groomed.
However, stress and hormonal imbalance results in excessive preening thus resulting in feather loss.
Solution: Avoid stress triggering factors and make sure your flocks get well nutritional feed.
Like you and me, chickens can indeed become boredom.
Boring often results in unusual activity like excessive preening and pecking on other chickens.
Solution: Place dust bath, chicken toy, peanut butter, perches and straw bales to prevent boredom in chickens.
Check this: 7 Dual Purpose Chicken Breeds for your Homestead
How long does it take for feathers to grow back on chickens?
It may take 2 months to regrow chickens feathers. But, in some cases it can longer time like 3-4 months.
Depending on the age, feed your chicken consumes and environment, chicken can regrow feathers in few weeks or months.
Chickens feathers regrow naturally in most cases, if the cause of feather loss is molting.
Continue to provide protein rich feed and your flocks will be back to normal activity within 2-3 months.
However, if molting isn’t the reason, it can be due to low feed, stress, predators, parasites or bullying.
Identify the cause and help your chicken to grow feathers quickly.
Khaja Moinuddin, a computer science graduate, finds joy in gardening and homesteading. Join him on this blog as he shares his experiences in homesteading, gardening, and composting