My chicken is falling apart, literally.
A periodic molt, the shedding of all the feathers and growing of new ones, is necessary. But if you’re new at chicken keeping, that first molt can be slightly alarming. Right now, a couple of my hens look scrawny, beat-up, and a little like a porcupine.
Chickens do not molt their first year because all their feathers are nice and new. However, starting with year two, they molt every year. Molting can occur any time from late summer to early winter, starting with the head and ending with the tail. Molting replaces all the worn, broken, and functionless feathers. This process can take about six weeks for a healthy bird and can take double that time in older birds.
Since feathers are almost pure protein, replacing them requires a lot of resources. And because the hens are working so hard at growing luscious new feathers, egg production usually declines.
We appreciate and respect the feather though. The feathers cover the body, skin, and appendages, and help protect, waterproof, and insulate our wonderful backyard birds.
I know that it is hard to not worry about our chickens when they look so pitiful. But, if they are well-fed and stress-free, they will be fine during their molt this season.
- The Small-Scale Poultry Flock by Harvey Ussery