When this first happened, I was a bit unprepared - I knew about molting, but oh my goodness, did all her head feather really fall out, or did an animal try to eat her head and only got the feathers? That was one ugly chicken.
Each year (starting when the hens turn16-18 months), chickens molt by shedding their old feathers and regrowing beautiful glossy feathers. Many birds lose their feathers in a specific order starting with their head and moving to their tales. Often this molt occurs in the fall after a long laying period triggered by the shortening of the days. The chickens that produce the best often molt quickly, and sometimes it is even difficult to notice the change. Other birds however will lose a majority of their feather all at once. Stress can also induce a molt.
Here are 5 tips to easing a help get a chicken through a molt:
- Keep down the stress - try not to handle the birds and avoid making big changes to their lives. This can further stress the birds at a time that they are already undergoing hormonal changes.
- Increase the amount of protein in their diet. The new feathers take a lot of protein to produce, so switch to a high protein feed, or supplement their feeds with cooked eggs, sunflower seeds, canned meats, yogurt, cheese, meal worms, etc
- Other hens may pick at the bald spots when a chicken molts, so be ready to stop the bully if this starts to injure the bird.
- Chickens often molt at the worst time of year when the temperatures start to drop. Unless it is really, really cold, they should be fine. They will stay warm as long as they have adequate shelter.
- Don't worry - this is normal and healthy, and will pass, and you'll be back to getting eggs again.
I shared at Deborah Jean's Dandelion House, Small Footprints Friday, Fresh Eggs Daily Homestead Revival