Molting: What is It and How to Help Chickens Get Through It

| 7/27/2012 3:03:01 PM

Tags: Molting, Chicken Molting, Chicks Down, Chickens, Chicken Feathers, Feathers, Pin Feathers, Quill, Chicken Bald Spot, Chickens Feather Loss, Feather Loss, Kathy Shea Mormino, The Chicken Chick, Kathy Shea Mormino,

 Molting 1 

It's late summer or early autumn and the floor of the chicken coop looks like a pillow fight broke out overnight. Assuming the flock is healthy with no parasites, they are most assuredly molting. What is molting, when does it occur and what can be done to help get chickens get through it? Molting is the shedding of old feathers and growth of new ones. Chickens molt in a predictable order beginning at the head and neck, proceeding down the back, breast, wings and tail. While molting occurs at fairly regular intervals for each chicken, it can occur at any time due to lack of water, food, normal lighting conditions. Broody hens tend to molt furiously after their eggs have hatched as they return to their normal eating and drinking routines. 

The photo above shows Phoebe, my bantam Frizzle Cochin, in October 2010. The photo that follows is Phoebe in September 2011. 
 Molting 2 

First Juvenile Molt ('mini-molt') 

There are actually two, juvenile or "mini molts" as I like to call them, before a chicken's first annual molt. The first mini molt begins at 6-8 days old and is complete by approximately 4 weeks when the chick's down is replaced by its first feathers. This is a 7 day old Olive Egger chick. She is losing her yellow down, which is being replaced by her first feathers. 

 Molting 2a 

11/17/2017 1:47:01 PM

When they moult (and are least 4 years old) do they lose the entire feather, or just the ends. I have one that has some bare spots, but don't know if she is getting picked on, or if she is moulting. The pins are still in her skin, but the ends are gone.

6/10/2016 2:05:54 PM

The photo of Phoebe in her "rough molt" is the only picture I've ever found of a chicken that looks like one of mine. She had two years of normal molts, then had one that looked like that. Only problem is that the feathers didn't come back in that year, nor the next year. She was bullied by her sister and we separated them, so hopefully she will grow them back. Seeing the photo at least made me think she may eventually be pretty again although I have my doubts.

joyce Gardenhire
4/2/2013 10:40:52 PM

My chicks are about 5 weeks old and they are all going bald on their backs.....and some on the neck. Most of the information I have read indicates that they are too young to molt. I have checked for mites and havent found any....any suggestions?

Angela Burns
3/1/2013 7:43:26 AM

This is the end of my first year with my chickens i have 5 hens which have been laying up through the end of December. Begining about the begining of Feburary I noticed what appears to be molting in four of the hens. We did have a warm stretch (~40 degrees) for about a week. Other than loosing feathers the hens seem healthy. I do not use any artificial lighting so I did expect the laying to stop. My question is could they really be molting at this piont, they never did in the fall and they are now ~11 months.

Karen Gower
2/12/2013 9:39:55 AM

i have just spent a fortune at the vet thinking our girl was sick , being a pet of my son,s i would do anything to prevent losing her so when she stopped producing eggs all i thought of was she was egg bound , but now after seasrching the web and realising it is normal to lose so much feathers she will be ok my son adores his chicken ill try the cat food thing thanks for your information

Kathy Mormino
8/8/2012 5:23:42 PM

If your hen is molting, I would recommend elimintating the scratch completely. Scratch is really more of a treat for chickens and should only be given sparingly when they are not molting or ill.

Hans Quistorff
8/5/2012 3:36:15 AM

My hen is molting early. May explain why she is making a special effort to escape the chiken tractor and get to the cat food. Will add cat food to the scratch.

8/4/2012 3:19:05 PM

What is a safe amount of cod liver oil and how often?

tgrbts Boyer
8/4/2012 2:55:06 PM

Thanks for the article. I've been wanting to get some chickens. When I get out of town. but If I'd had chickens that looked that that I would have thought they had a dreaded disease. Thanks for the pictures and explaining about the molting. Clearly I have alot to learn before I get any chickens. lol thanks.

8/2/2012 1:45:51 AM

Congratulations Heather! You have won a copy of "Lard, The Lost Art of Cooking with Your Mother's Secret Ingredient" AND a subscripton to Grit Magazine!! Please email me with you mailing address.

8/2/2012 1:42:18 AM

My pleasure, Christy. thank you!

8/2/2012 1:41:55 AM

Thanks Kristen!

8/2/2012 1:41:47 AM

That's wonderful, Christina! Good for you that you're researching it so far in advance!

8/2/2012 1:41:13 AM

Good for you, Kerri! It is SO much fun. Beyond the obvious benefit of getting eggs, they are wonderful pets!

8/2/2012 1:40:39 AM

Thanks so much Lisa!

8/2/2012 1:40:29 AM

Good luck Lorilei!

8/2/2012 1:36:37 AM

LOL Tami! Most of them do not look as bad as Phoebe. She's a special case of extreme molting!

8/2/2012 1:36:06 AM

My pleasure, Tabitha, thank you!

8/2/2012 1:35:55 AM

Hi Aaron and thank you!

8/2/2012 1:35:31 AM

Erin, I'm still waiting to hear from you about your tee shirt size from the last contest. Email me!

8/2/2012 1:34:46 AM

I appreciate that, Sara. Thank you.

8/2/2012 1:34:34 AM

Thanks Kristin!

8/2/2012 1:34:27 AM

That's the trick, Kathy, the coop and run must be secure. Chicken wire won't do it, only hardware cloth can protect them. Dig it down into the ground at least twelve inches around the perimeter and put it anywhere and everywhere any small critter could possibly squeeze into. I hope you do give it a whirl again, they're such wonderful pets.

8/2/2012 1:32:57 AM

Patty, no matter how long we all keep chickens, we all have much to learn!

8/2/2012 1:32:36 AM

Thank you Donna, that's nice to hear. :)

8/2/2012 1:32:23 AM

Thanks Amy!

Lorilei Cochran
8/1/2012 7:18:49 PM

Hoping I win that Grit Sub. Thanks!

Lisa Taunton
8/1/2012 6:44:10 PM

Great blog posts. Thanks for sharing all your knowledge.

Kerri Huntzinger
8/1/2012 6:26:53 PM

Very informative! Especially for someone like myself, who is just starting to research owning her own chickens!

Christina Busse
8/1/2012 6:02:20 PM

This is great information. We plan to acquire our first chickens next year and at least I know now not to panic!

Kristen Crumly
8/1/2012 5:42:40 PM

good info!

8/1/2012 5:37:52 PM

Thank you for this info. I did not realize how molting effects the egg laying. I have been raising chickens for about 4 years now and I learn so much from you.

Tami Furlow
8/1/2012 5:37:40 PM

If I had not read this I would have had a heart attack when my chickens started going bald.

Tabitha Stanford
8/1/2012 5:37:08 PM

Thank you for sharing. Need all the info I can get.

Aaron Butler
8/1/2012 5:32:51 PM

Thanks for helping me know what to expect. Making the decision to raise chickens was the best idea I've had in a long time... thankfully there are blogs like this to help me along the way!

Erin Olson
8/1/2012 5:29:24 PM

Thanks for the info! Following your blog and thanks for all the giveaway opportunities!

Sara Tryzelaar
8/1/2012 5:27:40 PM

Thanks for the wonderful info - as always! I have learned so much from you and am so grateful!

Kristin Maynard
8/1/2012 5:22:28 PM

great info

Kathy Long
8/1/2012 12:27:56 PM

I think we might start with chickens again in our yard. We tried 3 years ago, but were devastated by racoons. We also have a number of coyotes that wander through the yard. A mighty fortress was not our coop.

Patty Farnsley
8/1/2012 11:07:10 AM

I have so much to learn! Thanks for all the great information!

Donna Moran
8/1/2012 3:41:46 AM

Love your blog. You always have info I can use!

Amy Arnold
8/1/2012 2:43:37 AM

Great information! Thank you so much! I've been learning so much from you which is so helpful with our new chickens!

8/1/2012 1:09:52 AM

My pleasure, Robin! Thanks for following!!

8/1/2012 1:08:57 AM

Thank you so much, Sue. I appreciate that!

8/1/2012 1:08:35 AM

You're right, Esther, they do seem to molt continuously in that first year. When they reach maturity and their first annual molt, you'll recognize it!

8/1/2012 1:07:19 AM

Messy, isn't it?

8/1/2012 1:06:56 AM

ROFL! True enough, Alex!

8/1/2012 1:06:43 AM

Thank you Mary Jane! Cat food should only be fed in moderation while they're molting but it's fine in small doses.

8/1/2012 1:05:41 AM

Poor girls, it's not easy being beautiful. :)

8/1/2012 1:05:09 AM

Are they at the "should I put sunscreen on them" phase yet? :)

8/1/2012 1:04:47 AM

Congratulations on your new babies, Jessica!!

8/1/2012 1:04:30 AM

Good for you, Lori!! They're such wonderful pets. If you have any questions at all, please let me know if I can help. ☺

8/1/2012 1:03:51 AM

You GO GIRL!! Let me know if you have any questions along the way!

8/1/2012 1:03:23 AM

Thank you, Joyce!

8/1/2012 1:03:08 AM

Robin, welcome to chicken-keeping!! The fun has just begun. Thanks for following me on FB and my blog posts, nice to have you with us!

8/1/2012 1:02:31 AM

It's not pretty, that's for sure!

8/1/2012 1:01:39 AM

Thank you Cathy, you're sweet. :)

8/1/2012 1:01:28 AM

ROFL. Sing it, Nancy!!

8/1/2012 1:01:04 AM

Thanks Debbie! You're funny!

8/1/2012 1:00:51 AM


8/1/2012 1:00:28 AM

My pleasure, Susan. I don't think Phoebe was thrilled to have been photographed in that state, but I told her it was for educational purposes. ☺

8/1/2012 12:59:47 AM

My pleasure, Tami, thanks for your comment!

8/1/2012 12:59:32 AM

Thanks so much, Heather!

8/1/2012 12:59:08 AM

Makes you want to break out the ShopVac, doesn't it, Jennifer? :)

8/1/2012 12:58:35 AM

Hi Cheryl and thank you! Welcome to chicken-keeping and good luck in the giveaway!

8/1/2012 12:58:06 AM

I agree. And some molting chicknes are shocking even when you DO expect it! LOL

Robin Phillips-Knotts
8/1/2012 12:54:26 AM

I'm following your other blog via networked blogs. Thanks for all the info - very helpful! {thanks for the giveaway too!} cokelush at gmail

Sue Leighton
8/1/2012 12:42:03 AM

Kathy, thank you for providing this information- now I know what to expect ! Love the pictures too!! I'm still very new to chickens and have found you to be a valuable resource!!

Esther Widgren
7/31/2012 11:59:54 PM

My girls (at 17 weeks) seem to have been growing and losing feathers throughout their short lives! I'm not sure what a molt really looks like!

Sandy Abell
7/31/2012 11:03:35 PM

My teenagers are going through a molt and there are feathers everywhere! Thank for the info!

Alex Summersell
7/31/2012 10:24:17 PM

Thank You for all the great information. Our chickens do look funny until their feathers come in. And Roosters don't miss a beat, they still think they look awesome!

mary jane iverson
7/31/2012 9:30:02 PM

i use to have about 50chickens but i got pregnant so i sold most of them but 8. i didnt know about the cat food thing my chicken would go crazy over it and i freaked out that it would so something weird to them. so thanks by the way your chickens are beautiful

Kelzi Tacoz
7/31/2012 8:53:44 PM

5 of my hens are moulting right now , 3 are so bad had to order them some saddles, thanks for the information! :)

Jennifer McCormick Willett
7/31/2012 8:41:02 PM

Mine are going through it right now. My turkey is so pretty white right now!!

Jessica Frahm
7/31/2012 8:29:17 PM

I brought home my first chickens 7/28 and I have studied your blog. So much useful information.

Lori Smith
7/31/2012 8:23:56 PM

So happy I found your FB page and blog! I will be moving to the mountains in a few weeks and we will be getting chickens so I am a sponge for any information I can find. Thank you!.

Kae Martin
7/31/2012 8:12:59 PM

I recently found your blog through FB and am loving it! I'm in the planning stages of backyard poultry keeping and this has been a fabulous resource. My rural town doesn't want to allow hens in my yard.....but I can have pets. I'm going to find a way.

Joyce Scott
7/31/2012 8:04:18 PM

Your blog is very informative and I enjoy reading it very much!

Robin Thomas
7/31/2012 7:53:54 PM

So glad I found your FB page and blogs. I am new to the backyard chicken business and its very helpful. Would love to win a subscription to Grit

Victoria Channell-Johnson
7/31/2012 7:51:17 PM

Thank You for the very valuable information.. I have a Black Jersey Giant that has been doing this for a little over a month now. It started on her upper leg and now seems to be filling out again... Thank Goodness : D

Cathy Zeiler
7/31/2012 7:50:30 PM

I love the Chicken Chick! Love all her posts!

Nancy Chadbourn
7/31/2012 7:45:47 PM

The chicken chick have the best gol dang information and give aways..Grit.....I think I love you!

Debby Nutter
7/31/2012 7:44:16 PM

Very good info, as usual! Pictures on the other hand....ewwww...... :)

Sharon Belton-Patry
7/31/2012 7:41:26 PM

I had forgotten how funny some can look when molting

Susan Smith
7/31/2012 7:14:05 PM

Thanks for another good article. Great pictures of the molting chickens. I have some extra meat chicken feed here that I will give them when they start.

Tami Seibold
7/31/2012 7:01:47 PM

Your blog is always full of so much info and tips. Thank you for sharing your knowledge on chickens with us!

Heather Harris
7/31/2012 6:45:53 PM

My gals haven't gone through their second anual mult but I suspect it is coming soon. They were Nov. babies and started laying in the spring. It has been a great joy learning about my new family members and having such loving pets. I am alway learning something new about them every day and now that I have read your blog on multing I have learned how to help them when it comes time for their next mult. I just love your blogs :) Heather

Jennifer Thompson
7/31/2012 5:59:11 PM


Jennifer Thompson
7/31/2012 5:58:24 PM

Thanks for the great info! My youngest chicks just recently finished their second juvenile molt. There are feathers EVERYWHERE!

Cheryl Brown Neuenschwander
7/31/2012 5:37:14 PM

I am new to the chicken world and really appreciate all the information you give me. Thank you, and I could definitely use the magazine. :)

Felicia Johnson
7/31/2012 5:32:57 PM

I think that a molting chicken might shock someone if they did not know to expect it.

7/31/2012 4:37:01 PM

My pleasure, thank you Theresa.

7/31/2012 4:36:48 PM

Good for you, Cheryl!!! Be sure to share photos when you load it up for the first time!!

7/31/2012 4:36:22 PM

Hi Brandee my pleasure. Good luck!

7/31/2012 4:35:49 PM

Thank you Jessica! Nice to have you along for the ride!

Jessica Casteel
7/31/2012 3:48:06 PM


Brandee Tilton McGuire
7/31/2012 3:31:55 PM

Thanks for the info, i follow your blog also thanks for the entry!

Cheryl Sleeth
7/31/2012 3:28:24 PM

You always give wonderful info!! I, also, follow you on Facebook!! Thanks to you, I saved 10% yesterday on a new rock!!!

Theresa Hennessey
7/31/2012 3:22:14 PM

Great info! thanks!

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