Kristi Cook 

Autumn signals a time for change. Smoldering air turns crisp and cool. Green trees burn orange and gold. And chickens go commando. Well, some chickens do. While most are so discreet in their changing of feathers that the act goes unnoticed, rebels bare all for the world to see. However, when there’s a rapid loss of feathers among your flock, don’t assume your naked ladies and gents are simply replacing worn out plumage. Do a thorough flock check to rule out other causes and manage the situation as needed.

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This nearly naked hen is the victim of feather picking.

Causes of Feather Loss

The most common cause of feather loss is the annual molt. Fall’s reduced daylight hours and lower-intensity sunlight triggers the loss of old feathers and growth of new ones. Beginning at the head and working its way down, natural molting often makes chickens look as though they had a run-in with a blind barber while others merely experience minor balding. If you gently pull the feathers back, you will find a patch of pinfeathers pushing to the surface with complete replacement taking six to 16 weeks.

However, stress from disease, lack of water/feed, getting chilled, or a sudden removal of coop lighting can cause abnormal molting. This stress-induced feather loss may not follow the head to toe sequence of annual molting and often results in a slower or nonexistent development of new feathers. This type of molting leaves chickens especially prone to injury or death as the mercury drops, making immediate removal of these stressors necessary.

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Pinfeathers should be present in bare spots during an annual molt.

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