Chicken Molting Questions
Chicken molting happens each year, usually in the fall, as a chicken’s body prepares to deal with winter. Old feathers fall out and new feathers grow. As you can imagine, the process of producing many new feathers, in a short amount of time, requires good health and nutrient rich diet.
Hens may slow or stop laying for a month or more. Feathers are made up of proteins, for the most part, so feather production draws on the good diet of your chickens. Chickens with poor diet or poor health may be unable to grow feathers fast enough for the coming cold weather.
It’s normal, during chicken molting, for them to look shabby. You will notice an unusual amount of feathers in the coop and on the ground. Dietary fats are important for good skin quality, making it easy for emerging new feathers to break the skin.
Dry skin could cause ingrown feathers to develop under the skin, produce an infection and cyst around the feather follicle, where the “root” of the feather is connected to a blood supply nourishing feather growth.
“Blood feathers” are growing immature feathers. If a blood feather is broken, there may be significant bleeding, which will usually clot and heal on its own. That feather will fall out and be replaced.
Blood supply is contained within the shaft of a feather, large or small, until growth is complete. Once a feather has reached full size, blood supply retracts leaving the shaft of the feather hollow.
During chicken molting, you may notice chickens picking at each other, investigating the unusual growths of emerging “pin feathers”. Pin feathers have a sharp point to break the skin as they begin to grow.
New feathers may appear like the quills of a porcupine until they break out of the coating and feathery tips will appear. Chickens groom new feathers, removing the outer coating as the feathers grow.
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QuestionI have a pet chicken and I just moved to northern Italy for a carpet show.. and I left her behind with my housekeeper who said my chicken molting its feathers early and is picking at itself. What should I do?
AnswerThis chicken being a pet may be stressed due to your absence. I have worked a lot with exotic pet birds that can get very upset with changes in their routine and begin self mutilating their feathers.
There is this possibility that your chicken just misses you. There are other reasons, like the possibility of parasites creating skin irritations, or other general wellness. Chickens do groom their feathers daily and remove dead feathers due to be replaced.
I’m not familiar with the cycle of seasons where you live in the U.S., but a spring molt is not unusual, especially if the temperatures are warming up. I’m not sure what you can do about this from Italy.
If you are deeply concerned about this chicken’s wellness, possibly your housekeeper could take her to the vet, to help set your mind at ease, get an accurate diagnosis and recommendation for any needed treatment.
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