Hen losing feathers and walking with a limp

by Syed
(Spring)

Question

Hen losing feathers and walking with a limp. I have a flock of 10 hens, of which 3 of them have started losing their feathers (or molting).

But one of these three has it so bad that she has lost almost all of her feathers from her wings, and back.

She is also walking with a limp with her head turned to one side, it may be because her wings are featherless and keep falling.

It is also a little difficult for her to eat or drink because of this (although she seems to be eating fine).

Is this some kind of disease that I should be worried about? I think she has stopped laying eggs but I'm not sure.

Answer
It is very common for molting chickens to stumble around as if they were drunk. One day they may be limping on the left side and the next day, they might limp on the right side.

It is an oddity that comes with the molting process.

I would still do a careful examination of the hen, just to be on the safe side. Check her head to see if she has been pecked or scalped.

Examine under her wings for any redness or swelling. Take special care to look for any bleeding or other injuries to the legs.

If there is evidence of injury, seek veterinary care immediately

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Featherless Butts

by Jeffrey Moore
(Camden, NY USA)

Question
I have 16 and 9 month old hens (no roosters) which are producing an average of 12 eggs/day. Most of them appear healthy but there are 4 or 5 of them that have featherless butts.

One of them has a patch on its throat that is bare. Could this be caused from mites or fleas or could they be lacking something in there diet?

Answer
It sounds like your hens are starting to molt. They look pretty shabby while molting. The classic sign of molting is the bare butt effect!

Adding a little extra protein will help to speed up the process. Be aware that hen’s attitudes change while molting. The socialite hen will often hide under bushes until her feathers grow back.

They behave like they are embarrassed to be seen without their feathers! They will grow back in about a month.

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Losing feathers

by Robbi
(Home Valley, WA)

Question
My 9 month old Ameracauna is losing feathers. Is this normal? She also stopped laying.

Answer
It sounds like your hen is molting. This is a normal process when the old feathers come out to make room for new ones.

Hens can also act funny during this time. They may walk like they are drunk or hide from everyone because they don’t look great.

You should add extra protein to her diet. Scrambled eggs and a tablespoon of canned cat food will speed up the process and make her feel special.

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Feathers falling out

Question
Feathers falling out: I found 6 baby chicks and two ducks next to a dumpster. I brought them home placed them under a light with paper towels for footing.

I gave food and water now two weeks later the chicks feel greasy, their feathers are falling out and their color is more dirty yellowish/brown. The chicks eat, chirp and move about.

I think the chicks were purchased for Easter then tossed out. Should be about three weeks old now, have grown in size and move about freely.

I bought an antibiotic to go in their water as they had very liquid stool which seems to be better now. I have no idea the type of chicks but they were yellow probably the run of the mill tractor supply (TSC) type.

I keep their box clean and warm but they seem to be getting worse. Thank you for any information.

Answer
How fortunate they are that you found them and are taking such good care! Young chicks and ducklings do begin growing in new feathers with color in their first weeks of life replacing the hatching down with longer, harder feathers.

I don't recommend keeping ducklings and chicks together, however, as each requires a different type of environment.

Ducks produce much oil to water proof feathers and down. Ducklings require a significant swimming/bathing area in their brooder, which is dangerous for non-swimming poultry chicks.

Also, normal waterfowl droppings are very liquid and messy compared to normal chicken droppings.

If it's not easy to provide separate brooders, daily removing the ducklings for some swim and bathing time will be good for them and may help reduce oiliness on the chicks.

It's not normal for there to be bald spots on the chicks or ducklings. There may be some plucking going on, if that is the case.

I'm not quite sure what you are describing when you say: "their feathers are falling out". Feather replacement is kind of a constant thing with feathered creatures.

In adults, seasonal molting is to be expected, with occasional damaged feather replacement.

In young birds growing bodies are going through many changes inside and out.

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Chickens Feathers look different

by Tonya Lennon
(Winston Salem NC)

Question
Why do my chickens feathers look different. I have a Cochin pullet, when I first got her she looked healthy. Now, her feathers look like they are shorter in areas and long in some areas.

Not full and fluffy like all the other Cochins i have. She is eating and drinking and seems okay, otherwise.

Almost like they are matted together but they are just shorter?? It’s hard to explain.

Answer
The hen could be starting to molt. They can look pretty mangy when they molt. Feeding some extra protein will make the process easier for the hen.

You can give her some scrambled eggs or a tablespoon of canned cat food. She will love you for the special treats and it will definitely help her.

If it is not molting, watch to be sure that the other hens aren’t beating her up. Shorter feathers can be a sign of abuse by the other hens. Please keep a watchful eye on her.

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