Reasons Why Chickens Lose Feathers

Feather loss in chickens can be frustrating, especially for first-time farmers. So, without wasting more time, let’s see some of the reasons why chickens lose feathers.

Natural annual molting

Molting is a natural and expected occurrence in birds whereby chickens shed off old feathers that no longer keep them warm and regrow new ones. Most chickens will experience their first annual molt from age 15 to 18.

At times, the molt is soft, so one can barely notice the chicken losing feathers. However, there are cases where the molting is vigorous, painful, and noticeable.

So, what do you do when your chickens are molting?

There are two things you can do. First, avoid touching or stressing the chickens. Also, provide your chickens with sufficient protein-rich feeds during this time to help them regrow new feathers as quickly as possible.

Stress

Did you know that chickens experience stress? Yes. They do!

Stress can be due to excess handling, overheating and lighting in the coop, loud noises, hunger, or other stressors.

When stressed, your layers will stop laying. Some of them may even start demonstrating behaviors like cannibalism which is common in poultry.

In other cases, chickens will respond to stress by losing their feathers. If stress is why chickens are losing feathers, it is time for you to move quickly and begin reducing stress in your flock.

Diseases

Another reason why chickens lose feathers is the presence of an illness. Diseases like gangrenous dermatitis, polyomavirus, and fowlpox can cause feather loss in chickens.

Therefore, when you notice feather loss in the flock, start by assessing your chicken for suspicious disease signs or symptoms to administer the necessary diagnosis and treatment.

Poor nutrition

Your feeding practices can also trigger feathers. This is particularly true if your feeding does not meet the nutritional requirements of the flock.

Ensure the feeds you give your chickens contain all the required minerals, vitamins, and trace elements for the birds.

If you suspect your feeding is okay, consider changing the feed brand. You may give your chicken the right amount of food, but the feed brand lacks complete nutrition. Simply changing the brand could help to provide adequate nourishment for the birds.

Parasite attacks

Have mites and lice invaded your flock?

The presence of these external parasites can be one of the reasons why chickens lose feathers. Why is it so?

Because lice and mites cause significant irritation to birds, they occupy warmer parts of the body, such as the areas around the vent or shafts of feathers.

When irritated by parasites, your chickens may respond by pulling out their feathers to try to get rid of the parasite.

Is there anything you can do about the parasite attack on your chicken?

Of course, yes. Some external parasites can be eliminated with poultry dust. You can use many forms of dust to eliminate external parasites from your chickens, nesting boxes, and coop.

Bullying and pecking

Pecking and bullying are common incidences in a chicken coop, but you should not ignore them.

Remember that uncontrolled pecking and bullying can turn into cannibalism and cause stress to vulnerable and less dominant members of the flock.

Therefore, stay attentive to pecking and bullying.

If you notice some bullies are the reasons chickens lose feathers, why not remove or separate them from the rest of the flock?

Also, avoid overcrowding, as cramping will trigger increased pecking and bullying.

Mating and rooster actions

Extreme mating can cause chickens to lose feathers, especially hens. In this case, feather loss will most likely happen at the area of the back where the rooster grabs with its break to gain stability.

If you notice injuries or excessive feather loss from mating, you should isolate the hen until she heals.

Preening

Like molting, preening is a natural behavior in poultry. It involves using its beak to take oil from the uropygial glands and spread the lipid-rich oil over its feathers.

Preening helps the chicken to maintain good feather conditions.

As they preen, chickens may remove broken feathers. However, feather loss due to preening is less significant and is often unnoticeable.

Final thought

The reasons why chickens lose feathers are many ranging from natural annual molting to the presence of disease to poor nutrition to stress, preening to parasite attacks to bullying and pecking, and mating.

The good news is that not all cases of feather loss require your intervention. Why? Because chickens may lose feathers from causes that are entirely natural and about which you can do nothing.

However, sometimes, chickens lose feathers for reasons that require your action. If you think there are other reasons why chickens lose feathers we have left out of this list, feel welcome to share them with us.

Happy raising!

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