You have noticed a change in behavior in your chickens. They are laying fewer eggs, and their skin looks bald and irritated in places. Do not worry!
Feather loss is a common and well-known event when it comes to raising chickens. Our biggest concern as chicken parents is, “How do I help my chickens grow their feathers back quicker?”
By making sure they have clean bedding and increasing their protein and calcium intake, you are keeping them comfortable while also helping to replace the nutrients being lost in the loss of their feathers and egg-laying.
Several other factors can influence feather loss.
In this article, we will discuss causes and tips on how to help your chickens through this stressful and uncomfortable time and encourage quicker feather regrowth.
5 Tips for speeding up feather regrowth
Depending on the reason for your chicken’s missing feathers, there are a few things you can do to help with the healing process.
Caring for their wounds with store-bought medicines.
Vetericyn Poultry Care spray or wound and skincare helps heal any irritated skin that may have been pecked in the process of losing feathers.
If you notice chickens pecking at each other, quarantine those that are being pecked at to allow their wounds to heal.
Blu-Kote dyes the bald area blue to reduce the redness and the urge to peck at the affected area.
Using a styptic powder helps stop the bleeding, and blu-kote helps prevent more pecking.
Adding supplements to their diet:
Just like humans when they are sick, chickens may require alterations to their diet when they are in the process of healing.
Regrowing feathers requires a lot of extra protein. Feathers are approximately 80% protein.
You can purchase special feeds that are made specifically to help with feather regrowth.
- Feather Fixer feed – includes extra protein, prebiotics, probiotics, and other essential vitamins and minerals, which help with feather regrowth.
- Apple cider vinegar
- Ginger powder
- Sea kelp
Freshly cleaned living environment
A low-stress and clean environment is vital for the feather regrowth process.
Ensuring that your chickens have access to clean water, dry food, and clean bedding will help reduce stress during this time.
Avoid handling and introducing new flock members while your current flock is in the process of regrowing feathers.
Certain chicken treats such as mealworms or sunflower seeds are also excellent sources of protein that can help chickens through the regrowth process.
Plucking broken feathers
Check to see if the feathers are broken off or plucked completely.
New feathers will not grow until the bird molts and completely loses those feathers, which could take months. You can speed up the process by plucking the broken feathers.
It is simple to remove them with a pair of pliers.
Holding your chicken securely, use the pliers to grip the broken feather at the base and pull it straight out. This allows new feathers to grow back in their place.
How do you tell the difference between molting and plucked feathers?
Molting looks like feathers completely falling out, plucked feathers look like broken feathers and spotty.
By inspecting your chickens, you can push apart the feathers to look for the cause of their feather loss.
What are the most common causes of feather loss in chickens?
There are several reasons your chickens could be losing feathers. Some causes are expected, so there is no reason to be concerned.
Other feather loss issues need to be watched more closely for illness.
Normal Feather Loss Causes
|Causes of Loss of Feathers||How often should I expect it?||What causes it?||How long should it last?||How do I identify it?|
|Molting||Annually||It is the most common reason hens lose their feathers. It is triggered by the change in season. Molting is their body’s way of preparing for winter.||Approximately 2-3 months, up to 4 months. Depending on the breed, the health of your flock, weather, and age.||Chickens’ feathers will begin to look dull, less shiny, and even gray. Patches of feathers will begin to fall out.|
|Broodiness||Becoming broody is an instinct for chickens to want to hatch their eggs. For some chickens, it may happen every year. For others, it may never happen.||Hens will often pick at their own feathers to lay them around their nest to help provide warmth to their eggs. They will also pull feathers from their chests to warm their eggs with their bare skin.||From start to finish, hens will remain broody for about 21 days (about 3 weeks) or until all their eggs have hatched.||Only specific areas of the hen will be missing feathers. It will look like patches are missing from their chest mostly.|
|Roosters (mating)||Depends on your ratio of hens to roosters.||When roosters mate hens, they will typically bite the back of the hen’s neck to steady themselves. This can cause feather loss. Feathers can grow back in about 12-16 weeks (about 3 and a half months). However, if they are continuously being mated, it may take longer.||Loss of feathers on the back of the hens’ back and neck.|
|Preening||Occurs often – no cause for concern||This is your chicken’s way of cleaning or grooming themselves. This is also how chickens reapply the oils to their feathers to help insulate and waterproof their bodies.||This is a part of their everyday life and can occur multiple times a day.||Chickens will look as if they are biting the base of their tail, which is where their oil gland is located. They will then run their feathers through their beak to clean and reapply the oils.|
Abnormal causes of feather loss
These causes should be treated immediately or as soon as they are noticed.
|Causes for loss of feathers||What causes it?||How do I identify it?||What can I do to prevent it?|
|Bullying||Overcrowding of chickens in a small, confined area can cause them to peck at each other. Chickens may also bully each other to keep others in ‘pecking order’.||It is recommended that your coop provide a 4ft x 4ft space per chicken. If your chickens are missing feathers, or you notice them pecking at the smaller, weaker chickens, this is a sign there is bullying taking place.||Boredom is a major cause of bullying among your flock. Eliminate the chance for boredom by making sure food and water are always full and introducing coop toys, like swings and a dust bath.|
|Disease – Vent Gleet Disease||Vent-gleet is a fungal yeast infection in chickens caused by imbalanced pH levels and harmful bacteria in the digestive tract. It is caused by dirty water, moldy food, or stress.||Missing feathers and a smelly vent, white discharge, redness, swelling, and diarrhea are the signs of vent-gleet disease.||Providing constant fresh, clean water, fresh feed every day, ensuring that the old or wet food is discarded, adding a probiotic powder, apple cider vinegar, to their diet helps with prevention.|
|Parasites – Lice and Red Mites||Lice or mites will gather in certain areas on your chickens’ skin and cause severe irritation, causing them to pick and pull out their own feathers.||If you notice irritation around the vent of your chicken and missing feathers, this is a strong sign your chicken may have lice or red mites.||Checking your chickens regularly for lice or mites. Regular dust baths in poultry dust can help treat and even prevent minor infestations.|
|Diet Deficiencies||Diet deficiencies, such as lack of protein, can cause feather picking. Too many treats can also cause them to become overweight and unhealthy, leading to feather loss.||Nutritional deficiencies can be identified by chickens having poor egg production, reduced appetite, poor feather condition, or loss in patches.||Ensure your chickens are receiving the proper nutrients for their age. Proper amounts of protein, calcium, and grains are vital and vary depending on the age of your chickens.|
|Stress||Stress can cause chickens to go into a mini molt, resulting in a loss of feathers and looking patchy.||Check your coop and flock for any stressors that may be causing them to feel uneasy or anxious: lack of food or water, loud noises, bright lights, etc.||Ensure your flock has a constant supply of clean water and food. Dust baths help with preventing infestations which can cause stress. Prevent heat stress by providing a clean, vented coop so that they can get rest from the hot sun.|
How long does it typically take for chickens to grow their feathers back?
Feather regrowth depends on the reason for the loss and the health and immediate treatment of the issue.
Molts can last approximately three months or 8 to 12 weeks. Some chickens may take four or five months, depending on health and age.
Egg-laying will slow down significantly during this time due to the loss of protein and calcium from molting.
Whether your chicken’s feather loss is due to a common issue that is nothing to be concerned about, or an illness that needs to be treated, there is a set of steps to take to help them regrow feathers quickly.
These include identifying the cause, ensuring their coop is clean, dry, and your chickens have plenty of food and water. Hopefully, the tips in this article can help your chickens grow some hair!