5 Things to do for an Ugly Chicken

It’s inevitable that at some point you will head out to your coop getting ready to greet your beautiful, sleek hen only to discover some scrawny, skittish, featherless, ugly chicken.  And then to add insult to injury, there are no eggs in your egg box, and the amount of feathers everywhere make you wonder if one of you chickens simply exploded.  The chicken below is actually in my blog banner to give you a sense of just how lovely she is most of the time.  Hopefully the stress of the goats arrival hasn’t contributed to the molt this year!

When this first happened, I was a bit unprepared – I knew about molting, but oh my goodness, did all her head feather really fall out, or did an animal try to eat her head and only got the feathers?  That was one ugly chicken.

Each year (starting when the hens turn16-18 months), chickens molt by shedding their old feathers and regrowing beautiful glossy feathers.  Many birds lose their feathers in a specific order starting with their head and moving to their tales.  Often this molt occurs in the fall after a long laying period triggered by the shortening of the days.  The chickens that produce the best often molt quickly, and sometimes it is even difficult to notice the change.  Other birds however will lose a majority of their feather all at once.  Stress can also induce a molt.

Here are 5 tips to easing a help get a chicken through a molt:

  • Keep down the stress – try not to handle the birds and avoid making big changes to their lives.  This can further stress the birds at a time that they are already undergoing hormonal changes.
  • Increase the amount of protein in their diet.  The new feathers take a lot of protein to produce, so switch to a high protein feed, or supplement their feeds with cooked eggs, sunflower seeds, canned meats, yogurt, cheese, meal worms, etc
  • Other hens may pick at the bald spots when a chicken molts, so be ready to stop the bully if this starts to injure the bird.
  • Chickens often molt at the worst time of year when the temperatures start to drop.  Unless it is really, really cold, they should be fine.  They will stay warm as long as they have adequate shelter.
  •  Don’t worry – this is normal and healthy, and will pass, and you’ll be back to getting eggs again.

Are there any molting chickens in your backyard?

7 thoughts on “5 Things to do for an Ugly Chicken”

  1. I have one hen who is molting horribly right now! Poor thing just stands there and shivers. At least it's going to be warm this week (in the 80s!) so she should feel better. I plan on giving her lots of scrambled eggs to help her feather production along 🙂

  2. We have several "molty" hens right now. They are pretty ugly 🙂 I've been giving them meat producer feed along with my broilers, so they will have extra protein.

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