Why Chickens Lose Feathers

Inside: Discover the reasons why chickens lose feathers. From molting to health issues, learn how to keep your flock healthy and happy.

Feathers are an essential part of a chicken's body. They protect them from the environment and help regulate their body temperature. But sometimes, chickens lose feathers. It's up to you to determine why your chickens lose feathers when they do.

molting chicken with Why Chickens Lose Feathers text overlay

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Why Chickens Lose Feathers

There are some common reasons why chickens lose feathers, some are healthy and part of their growth, but some can definitely be prevented.

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Chickens Molting Causes Feather Loss

One of the most common reasons why chickens lose feathers is due to molting. Molting is a natural process where chickens shed old feathers and grow new ones. During this time, chickens can lose a large number of feathers, which can be alarming for you to see. Your chickens are going to look sad, during molting.

Molting is a normal part of a chicken's life cycle, and most chickens will regrow their feathers in a few weeks. Sometimes it can take longer for them to grow back, it just depends on the chicken.

We recently had a silkie take months to grow her feathers back. She was trying to brood at times and was laying eggs both of which are going to slow the growth of new feathers.

molting chicken


Mating is another reason why chickens lose feathers. Roosters have sharp spurs on their feet, which they use during mating to hold onto the hen. And they bite the feathers on the back of her head, shoulders, and back. It causes feather loss on its head, and back by its tail.

This can cause damage to the hen's feathers, and in some cases, the feathers may fall out. You might have to get saddles for your chickens or in extreme cases remove your hen or rooster from the coop/run.

You don't want more than 1 rooster per 5 hens. Even 5 hens might not be enough. He is going to mate them over and over again which is going to stress your hens and cause more feather damage.

Additionally, if there are too many roosters in a flock, they may fight for dominance, causing feather loss.

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Stress can be a factor that can cause chickens to lose feathers. Chickens can experience stress from various sources, such as overcrowding, predators, or changes in their environment.

Stress can lead to feather pecking, where chickens peck at each other's feathers, causing them to fall out. Feather pecking can also be a sign of a nutrient deficiency, so it's important to ensure that your chickens are getting a balanced diet.

Health Reasons

If you have ruled out all of those reasons above for feather loss you might need to look further, and closer at your hens. Feather loss can be a symptom of various illnesses, such as mites, or lice. You can look closely at your hen and see if you can see any critters on your birds.

I use Doktor Doom Lice Killer for Poultry that I bought from a local feed store.

Treatment needs to be done weekly for a few weeks, to make sure you get any eggs that are hatching after the initial treatment.

Sussex chicken breed

If you notice that your chickens are losing feathers and also exhibiting other symptoms, such as lethargy or loss of appetite, it's important to consult a veterinarian.

Protein for Feather Regrowth

An important thing to remember when your chickens have gone through feather loss is that they are going to need a little extra protein to regrow those feathers. Feathers are 75 % protein after all.

Types of Protein for Chickens:

  • Mealworms
  • Insects
  • Seeds
  • Non-medicated Chick Starter
  • Sprouts
  • Worms
  • Eggs
  • Parsley
  • Peas

Chickens can lose feathers for various reasons. It's important to monitor your chickens' feather condition and address any issues promptly to ensure their health and well-being.

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    Frequently Asked Questions

    Why is my chicken losing its feathers? Stress such as extreme heat, water or food deprivation, and illness can induce molting. Pecking feathers out by other chickens around the vent or on the back is usually caused by stress, boredom, or protein deficiency. Cockerels can damage feathers on a hen's back during mating. Mite or lice infestation.

    How do you treat feather loss in chickens? To support your flock, give them a little extra protein to help them regrow new feathers by giving them protein-based treats or temporarily switching to a ration designed for meat chickens.

    Want More?

    The First 6 Weeks of Raising Chicks – Guide For Beginners

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    Introducing Chickens to A New Coop

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