Chickens Health Issues

The Early Bird to Molt

The last few mornings, I have smelled fall in the air.  I know it is coming.  The amount of drones in the beehives are decreasing.  The leaves on the trees are looking tired and the lawn is worn out from summer. September and school are only a month away.  Yet, one of my biggest clues that fall is in the air is when the girls begin to molt.  Every hen molts to a different degree.  Some hens do it gracefully- you would have no idea that they had even lost a feather. Yet some hens are less graceful. Oyster Cracker, one of our Buff Orpingtons, always tips me off. As fall and cooler temperatures near, I wake up to find the coop looking as though a chicken had exploded in the night!  Molting season has begun.

Molting typically starts at the head with the tiniest of feathers and progresses systematically down the neck, the body, wings, then working its way to the tail. It can take weeks and during this time hens will decrease the amount of eggs they lay or stop laying eggs entirely. You see, eggs and feathers are made up of almost completely protein. Molting can be stressful. It can also be painful as the new feathers grow in. This year molting seems a bit earlier than usual here, but all hens over 1 year of age typically will molt annually in the fall.

Oyster Cracker is always the first one to begin molting and the rest of the flock follows suit over the next couple of months. I’m switching up their snacks to ones with a bit more protein- like dried meal worms and black sunflower seeds during their molting. For me the worst part about Oyster Cracker molting is that I will miss not being able to hold her so often.  Yes, I admit it. I will miss hugging this sweet lovable girl.
Read more about molting and other reasons for missing feathers.
Photo Credit:  Tilly’s Nest


Hello friends, welcome! Follow along on our chicken, beekeeping, gardening, crafting and cooking adventures from Cape Cod.

  • Nooooooooo Autumn already! Feels as though summer has only just arrived :(

    • I know! It took so long to get here!

  • Tierney L Clark

    Good Mornin' Ms. Tilly. I though you might enjoy a little story about my Butter, an older Easter Egger that is one of 2 of the oldest "residents" of my Chicken Ranch.
    Last year, molting went off as usual, and having 25 or so hens, I didn't notice each ones progress all that much. But there was feathers everywhere, and everyone was fat and sassy, so all was well.
    Well, along about October, (which starts to have a few cool nights, even for Florida) poor ole Butter started loosing feathers: really bad. In a few days she looked like Foghorn Leghorn, after the dog poked him through the knothole in the fence with the broom handle haha! I was concerned that something was wrong because everyone else was finished and she should've been too, I thought. But she was eating well, and running around in fine form, enjoying life. But I swear, she got almost naked! So I watched her, a little concerned, as she wasn't a "spring chicken" anymore. Eventually, of course, it stopped, and the yard stopped looking like a pillow factory accident, and she started filling out, tail first and so it went. She finished up beautifully of course, was fine for the cold weather.
    I was really glad, because she is a doll and one of my starter birds. My daughter gave me her, and Big Mama, my old Buff, who has quit laying, but is still the grand dame of the flock lol.
    I have learned they are surely all different but wonderful pets!

    • What a story! Thank you for sharing. I love that we all can so relate with one another.

  • I couldn't agree more…fall is in the air, and so unlike our typical hot/humid summers in the Midwest. It's wonderful! Could I ask your input on adding chickens to an existing flock? We've added 3 new hens to our coop family of 5 (12 days ago), and only one is still struggling to fit in. She's being picked on still, her tail is down, and I've cleaned up a little injured spot on her head. She's been separated from the other hens so they can see, but not touch…what can I do to help her fit in? Thanks so much, -Mary

  • This is one of the reasons I miss my home state – summer is nice and short there. :)

    When our caique molts, we find feathers everywhere. I guess it's going to be the same when we acquire chickens!

    • Where is your home state? How exciting! I can't wait for you to get a flock of your own.

  • CS

    My flock started molting last month and I was surprised. I am glad to hear this is not unusual! Poor things, it really is hard on them.

    • You are right, it is SO hard on them. Yes, it seems that they are molting earlier than usual. I wonder why myself…

  • SO glad to see this! My mottled houdan started losing feathers around her neck about a month or so ago. Mostly all on one side and worked itself around, then down to her chest. So far, that's been all. They aren't really growing back either. I dusted her w DE just in case (she's the first I've had molt). I assume that's what happening, bc she otherwise acts healthy. I live in the Triangle in NC, so its still warm (see: hot and humid) here. Please tell me that's shes molting!

    • Sounds like she very well could be. Keep your eyes out for early new feathers called pin feathers. Take a peek at my molting post for photos.

  • Wow, that does seem early! But it has been a cooler summer overall I think so maybe her system has been tricked. My flock seems to wait until the dead of winter when they need their feathers to drop them! Crazy.

    • Last year the Silkies waited until November and they were so cold and I felt so badly for them. Thank goodness they had my robust Oyster Cracker to snuggle with! She just adores them.