Keeping chickens can be a fun experience, but it comes with its challenges just like everything else in life. And sometimes, you may notice that your chickens lose their feathers, which begs an important question.
Do chickens lose their feathers in the summer?
The answer is yes. Chickens replace their feathers at one-year intervals. Usually, this process, which is also known as molting, occurs during the last few weeks of summer. In fact, molting can extend to early fall.
Now that you have your straightforward answer, let’s find out what molting is and why it happens. Plus, we’ll discuss other reasons why chickens might lose their feathers. This article will explain why chickens eat their own feathers.
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What Is Molting?
Molting is a natural process in which chickens or other poultry shed their feathers. Later, these feathers are replaced with newer ones.
Molting is controlled by hormones, and it’s affected by day length. It doesn’t matter if the day length is natural or artificial, the chickens will start losing their feathers the shorter their day becomes.
So why does molting happen over the few final weeks of summer? We’re about to find out.
Why Chickens Go Through Molting
When the days are shorter, it’s a sign for chickens or birds in general that it’s time to regrow their feathers. This is a natural preparation for the cold winter weather to ensure that the newer feathers will do a better job of protecting the chickens.
Of course, molting can still happen for other reasons than changing seasons. For instance, molting can be a result of stress, disease, or a reduced diet.
However, molts that take place out of season are pretty different since they’re partial. On the other hand, all the chicken’s feathers fall during a seasonal molt.
Natural Molting Cycles
In order to fully understand what your growing chicks will go through, let’s take a look at the natural way that molting works.
A growing chick will encounter molting several times as it grows. Eventually, it’ll develop a full set of feathers by the time it’s 6 weeks old. Then, the chick will usually go through partial molts at the following stages of its life:
- 7 to 9 weeks
- 12 to 16 weeks
- 20 to 22 weeks
As a pet owner, you’ll need to pay some extra attention to your chickens whenever they molt. Since the feather composition has 85-90% protein, losing these feathers will have an impact on your chicken’s protein levels.
Therefore, we advise you to give your chicken protein supplements to aid it through a molt. Besides, these supplements will ensure that the newly-grown feathers will be of higher quality and strength.
You can include the following types of food in your chicken’s diet to increase its protein intake.
- Sesame seeds
- Sprouted alfalfa
Other Reasons Why Chickens Could Lose Their Feathers
Of course, there are numerous causes behind a decrease in chicken feathers. Some of these causes are natural, while others might require your involvement.
To better take care of your chickens, you’ll need to figure out the exact reason why they’re losing feathers. By understanding the cause, you can help your feathery friends if they have health issues.
This is the most common reason why a chicken’s feathers may start to disappear. Feather picking usually happens to chicks when they begin to grow feathers. Also, a mature chicken might pick its feathers during molting.
So, how can you tell that the chicken is picking its own feathers? If the feathers on the top of its tail begin to disappear, that’s your signal to take action.
Feather picking is typically a management mechanism, and it’s triggered by a number of conditions.
- Poor nutrition
- Bright lights in the chicken coop for 24 hours per day
- Too warm housing conditions
- Improper ventilation
- An overcrowded environment
- A boring atmosphere
Thus, if you notice that your chicken has started to pick her feathers, you may want to recheck its living conditions. Once you solve the problem, your chicken should have an improved mood and less stress.
Undoubtedly, parasites can be annoying to your chicken a great deal. For instance, the existence of lice and mites in a chicken’s feathers will cause her to peck herself over and over to get rid of the itch.
Over time, the chicken might injure itself if the parasites aren’t treated.
You can easily fix this issue by using organic pesticides. Don’t forget to treat other chickens, roosters, nests, and any corners or crevices in the coop. You don’t know where these parasites might be hiding.
We recommend that you repeat this treatment until you’re sure that there aren’t any parasites left.
A pullet gradually loses about 30% of her feathers when she completes her first laying cycle. The remaining feathers will be weak, and they might fall off with the chicken’s movement.
Your job here is to fortify what’s left of her feathers using free-choice calcium. So, you can introduce crushed oyster shells to your chicken since they contain a decent amount of calcium.
This calcium, as well as a nutritious diet, will help the feathers grow into smoother and stronger plumage.
When a rooster is ready for mating, it usually pulls the feathers on a hen’s head with its beak for support. Of course, this causes the feathers to come loose, and over time, the feathers on the hen’s head and back start falling as well.
To keep the feather loss to the minimum, you can bring the rooster to your hen for only a few hours each week.
A hen needs to provide enough warmth to her eggs to keep them from drying out. Therefore, she’ll develop a de-feathered brood patch on her breast to create direct access to her body heat.
Luckily, this occurrence is purely natural, and you might not even notice this empty patch. When this hen molts after the eggs hatch, these missing feathers will eventually grow back.
Attacks by Predators
Often, a hawk or another predatory bird might attack chickens, causing their feathers to rip in their talons. This usually happens when the hawk can’t lift the chicken fully off the ground, so the predator lets it go with a bunch of feathers in its grasp.
However, you can keep yourself from worrying about such incidents by putting your poultry in a covered coop. Also, you can get your little friend a chicken jacket to keep its back concealed until the feathers grow back.
When Feathers Regrow
After any of the previous scenarios, the feathers will eventually begin to grow back. During this regrowth, the chicken might have an urge to pick the growing feathers. Of course, this will slow down the whole regrowth process, which is the last thing you need.
Fortunately, there’s a solution to this problem. Just get a chicken jacket, which will keep the chicken from picking her feathers. Also, this jacket will protect the empty patch from a potential sunburn.
As the new feathers grow, you should provide your chicken with proper nutrition to make up for its loss. If you do everything right, the feathers should be in full bloom within a month.
To Wrap It Up
Yes chickens will lose their feathers in the summer as they are going through molting, which takes place in late summer and early fall.
To keep your chickens in a healthy condition during this time, you have to provide them with multiple things. These things include an adequate diet, a proper living environment, and a stress-free atmosphere.
If you notice that your chickens are losing feathers out of season, this may be because of parasites, a hawk attack, or other natural reasons. Once you identify the cause, you should be able to eliminate the loss of feathers to a great degree.