If you’ve been keeping chickens for any time, you’ve probably experienced a few episodes where your chickens seem to be losing feathers. It’s always a bit alarming, but usually, it’s nothing to worry about. In this post, we’ll look at common reasons chickens lose feathers and what you can do to help them get through it. Read on to learn more!
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What Causes Chickens to Lose FeathersOne of the most frustrating things that can happen to a chicken keeper is finding out why their chickens are losing feathers. Chickens rely on their feathers for insulation, waterproofing, and camouflage so when they lose them we want to make sure it’s for a healthy reason. A chicken losing feathers can signify poor health or an underlying condition so it’s important to find out why they might be losing them. Some of the most common reasons why chickens lose feathers include:
MoltingChickens typically molt (lose and grow new feathers) once or twice a year. The amount of daylight can influence molting, so it’s not unusual to see molting occur in the fall as the days get shorter. While molting is a natural process, it can be stressful for chickens and may cause them to lose more feathers than usual. However, overall it is a common and normal thing. Here’s an educational video going over what to expect when it comes to chicken molting: Read More: What Time of Day Do Chickens Lay Their Eggs? Knowing when chickens lay eggs can prevent broken eggs at collection time!
MitesFeather mites are tiny parasites that live in the shafts of feathers. They cause irritation and itchiness, leading to excessive preening and feather loss. It’s important to get rid of these as soon as possible to ensure the safety and health of your chickens.
LiceChicken lice are more significant than mites and live on the skin, not the feathers. They cause irritation and intense itching, leading to feather loss. You’ll notice your chickens scratching and that they’re losing feathers. Getting treatment for the lice as soon as possible is essential.
StressLike humans, chickens can experience stress from time to time. Common sources of stress for chickens include changes in their environment (such as a move to a new coop), sudden changes in temperature, predator scares, and overcrowding. When stressed, chickens may start picking at their feathers or engage in other self-destructive behaviors that can lead to feather loss.
Nutritional DeficienciesA lack of certain nutrients in the diet can lead to feather loss. Nutritional deficiencies are often seen in chickens fed a poor diet or not given enough access to greens and other fresh foods. Nutrients from a well-balanced diet are used to grow their feathers thick and shiny.
DiseasesSeveral diseases can cause feather loss in chickens, including Newcastle disease, infectious bronchitis, and avian influenza. If you suspect your chicken is sick, contact a veterinarian for help. Read our related article, Why is My Duck Losing Feathers? If you have ducks in your flock, here’s why they could be losing feathers.
Signs That Your Chickens May Be SickChickens are susceptible to various illnesses, many of which can be fatal if left untreated. Fortunately, several telltale signs can help you identify a sick chicken before it’s too late. If you notice any of the following symptoms in your chickens, make sure to contact a veterinarian as soon as possible.
Loss of appetiteA healthy chicken will have a hearty appetite and eat almost anything you put in front of it. If your chicken suddenly stops eating or only picks at its food, it may be sick.
LethargyChickens are usually active and playful creatures. If yours seems unusually tired or sluggish, it could signify illness.
Sneezing or CoughingChickens can catch colds and other respiratory infections like humans. If you notice your chicken sneezing or coughing, take it to the vet immediately.
Discharge From the Eyes or NoseClear and watery discharge is usually just a sign of allergies. However, discharge that is greenish or yellowish could indicate a bacterial infection.
Changes in BehaviorSick chickens often exhibit changes in behavior, such as aggression or depression. If you notice your chicken is acting out of character, have it checked out by a professional. Read More: How Do Chickens Sleep at Night? Learning more about chickens can help you to take care of them properly, so knowing more about sleep patterns, eating, and their bodies can be beneficial.
How to Treat a Chicken With Missing FeathersIf you notice that your chicken is missing feathers, there are a few potential causes.
Parasites (Mites or Lice)These tiny bugs can cause your chicken to lose feathers as they crawl around and bite the skin. Determining if there are mites or something else can determine your next course of action. If you see any evidence of parasites, treat your chicken with an appropriate insecticide.
Poor NutritionEnsure your chicken has access to a balanced diet of grains, greens, and protein.
StressChickens are susceptible to stressors such as changes in their environment or poor social interactions. If you think stress might cause your chicken’s feather loss, try providing a calm and relaxed atmosphere, and ensure that your chicken has plenty of opportunities to socialize with other chickens. These steps can help your chicken recover its lost feathers and stay healthy and happy. Read More: Why Have My Chickens Stopped Laying Eggs in Summer? Stressors can lead to a halt in egg production, along with other causes.
How to Prevent Chickens From Losing FeathersThere are several reasons why your chickens may be losing feathers. However, there are some ways you can try to prevent feather loss in chickens. Here are some tips to prevent feather loss in chickens:
- Provide a balanced diet with all the essential nutrients for chicken health.
- Keep the coop clean and free of parasites. Perform regular checks for mites, lice, and other pests.
- Treat any fungal infections promptly.
- Give your chickens plenty of space to move around and exercise.
- Provide perches for your chickens to sleep on at night. Sleeping on the ground can cause feather damage.
- Reduce stressors in your chicken’s environment. Too much noise or activity can cause chickens to lose feathers due to stress. Try to create a calm and peaceful environment for your flock.
- Check for parasites. If your chickens are itchy or scratched, they may have mites or other parasites. Treating them with an approved poultry pesticide will help eliminate the problem and prevent further feather loss.