New poultry farmers might have a hard time discovering why chickens are losing feathers. If this is something that’s bothering you, then keep on reading this post!
The loss of chicken feathers may cause shock. You must understand how crucial its effect is, its reasons, and ways to prevent it.
Effects Of Chicken Feather Loss
Did you know that feather loss might cause grave consequences for both the flock and the poultry farmer’s business?
Chicken feathers are used to be a protective cover from sun, rain, cold, and injury. Without it, the flock might experience severe health issues like the ones listed below.
Although issues in laying eggs are common for chickens, it is almost impossible to identify its cause if you don’t observe your hen’s behavior. This issue can happen due to stress and vitamin deficiencies.
This one may seem like a light problem, but it is not. More often, cuts happen in areas that do not have protection from the feather. When your chicken loses feathers, then its skin becomes vulnerable to cut.
Since feather loss causes an open space in the chicken’s body or skin, they become much more susceptible to infections such as bacterial and fungal. They also become prone to parasitic diseases due to lice, worms, ticks, and mites.
As mentioned above, feathers serve as the protective gears of the flock. It is the controller of their body temperature. If they lose their feathers, there will also be an apparent imbalance in their system.
Chickens experience overheating due to over-exposure to the sun. Since they are experiencing feather loss, some parts of their skin are overly-exposed to sunlight which is typically not the case.
If you are asking yourself if a chick can freeze to death, the answer will be yes! Freezing is a state where the chicken feels too cold. It happens since there are not enough feathers to cover them from the breeze.
The analogy in this one is so simple. If a cock loses something, it must regain something. If you intend to grow its feathers back again, the chicken will need to eat plenty more than usual.
It is a struggle on the poultry farmer’s side. You will need to invest and allocate more budget to feed, vitamins, and other sources of nutrients to make their chicken healthy again.
Natural Causes Of Feather Loss
It is necessary to understand that not all the time, feather loss is dangerous and should be a reason to panic. Hence, remind yourself that there are three natural causes of feather loss in the coop.
Preening is a behavior of birds that happens naturally. It is a process that occurs due to the movement of oil from the preen glands located at their tails to their feathers. It also ensures that all stringed barbules are aligned appropriately with the feathers.
Most importantly, due to the preening process, chickens can watch themselves out for parasites and other insects. Moreover, it makes the chicken look tidy as preening is also known as the cock’s natural grooming demeanor.
Another reason for feather loss is the process called molting. Although it may distress new poultry farmers, the familiar ones know that there is nothing to worry about because this occurs annually.
Molting happens every year for the sole reason that chickens need to change their feathers. The process may vary depending on each hen. Some of them take months to molt, but others go through it quickly in two weeks.
You can expect molting during fall or winter. During this period, unusual depletion of egg-laying may be observed because the proteins are designated to make new feathers. Hence, you should let the cock intake a protein-rich diet.
There are numerous stress factors that each chicken in the coop experiences. Unfortunately, these are also the most important reasons which are being overlooked and are not given the same priority as the others.
Some of these stressors are bright lights, loud noise, too high or too low temperature, crowded coops, lack of food and water, and infestations. Look out for these to avoid further damage to your flock and business.
The environment in the coop plays a crucial role in making every individual hen healthy. It must be comfortable and sufficient for all the chickens. Coops are something that all backyard farmers should invest in.
Remember that if humans are prone to stress, probably animals do too!
Inflicted (Unnatural) Causes Of Feather Loss
Chicken feathers may lose due to natural causes. Nevertheless, other reasons are inflicted only by themselves or others in the coop. Thankfully, these can be avoided if resolved immediately. Check out these four unnatural causes of feather loss.
Chickens get moody too! Once they’re on it, they pluck their very own feathers. Hens wait for their eggs to hatch while building them a nest made from their feathers. Remove the eggs from the coop immediately if you don’t want a broody hen.
Broodiness might be hard to spot if you don’t know what a broody hen looks-like. Here’s a tip: moody hens are bad-tempered and grumpy. They are always ready for a fight!
Dominance issues or bullying
Bullying also happens inside the coop! Chickens feel the need to establish power among them. They do this by plucking the feathers of those who are weaker.
As a poultry farmer, you will notice if the loss is caused by bullying or not. If there is any dried blood on the skin of the chicken and it is displaying unusual behavior like anxiousness, then it’s safe to conclude that the feather loss was due to dominance issues.
When this happens, it is much better to separate from the coop the dominant one than the weaker one. That way, the other cocks will be safe from danger.
Cloacitis or vent gleet is a gastrointestinal condition in the chicken’s cloaca that causes it to inflame. Since the infection makes the vent reddish, it will naturally attract others or even the cock itself to pluck plumage on it. Avoid such things by darkening the coop first.
Watch the video below for more tips on how to cure vent gleet!
Mating is indeed normal even for chickens. However, if it becomes excessive and overzealous, then it might result in severe feather loss.
During the mating process, the rooster may pull too much plumage on the hen due to uncontrolled eagerness. Ensure that your hens will not get hurt by separating the aggressive roosters into a different coop.
15 Effective Prevention Tips
Now, let us proceed to one of the essential parts of this blog. Let us know the tips on how to prevent or avoid feather loss in chickens. Although it may take a while and you cannot fully eradicate it, these ways will surely help in minimizing the problem.
As a backyard farmer, it is best to do all these tips, but if you can’t, then it’s okay. Take it one step at a time. Let us begin!
Best ways to mitigate the causes of feather loss:
- Examine the chicken and ensure that there are no bleeding spots or damage on the skin
- If you are sure that the chicken is undergoing molting, then the only thing you can do is to provide a feed that has a higher protein and fat rate. That way, their body can recover.
- Stop the Stressor. Give the chickens a safe, peaceful, and healthy environment they deserve.
- Separating the chickens that have issues is highly recommended.
- Thoroughly inspect your chickens every day. Look for changes in behavior and diet patterns.
- Do not overcrowd. It will cause chaos in the coop because all want to survive.
- The coop must have a ten square feet space outside and three square feet on the inside.
- There must be a dust bath available for the chickens.
- Bring the chickens to the veterinarian as soon as they show any troubling signs of unusual feather loss.
- Regularly clean the coop. Clean the food and water trays.
- Create good lighting and ventilation.
- Change in the diet must be gradual, not abrupt. Remember, the chicken’s body will react to the change.
- Cover the coop and have it locked, especially at night. It is to avoid attacks and rodents.
- Control the coop temperature. Most importantly to those who are suffering from feather loss.
- Be an observant poultry farmer. Never take your chickens for granted. Care for your flock.
It may be a long list of tips, but we assure you that these are helpful for your chickens. After all, you owe your coop all these safety and preventive tips.
Backyard farmers are responsible for ensuring the health of their flock. Achieve this by understanding the causes of why chickens are losing feathers so you can apply the correct emergency care for them.
When you’re not sure what to do, remember that the help of other professionals is always available!
Joseph Hudson has been raising chickens for over 15 years. In 2018, he completed the Agriculture & Natural Resources program at Mt. San Antonio College. He currently raises over 1400 chickens on his 7.5-hectare farm. He keeps sharing his experience on raising healthy and happy chickens on Chicken & Scratch.