Chicken Feather Loss: Common Causes, Treatment and FAQs

Are your chickens losing their feathers? If yes, then this guide on chicken feather loss will help you get rid of this issue.

In the past, chicken feathers were not given much attention. People did not notice their absence until they disappeared altogether.

At that time there is a lack of knowledge about what causes chicken feather loss, how to prevent it from occurring and its treatment. 

There are a number of factors that cause feather loss and various ways to treat it. Read the following article for more information on chicken feather loss and the factors involved.

Feather Loss in Chickens and Poultry Birds

Feather loss is most commonly observed on the bodies of chickens. The main part of the bird affected is the outermost, and most visible, part of the feathers. 

This is where a chicken has its primary means of attracting predators and other animals. The areas around joints are also prone to feather loss, especially in chickens that use their wings for mobility. 

This is because the skin in these areas is extremely dry and lacks natural oils, so the cells inside become brittle. But apart from this, there are so many other causes of chicken feather loss.

What Causes Chicken Feather Loss?

The way in which your chicken’s feathers are detachable from their bodies shows you how fragile they are. This does not mean that this type of feather loss is harmful, and it is not going to cause your chicken any damage.

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There are different factors that can cause chicken feather loss. Below are the most important factors:

Molting

Molting is the natural process by which a species grows and develops new feathers. When a bird’s feathers are growing, they are often damaged or infected. 

Sometimes this causes bleeding in the skin and feathers, resulting in feather loss. Molt runs in families in which birds have the same molt schedule as chickens of other breeds of birds.

Malnutrition

Extremely low levels of nutrients and vitamins in the feed can cause feather loss in chickens. If you provide good quality feed to your chickens, they will live healthy without any skin infections or feather loss.

Also read: Best vitamins and minerals for chickens

Stress

Stress can cause everything from feather loss to chickens that are constantly sick. Some of the ways that this stress shows itself is by a chicken’s inability to eat, which leads to feather loss and a weakened body. 

It is also possible that when one of your chickens is attacked by a predator, this chicken may experience “feather loss.” Or, it may have a weakened body and will not be able to use its wings to fly away from the situation.

Parasitic infestation

A parasitic infestation is caused by lice and mite eggs that are stuck to the chicken’s feathers and skin. When parasites give their eggs and start multiplying, they suck blood that can destroy the feathers. 

Infestations with lice mainly occur in chickens during molting seasons. It is possible that you could have chickens that are infected with internal parasites. 

This can cause the feathers to fall out and make the chicken lose weight. When this happens, it becomes weak and easily affected by other conditions such as hypothermia.

Also read: Complete guide on chicken wormers

5. Skin Infections

Skin infections can cause a chicken’s body to be weakened, which causes feather loss. Most of the time, this occurs when a chicken is affected by lice or mites that cause it to become weak.

But sometimes wet or old litter can also cause skin infections in chickens. You must change the chicken coop bedding once a month to keep your chickens healthy.

6. Hypothermia

A chicken becomes cold and shaky with hypothermia. This can cause a chicken to become unable to stretch its feathers as it normally would. 

This causes the feather to pop out of its skin, making it look like it has lost its feathers. The cold may also cause the chicken to lose coordination and lose the ability to use its wings.

7. Chicken Pecking order

The true pecking order is the order in which a flock of birds naturally stands when there are threats nearby. The first to act when a threat approaches is the one who is on top of the pecking order. 

The first to act during a threat is the one who has the most power in the flock. When a chicken is at the bottom of the order, it faces a lot of tension. 

It cannot eat, drink, or even walk without being assaulted by its flock mates. When this happens, it is likely that this chicken’s feathers will fall out. 

Chickens with feathers like these should be removed from the flock and either slaughtered or separated from their flock mates. Sometimes, intense fighting between flocks also causes feather pecking and falling.

Also read: Know all about chicken pecking order

8. Excessive mating

Excessive mating mostly causes feather loss in the hen’s upper body. It is because of the pressure of the roosters’ legs. 

Also, excessive mating weakens a hen’s body and makes the feathers thin. It also reduces its feeding capacity, which leads to feather loss. These chickens are less likely to lay eggs.

9. Change in diet

Changing the diet of your chickens can cause feather loss because each one has very specific nutritional values. 

When you switch chicken diets, it can be hard for them to adapt and adjust to the new diet. This can lead to excessive shedding.

Also read: Complete guide on feeding chickens

10. Excessive treats

When a chicken eats too many of its treats, it can damage or overwhelm its digestive system. This can cause the chicken to get sick and even experience feather loss.

Also, most of the treats contain sugar and salt, which cause worm infestation initially, which leads to feather loss in chickens.

Also read: List of top 120+ chicken treats

Treatment and Cure for Chicken Feather Loss

Feather loss is an unfortunate and common occurrence in many chicken breeds. However, this condition is usually temporary and not life-threatening.

Most chickens go through a period of molting over the course of their lifetime. There are, however, permanent forms of feather loss that are caused by disease or injury and require treatment.

two molting chickens in coop
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Below are some of the treatments for chicken feather loss:

1. Contact your vet to understand the issue first.

The first thing to do if you notice your chicken is losing its feathers is to contact your vet. Have your vet take a look at the chicken and advise on the best course of action.

Some of the things this can be done is removing lice or mites from their bodies. This can be done through medication or directly through a veterinarian.

The vet will also determine the cause of the feather loss and advise you on what to do next.

2. Provide a dust bath area

One of the best ways to reduce chicken feather loss is to help chickens clean themselves. The way they do this is by providing a dust bath area. 

This will help keep their feathers healthy by removing all mites and lice from their bodies. Mixing diatomaceous earth powder in a dust bath will remove all types of pests.

Also read: Know all about chicken dust bath

3. Add vitamins and minerals to a daily diet

Vitamins are essential for keeping chickens healthy. This can be added to their daily diet by feeding them mealworms, crickets, and bugs. It is also possible to get them through canned chicken or quail food. 

It is important to provide your chicken with a daily diet that has the proper amounts of vitamins and minerals. This will help ensure the health of each feather.

4. Give treats in moderation

Most of the time, chickens will eat their treats in moderation. Treats or food rich in protein can cause an increased amount of molting, especially if they are exposed to stress or are given frequent bits. 

The other side of this is that they will start eating their feathers at an alarming rate. What you can do is choose treats that have very little protein in them. If you do this, it will help reduce the amount of feather loss.

5. Clean the chicken coop regularly

It is very important to keep chicken coops clean. This is because it provides a healthier and cleaner environment for chickens. 

When kept clean, this can reduce the risk of infection. It can also reduce chicken feather loss caused by mites and lice. Follow the deep litter system to keep your chickens clean.

6. Keep correct hen vs rooster ratio

Do not put more roosters in a hen house than what is needed. When you do this, it can cause a lot of fighting among the males. This can cause the hens as well as roosters to lose their feathers.

This also contributes to high egg production and decreases the chick mortality rate. It is also possible that the roosters may kill each other. 

To prevent this from happening, it is best to have at least one rooster for every square foot of the hen house.

7. Do deworming if required

Applying deworming supplements is one of the best methods to reduce the chances of chicken feather loss. The deworming supplement will help reduce mites and lice in your chickens. This prevents feather loss in chickens.

8. Separate weak chickens from the flock

If one of your chicken is weak, it may get pecked and eaten by other chickens. This may also cause chicken feather loss. This is mostly happen because of cannibalism in chickens.

If this happens, you should remove the injured or bleeding chicken from the flock and care for it separately. This way, it will not be able to eat or drink without the constant attacks of its flock mates.

If you notice that a chicken has an injury or is sick, you should separate it from the flock to avoid further problems. Within few weeks it will start eating, and become healthy with new feathers growth.

9. Bypass poor safety structures

It is very important to keep your chicken coop clean and to keep it in a safe environment. You should avoid having poor, flimsy structures that may cause accidents. 

It is also important to provide the chickens with ample space for them to move around. This can help reduce feather loss.

If you don’t have a poultry shed, you can buy or built a portable chicken coop to keep your flocks.

10. Provide a comfortable nesting box and roost

A comfortable nesting box and roosting perch is one of the best ways to reduce chicken feather loss. Chickens will show stress when they are confined in small places or cages for too long. 

You need to provide a good nesting box for hens and roosting for your flocks. Make sure that it is spacious enough for them to move around. This will reduce stress and feather loss.

FAQs on Chicken Feather Loss

Why do chickens lose their feathers?

A chicken can lose its feathers for many reasons. It may be a result of genetics or poor breeding. It may also be caused by the environment or a poor diet.

Feather loss is also common during the molting season. If the right conditions are provided, your chicken will be able to shed its feathers at will. However, this should be done in a healthy and stress-free environment.

How many feathers does a chicken have?

A regular chicken has 10,000 feathers. However, some breeds of chicken have more feathers than others. This is because they have different feather placements on their bodies.

Will chicken feathers grow back?

Yes, a few days after shedding their feathers, chickens will grow a new set of feathers. This is to help protect them from predators and to keep them warm.

Why is my chicken losing feathers on her back?

You can look at a chicken’s back to understand the loss of feathers. The feathers on their back should be rounded and full. If you see a chicken with a droopy back, you may want to get it checked. 

This means that it is also shedding its feathers. The main reasons behind this are poor nutrition and stress.

How can I prevent my chicken from losing feathers?

There are natural methods that you can use to prevent your chickens from losing their feathers.

You should provide them with access to feed and water at all times. This will help stimulate their immune systems to fight off any gram-positive bacteria and parasites.

If your chicken is molting during the winter, you need to keep it warm with either a heating pad or coop heater. This will help stimulate the chickens in re-growing their feathers.

How many feathers do chickens lose when molting?

When the molting season comes, the chickens will usually lose up to 10-15% of their feathers. This is a normal process if done in the right way.

Conclusion

Feather loss is something that occurs in many chicken breeds. It can be frustrating for chicken owners because this condition can lead to low productivity. 

However, this condition is generally not life-threatening and can be managed by simple changes in diet and treatment. A lot of care and knowledge goes into keeping chickens healthy and productive. 

This article helps you understand this condition better, but always seek a veterinarian’s advice if you notice signs of illness in your chickens or they are not performing well in terms of egg production.

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I am Bijaya Kumar and I have been raising chickens for the last 10 years. Backyard poultry farming has been our family business for the last 30 years. We raise multiple chicken breeds in their backyard.

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