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It’s embarrassing not to look your best. And a molting chicken is bedraggled and generally pitiful.

For comparison, look at Whitey in full feather:

Wow, what a difference! Molting happens every fall for chickens who lay eggs. They lose their feathers and grow a new set. It takes about a month. The first time one of the chickens molted, I thought something had attacked them, partly because of this:

Feathers everywhere! I started keeping them inside their fenced chicken yard and watching for foxes. Then, despite their confinement, another of the chickens started looking like she’s been through the washer’s spin cycle, and I realized my mistake.

Now I know what to look for. Poor thing hangs her head and clucks around, miserable. She was downright camera shy, while all the rest of them pushed and shoved, “No take my picture, look at me, aren’t I pretty? Take me!” After a couple of minutes of this, Whitey went and hid under a wheel barrow.

I understand. I mean, I wouldn’t want someone to take my picture if I looked like this. I told her it was for the education of the masses. She hid in the chicken house. I think the conversation went pretty well, considering.

The new feathers come out tightly rolled. They look sharp, like they would hurt, but they don’t seem to.

Still, in the midst of her disgrace, Whitey continues laying her daily egg. She’s such a trooper. Only, instead of laying them in the egg boxes…

…she’s laying them everywhere else. On top of hay bales…

…under the hay bales…

…in the yard…

…behind the Noah house.

Poor baby. She’ll be better in a couple of weeks. In the meantime, she will not be taking phone calls, nor receiving guests. So don’t bother.

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23 Responses to this chicken is molting

  1. Tracie says:

    AWW poor whitey

  2. Oz Drummond says:

    Some of our red sex-link hens never seem to get all their feathers back, poor things. We usually start calling them ‘featherless bipeds.’ And they don’t always have a good sense of when they’re supposed to molt, either. Your chicken is obviously much more in tune with the cosmos.


  3. Mom says:

    Poor Whitney. I played catch-up today. Loved the Whitney offering. Hope all are well. I turned my foot Friday so am still limping. Catherine and I are planning on coming for the day on 10/24 to celebrate Luc’s birthday, 10/27. Do you plan on being there on 10/24? I love you.

  4. ruthie says:

    This will my first flock in about 35 years, so now it’s time to re-educate myself about molting hens! One of my seven hens started to molt and she too is an unhappy chick. I am concerned though because of they way she’s walking. It’s more like she’s crouching close to the ground. Thankfully she doesn’t appear to be in pain, she’s eating and still laying eggs.(we have no roosters) I don’t recall such behavor during the molting process so I will continue to read more about molting. Thank-you for sharing whitey’s story!

  5. Sylvia says:

    We have a 3 1/2 year old Rhode Island Red hen that is going through a molt right now, and she is also crouching close to the ground when she walks, as if she is afraid of everything. She eats and drinks, but she isn’t laying right now. My daughter is very worried about this odd crouching behavior. We have 5 dearly beloved pet hens, and we would love to hear of anyone else’s experience with this! Thank you

    • maya says:

      I don’t know if different kinds of chickens act differently (some more aggressive, some more broody, etc) but I can say that mine act very embarassed when they are molting. This could be me anthropomorphizing them, but they hunker down, stay close to the chicken house, stay hidden. They are usually so confident and bossy, scolding the cat or demanding to be fed, etc. The shyness of molting is a striking contrast. Our Whitey is totally through her molt now and she is back to her old bossy, scolding self. I hope your gal get to feeling right again soon!

  6. Sylvia says:

    Thank you for your encouraging reply. “Redhenley” looks completely bedraggled and prickly like your Whitey, only more so. I’ve been able to find a couple other posts describing this “crouching” walk, but not many follow up with the outcome. The one that did said their hen was fine after the molt. Redhenley is eating, drinking, jumping off her perch and landing in a balanced posture. Her droppings are normal, her eyes look bright, comb is bright red, feet look good. She just goes into a strange walk all of a sudden where she looks like a heavy hand is pressing down on her back. Then she’ll straighten up again. It is just so odd. If she’s just reacting to all the prickles on her wings, we could almost laugh at her. But we’ll reserve that for when we’re sure all is well.

    What kind of hen is Whitey? She looks like a silver version of our Ameraucana. She’s gorgeous! I love your pictures. Thanks again

    • maya says:

      Yes, Whitey is an Ameraucana and lays lovely blue eggs. She’s such a trooper. Did you see the post shortly after the molting post where she got stuck in our electric goat fence?! Horror. But she has totally come through it and seems unaffected. Amazing!

  7. constance says:

    I have my first small flock (8) chickens, and was very alarmed to see the first one start to lose some feathers. There is now an area about 4″ by 3″ which is bare and then another one stared losing feathers and the whole pen was full of feathers. I was so glad to read your info. I thought they may have mites or something. Do you know if the chickens will stay warm enough at night without all of their feathers? Thanks.

    • maya says:

      I have wondered about the chickens being cold, too. I think the molting is triggered by the shortened daylight, so I reckon they are programmed to molt when they do, in the fall, for a reason. But if you live in a very cold place, such that fall is already getting around freezing, if it were me I might be thinking of ways to warm those chickens up at night. Closing up their house, maybe, or some kind of very-fire-safe heat for them. Around here, in the south, falls are pretty mild, so I’ve never felt like I needed to do anything, but I have considered it.

  8. constance says:

    Thanks again Maya for your help. I live in the wine country in California so I think I’m ok for now. I’ll start reading your info about living in a yurt.

  9. Maya 2! says:

    I have a chicken that I think is molting…but I don’t really know that much about it. I’m obviously going to do more research on it, but she has been attacking anyone who tries to touch her or even gently move her out of the way (when feeding them or giving clean water) Have you ever had one that gets really aggressive? Or is this something else?
    Awesome name, by the way :)

    • maya says:

      Hi Maya 2, thank you for stopping by my blog! I’ve never had an aggressive chicken. If she’s usually sweet tempered, I’d wonder if she’s in pain and is sick, rather than simply molting. It’s so hard to tell with chickens! Is she drinking and eating all right?

  10. Amy says:

    Hi There,
    I, too, have a Rhode Island Red is seem to be moulting. She is crouching very low to the ground, we, too are finding it very odd. I’ve checked her for mites, but she seem so very skiddish now. I have also read that giving the moulting chickens cat food to improve their protien can help, since they lose so much during the moult. I can see the newly rolled up feather coming now, so we’re hopeful that she will improve with her brand new feathers!! I just not caught her eating the cat food, Thank GOD!! She is still eating, pooping, but not sure about the laying, we’ll keep an eye, glad we’re not the only ones with a duck-like chicken!!

    • maya says:

      Awww, poor baby. She’s probably feeling poorly. That cat food thing is news to me, interesting. I hope she feels better soon!

  11. keila says:

    hay guys i have chickens but this is my first time and when they molt do they get mean? and just to the human but also to of chickens or do i have something else wrong with my chicken?

    • maya says:

      Hi Keila, Thanks for stopping by. I can only comment on what my chickens did, and they didn’t get mean but their personalities did change–they clearly didn’t feel like themselves. I had really sweet chickens, though, they would come up to be petted and let the kids carry them around. Maybe a more grumpy chicken would get even more grumpy when feeling out of sorts?

  12. maryanne says:

    hi, does anyone no what is going on i have a rhoda Island red she’ll be two in march she loosing her feathers in the middle of her back a small area i don’t see any of the other girls picking on her she eating and acting fine I haven’t seen a true molting with them yet it’s only august and i didn’t think they should be moulten yet should they?

  13. Sue at Belle Star Farm says:

    Our hens have shown all the behaviors mentioned already with the exception of this ducking behavior. I’ve been very worried since now one if our americaunas is molting badly, is droopy and ducking, too. I’m glad to know that it’s yet another symptom of molting. Poor gal, she’s one if our most beautiful.

    Cat food is excellent as us plain yogurt (it’s also less stinky). Our hens love it!

  14. One of mine started molting a couple of weeks ago, and I think my Americauna is about to start. She has not laid for a few days, and she’s getting cranky like my molting Welsummer who refuses to go into the side yard or the coop with the others. Her favorite treats aren’t even tempting her, so I have to let her go places on her own time.

  15. stan says:

    dose this happen to male chickens?

  16. Drema says:

    We have a Rhodes Island Red she is walking crouched down then normal. Her feathers are very pretty and normal . We have wormed.any suggestions?

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