Molting hens really do look like zombies. Photo: Author
Like most normal people, I didn’t think much about molted feathers before I had chickens. Now, with a dozen hens, someone’s always molting at least a little. And our oldest hen, a white Leghorn named Wanda, molts like it’s an Olympic sport. At least once a year, her feathers fall out in clumps and she struts around with bald pink patches of flesh exposed. Friends are horrified. They expect me to take action. One even knitted Wanda a sweater.
Wanda doesn’t seem happy during molts, but she liked the sweater even less than losing her feathers. Turns out she’d rather be half-naked, even in chilly fall weather. Because the truth is, in Central Texas it just doesn’t get cold enough for molting to be a health issue.
The secret is you don’t really need to do anything for your hens while they’re molting, except to lower your expectations for egg output and maybe take the opportunity to check their exposed skin for mites and other parasites. One thing you can do, if you like, is to collect the molted feathers. I do this to keep the yard looking decent and because the washed feathers make great additions to the fancy hairpieces and costume appliques I create in my spare time. (If your hens don’t molt enough to satisfy your crafting needs, you can shop on Etsy for humanely harvested chicken feathers for your projects.)
It’s also a good idea to re-check your birds’ wings after a molt to see if new flight feathers have come in. If so, it’s time to clip them to prevent over-the-fence adventures. Never clipped chicken feathers? I’ll show you how in my next post.