Why does it look like some of your chickens don’t molt at all, while others are nearly bald during molting season?
Don’t worry—while it may appear that only a few ladies from your flock are molting in summer and fall, they all go through normal, healthy cycles that take anywhere from as little as one month to as long as five months.
Read more: What Happens When a Chicken Molts (A Visual Guide)
Here’s a look at why some of your chickens seem to be speedy molters, while others go through a full molt very slowly.
The main factor that determines the length of time for old feathers to shed and new feathers to grow is the particular breed of chicken.
Your most productive layers will molt the fastest.
They go through hard molts, whereby clutches of feathers seemingly drop overnight. It’s sometimes hard to believe that big old pile of feathers came from only one chicken! (And even harder to believe that the average adult chicken has around 8,000 feathers… that’s a lot of energy going into regrowing her coat.)
Hard molters can resemble porcupines (hilariously so!) and while their appearance is a little unsightly at this stage, they usually have fluffy new coats within weeks of their first feather drop. (And that’s a good thing, as the feathers help with insulation and weatherproofing over winter.)
Hard molters generally resume egg production after finishing their molts, which explains why certain chickens continue laying through the dark days of winter.
Your poorest layers, on the other hand, will molt the slowest.
They typically go through soft molts, shedding only a few feathers here and there. You may not even notice they’ve begun to molt, but you’ll definitely notice they’ve ceased their egg laying. Their molts may spread out over five or more months, meaning they usually won’t lay again until spring.
There’s nothing you can do to speed up the process, but even these soft molters benefit from a little extra protein during their long cycles to help them stay healthy.
It’s been shown that molts progress in a predictable pattern from top to tail. A lot of times this is true, but it isn’t always the case.
Don’t be alarmed if you notice your chicken losing her tail feathers first, or if she appears to be dropping feathers in a haphazard fashion all over her body.
Every chicken experiences a molt differently, even from year to year. And sometimes, environmental factors such as heat stress, malnutrition, or dehydration can cause molting out of season, or for longer than normal.
My experience with molting chickens
With my own flock, my Barred Rock, Kimora, is a prolific layer. She gives us five, sometimes six eggs a week in peak season, and she’s a fast and furious molter in the fall.
By week seven, all her new feathers are fully grown in and she’ll gift us with a couple of eggs each week over winter.
My Golden Laced Cochin, Iman, likes to take her sweet time. Cochins are not known for being super productive, but they’re always reliable. In summer, she lays around three eggs a week, and we cherish every one of them!
She usually starts molting in late summer to early fall and I only notice it after I find a few feathers in the coop—feathers, but not eggs. This continues until late winter when she finally pops out her first egg after a long hiatus.
But this girl… what she lacks in egg productivity, she makes up for in lookin’ good year-round.
Common questions about molting
This post updated from an article that originally appeared on December 3, 2015.
Kimberly @ KimRidge FarmDecember 13, 2015 at 5:00 am
We clipped our Golden Comets’ wings about three years ago and they are still clipped. We haven’t observed any molting in GC’s, Leghorns, Australorps, or NH/RI Reds. It’s very strange. My chicks are full-time free-rangers in the woods and pastures (except for night time in the coop). Any thoughts on why they don’t molt? May be their molting is just occasional loosing and regrowing a feather here and there?
My chickens lay pretty much on a daily schedule all winter long. It gets pretty cold here in KY in February and March. But then, they stop laying for a month-and-a-half in the middle of the summer heat. The amount of light doesn’t seem to effect their laying abilities. I started using scheduled lighting in their coop this year, but it doesn’t seem necessary. Light is mostly for the convenience of climbing on their roost at night.
Linda Ly of Garden BettyDecember 15, 2015 at 7:26 pm
All chickens go through annual molts as part of their natural cycles, but perhaps yours just aren’t that noticeable (soft molts). They also don’t molt all at the same time; some start in summer while others wait until winter. If you’re adding artificial light in winter, this can throw off their circadian rhythms so they may not molt with the reduced daylight (instead waiting until it’s very cold, which can sometimes be problematic if you have very harsh winters). Eventually, their bodies will tell them to drop their feathers at some point in the year, whether all at once or bit by bit.
Merry KingDecember 7, 2015 at 11:05 am
Merry King liked this on Facebook.
gardenbettyDecember 6, 2015 at 9:01 pm
Your flock’s laying habits in winter are related to their molting habits. Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/Q029zoX2nQ
gardenbettyDecember 5, 2015 at 3:01 pm
If you’ve ever wondered why only half your flock is bald… Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/FyqpW6VAji #gardenchat
Broderick ProegerDecember 5, 2015 at 10:50 am
Broderick Proeger liked this on Facebook.
gardenbettyDecember 5, 2015 at 9:02 am
Pillow fights in the coop? Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/wzAZZlbACi #backyardchickens https://t.co/JyCfx1lRhA
gardenbettyDecember 4, 2015 at 6:01 pm
Your best layers shed feathers the quickest (and other fun facts). Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/IV2TIW4Wm6
Lauren HayesDecember 4, 2015 at 10:50 am
Lauren Hayes liked this on Facebook.
Steve HerrDecember 4, 2015 at 10:50 am
Steve Herr liked this on Facebook.
Nancy Jacques BarrattDecember 4, 2015 at 10:50 am
Nancy Jacques Barratt liked this on Facebook.
Lauren ParnassDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Lauren Parnass liked this on Facebook.
Maria GraceDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Maria Grace liked this on Facebook.
Holly Curl GermanDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Holly Curl German liked this on Facebook.
Beth Pappadopoulas AbateDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Beth Pappadopoulas Abate liked this on Facebook.
Will TaylorDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Will Taylor liked this on Facebook.
Greg HadelDecember 3, 2015 at 10:50 pm
Greg Hadel liked this on Facebook.
Garden BettyDecember 3, 2015 at 4:02 pm
I’ve been cheating on my chickens… by buying eggs from the store. I can’t wait for Kimora to start laying again this winter!
Jennifer Dendinger CrandallDecember 3, 2015 at 2:35 pm
Jennifer Dendinger Crandall liked this on Facebook.
Jen Foerster EdwardsDecember 3, 2015 at 2:35 pm
Jen Foerster Edwards liked this on Facebook.
gardenbettyDecember 3, 2015 at 12:02 pm
Is some of your flock bald this season? Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/1ubhgyY2iG #poultry https://t.co/lDKpo3Ajee
yawningreyhoundDecember 3, 2015 at 11:13 am
Congrats on your Sprout!!!!!!
I thought I was going to avoid the molt this year as I have two Feb-born girls, and two 3-year olds who apparently weren’t going to molt this year, going thru a huge molt last year! Ha. Now that we’re in the teens temperatures, they’ve started to drop feathers like crazy, all four of them.
And one of the older ones (a GLW, too, but no feathery feet) has even gotten a little pale and lost a little weight. She gets about 3 more days to pink up again or we’re heading into the avian vet (that $64 visit sure screws with egg prices, eh?).
I actually had to turn on the heat lamp in the run for them it got so cold here in CO last week. They quite liked it, choosing to roost in the run rather than their normally cozy but not heated sleeping coop. Then I turn off the light due to warmer temps and what do i find last night? They’re STILL roosting in the run. Tonight I’m moving them in to the coop to reestablish that habit!
Linda Ly of Garden BettyDecember 5, 2015 at 2:26 am
As for your hens, it’s normal for their combs and wattles to pale during molting, and if you notice they’re not eating as much, it’s likely a sign to give them an extra boost of protein in their feed. I give mine scrambled eggs and other high-protein snacks to help with new feather growth.
yawningreyhoundDecember 5, 2015 at 10:19 am
oh gosh they love scrambled eggs! I’ve been giving them that just to give them something warm on these frigid mornings. Also, I found a feed called Feather Fixer by Nutrena, I believe, that’s 16% protein. And they LOVE it! Plus their mealworms/soldier fly larva/boss. It’s amazing they’re laying ANY eggs (i get one a day maybe) with all the protein/fat treats I’m giving them! But it’s about staying warm and growing feathers, not laying eggs right now! Oh, to be in Hawaii with chickens.
Laurie SmithDecember 3, 2015 at 10:35 am
Laurie Smith liked this on Facebook.
Stacy McIntosh DavisDecember 3, 2015 at 10:35 am
Stacy McIntosh Davis liked this on Facebook.
Neligh UstDecember 3, 2015 at 10:35 am
Neligh Ust liked this on Facebook.
Sarah Ann BarnardDecember 3, 2015 at 8:35 am
Sarah Ann Barnard liked this on Facebook.
Donna PeckDecember 3, 2015 at 8:35 am
Donna Peck liked this on Facebook.
AlteruralDecember 3, 2015 at 6:20 am
Alterural liked this on Facebook.
Lydia AnnDecember 3, 2015 at 6:20 am
Lydia Ann liked this on Facebook.
gardenbettyDecember 3, 2015 at 6:00 am
Blogged on Garden Betty: Why Some Chickens Molt Faster Than Others https://t.co/28Eh9ZXLxZ