Frequently Asked Questions about Backyard Flocks

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Date: 
March 2010
Volume: 
50
Number: 
4

Why are my chickens loosing feathers?  There are several possible reasons why chickens may be losing feathers. Nutrition is the first factor to consider. Protein requirements of chickens change as they mature. The nutrient requirements also change depending on whether the birds are being used for egg or meat production. The best way to assure proper nutrition is for the backyard flock owner to purchase a properly balanced and formulated feed for the appropriate age and type of bird.  Poultry may lose feathers due to molt. Molt is a natural condition in which the birds will cease to lay eggs and lose feathers from their neck, breast and back areas. It is a process that birds typically undergo when day length becomes shorter to provide a rest period prior to the birds going into maximum egg production when the day length gets longer in the spring.  Feather pecking, where other birds “bite” the feathers off at the skin, can be a cause of feather loss. Feather pecking can occur in situations where the birds are overcrowded or due to poor nutrition. External parasites such as lice or mites can cause feather loss. Excessive mating may be a cause of feather loss on the back in the hens. More information on feather loss can be obtained from the November 2007 poultry tip titled “Feather Loss in Chickens”.