Molting Chickens 101 – Chickens in a Minute Video

Chickens Molting is a Natural Process, But We Can Help Too

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Molting Chickens 101 – Chickens in a Minute Video

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Molting is a natural process that usually takes place in fall when birds replace old feathers with new plumage. For adult molting chickens, timing is especially important because feathers equal warmth. So, the nicer shape your feathers are in as you go into the cold months, the warmer you’ll be.

When do chickens molt? Chickens go through different molts during their lives. Their first molt actually starts early. As juveniles, they molt at six to eight days old replacing down for feathers. And then at eight to twelve weeks old replacing baby feathers. FYI – The second molt is when male chickens get their ornamental feathers, so that’s when you know who is who.

Adult chicken molting happens around 18 months old, usually in late summer or early fall and each year after. Feather loss starts at the head and then travels down the body. Some chickens will molt “hard” meaning they lose their feathers quickly and then look bare as new feathers are growing. Other chickens molt slowly with only some bare patches showing or no bare patches at all. Their molt may be barely noticeable to human caretakers.

Six to Eight Weeks OldDowny feathers are replaced by baby feathers.
Eight to 12 Weeks OldBaby feathers are replaced by juvenile feathers
18 Months OldFirst adult molt replaces old feathers
Yearly after first moltAdult feathers are replaced.

The process of annual molting takes eight to 12 weeks to complete and is normally triggered by decreasing daylight hours. While both roosters and hens molt, during this time, hens will also decrease or stop laying eggs. You can help your birds stay healthy during molting by increasing their protein. A good way is through snacks like sunflower seeds, nuts, peas, and soybeans to name a few.

During a molt, your chickens may act a little “off” and not have as much energy or enthusiasm as normal. It’s important to monitor your chickens and know the difference between sick chicken symptoms and a molting chicken. A molting chicken is not technically a sick chicken.

Poopie, a Light Brahma hen, during her yearly molt.
A Light Brahma hen during her yearly molt.

Adult chickens losing feathers at other times of year should be investigated. There can be many reasons for losing feathers off-season. Chickens that are under stress, sick or infested with parasites can lose their feathers. Also, chickens without adequate food, water or light can be forced to molt.


It’s important to remember not to handle your molting chickens too much. Growing feathers can be painful to the touch.

Chickens In A Minute is our online video series, for both new and experienced chicken owners, that answers frequently asked questions about how to raise a healthy backyard chicken flock.


How do you help your molting chickens? Let us know in the comments below.

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