An Early Molt

The girls are going into molt. It’s early for them to lose their summer feathers and get ready for cold weather, but everything about this year, weather-wise, has been topsy-turvy.

How a hen molts is as varied as their personalities. Sometimes, it seems as if the hen huffs up and shakes and all of her feathers come off at once. Other hens lose their feathers in patches. like Agnes and Philomena, who are looking scraggly. It might take a month for those two to shed all of the old feathers.

I know that Twinkydink is molting, her black feathers are everywhere, and yet she looks as sleek and glossy as ever. Some girls are like that. Never a bad hair day for her.

Some hens don’t molt until the cold weather settles in. They’ll look partly naked, their skin will show, and you’ll worry about them. Don’t. They always seem to do fine. New feathers will appear. The feathers will look like porcupine quills, and the hen will be all prickly with them. It looks uncomfortable, way worse then stubble after shaving, but the chickens don’t seem to mind.

Hen keepers never look forward to the molt. The coop is a mess of feathers and the hens stop laying. Factory farms try to control it. They’ll withhold food to try to get all of the hens to molt at once. Chemical companies are developing additives to start the molt. Yet another reason to keep your own hens. I’d rather do without eggs than have them come from those conditions.

Chickens aren’t the only ones that grow a new coat for winter. Candy sheds out her old fur and will have a much warmer wrapper for the winter. Like the hens, the process is already starting. Just look at those tufts of fur coming off. What a bad hare day (ouch, sorry for that terrible joke – this heat is affecting my sense of humor!)


  1. My poor chicken, Nellie, finally got over being broody and went straight into a molt. I’ve been trying to give her extra protein.
    Glad to have a sweeter-natured chicken back. She was mean and nasty when broody to the other girls and especially to the cats.

  2. Candy looks like her HARE is parted (tee hee)…My chickens look dreadful..I am thinking of inventing pantaloons for birds to cover up those naked behinds…I am with you Terry…Don’t want to “force” any bird into anything!

  3. That rabbit is magnificent. She looks like she knows it too.

    Two of my girls are moulting (Brenda, hens do a good moult after hatching their eggs, no idea why, but it’s normal, and sometimes happens even when they haven’t hatched anything at all!) and from ten hens I only have three reliable layers at the minute… I think I’ll have lots of bald girls in a few weeks!

  4. I wish my girls would molt earlier… they always wait until it is pretty cold! Two years ago, I had two girls molt in late November and it was really cold day & night. I had to bring them inside. I tried to leave them out, but they were both huddled in the corner naked and shivering for a few days, so I gave in! OY!

    That is the best image of Candy! I just want to squeeze her and give her a kiss.

  5. Terry some of my girls have started to molt already as well. It has been a strange year. I would say it’s at least a month and half to two months early.
    The issue I have is I cull my 20 month old white rocks in late Sept. or early Oct. and there is nothing worse then trying to process a molting chicken.

  6. This year has indeed been strange. Everything from the weather being unusually cold for a CA summer, to backyard tomato crop failures. I don’t know anyone who actually got more than 4 ripe red tomatoes this year. The migrating birds left in mid-July, and they usually don’t leave until mid-August. And although we had a couple of broody hens, the egg production went from 12 to 16 eggs a day to 4 a day, all summer, from a crew of non-broody hens. I’m going to see about doing the repairs on the chicken coop very soon, because I’m thinking winters moving in early out here.

      • 12 of the hens will be 4 this year, so I was expecting a drop in eggs, but it just struck me as odd that they’d drop off in the summer. They’d been laying during the winter like usual. I figured the drop off would be during winter, but not so. We have another 4 that are coming up on 3 years, but they’ve never laid regularly. They range on 3 acres during the day, have access to organic small pellet feed, water and oyster shells. Nothing’s changed, just the weird weather.

    • Not sure where you are in CA, but in our area we’re absolutely inundated with tomatoes, even with the unusually cool summer we’re having. We over-planted this year due to the almost 100% tomato failure last year. With 18 plants, we’re picking a LOT for just 2 people to eat! 3-4 pounds every couple of days. What we don’t eat right off the vine (my favorite way), I’ve put into various yummy dishes. Today I’m canning maybe 3 quarts of the paste variety. I’m looking forward to trying out a recipe for a peach and tomato galette.

      • We’re in Northern Ca. Sierra Nevada foothills. Tomato plants have not been anyones friend this year here. Lots of tomato plants get a full load of tomatoes… and then just stay green. They never turn red, yellow or any of the other colors they’re supposed to turn. We’ve got cucumbers galore though. Everyone has cucumbers coming out their ears! ;)

  7. I’m hoping that it’s all a sign of an early Fall and cooler temps. It’s been one of the hottest summers ever. I’m ready for a cool breeze.

  8. I noticed the tufts falling out of Candy’s coat yesterday while she was hopping around. It probably feels good to get rid of all that old stuff. That is an absolutely gorgeous picture of her! Terry, I had no idea that we’re in for yet another dose of chemicals, now for controlling molt. Aack! We’re not allowed chickens were we live, (sigh) so we buy organic. It’s the best we can do.

  9. I have 74 birds, 6 are cockrels (1 amerucaena, 1 lakenvelder, 4 blue laced red wyndottes) 1 rooster (jersey giant). about thirty of my girls are molting already! a little to soon. i live in the lower hudsen valley in ny. we have a over abundance of ripe tomato’s here.