Changes With The Molt

Birds molt because they need to replace worn out feathers. This happens once a year. Some hens look fine going into the molt and look exactly the same when it is over. Opal, my big Delaware hen, lost all of her feathers and regrew them, but somehow never had a feather out of place, and except for missing her tall tail, you’d never have known that she was molting. With other hens the molt is far more obvious.

Some hens go into the molt with one look and come out sporting another. Etheldred is a Speckled Sussex. Here she is in the heat this past summer. Her spots are too large and splotchy to be a show bird, but I think that she’s quite attractive.

Here is Etheldred after her first molt. She’s mostly white!. She’s yet to grow her tail back.

The molt has not changed Agatha’s spots. However, she has new feather shafts sticking out of her head. She looks prickly and even crazier than usual.

All through her first year, Jasper didn’t have much of a tail. She was the only hen that the others picked feathers off of. Jasper didn’t seem to mind. No blood was drawn. But her rump was all smooth skin. It didn’t look like feathers could possibly grow back.

But during this molting cycle they did! Jasper’s back end looks lovely. Now, if only she would grow her long tail feathers in.

Meanwhile, the Orpingtons that were broody all summer and laid few eggs are all plump and in new plumage. But, Amber, my hard-working Buff Orpington who consistently laid eggs and cheerfully went on nursing home and school visits looks like this:

She brings true meaning to the expression, beauty is as beauty does.


  1. We’ve got quite a few molters in our flock right now. Josephine is practically naked and Danger seems to emit fluffy feathers each time she is touched or moves. I’m excited to see how everyone looks when all is said and done. :)

  2. I have hens which are a cross between our Americauna rooster and Barred Rocks. Their first year, they had some beautiful golden feathers around their necks and now they are all gone. I wonder why they change after the molt.

  3. I think Etheldred looks more like Lulu used to look. Is it the picture or is she more black and white rather than brown and white? Beautiful regardless.

    On another front, I received my new HenCam calendar! It’s wonderful!! All the pictures are lovely, although I’m partial to March (especially)and October :) And December is just too funny!

  4. mostly our hens molt slowly but one of our new one’s first molt looked like she was dying, she was bald! but her feathers all grew back soon and now she is beautiful again! She’s a standard buff Brahma named Buffy :)

    • That pic of Amber is priceless! My Hens are young so I have not yet seen my birds looking quite so pathetic. Something to look forward to, for sure.
      Change of subject, but I just wanted to share my latest accomplishment in the Hen house. I was hesitant to introduce a new Hen to my happy group of 4 pullets(2 brand new layers), but really wanted a white bird to add interest to the group. I brought home a 1.5 year old mixed breed( not sure yet what), yesterday around 5 p.m. I just stuck her(in a cat carrier), right into the Hen house with the door to her cage open. This a.m when I opened their house door the Hens all came down to the coop, new bird in the lead and proceeded to eat their treats as a friendly group. Their has been no acting out by any of the birds so far…they are just being their usual calm selves. In fact my Black Giant (April), went inside her house and lay an egg. I feel confident in letting them all out to free-range this afternoon as per usual. I named our new girl` Gussie`(Augusta). The others are April, Mae, June, and Julie.

  5. My Black Orpington, Mayday looked so bad, I started calling her the pincushion, but she’s looking better now.

  6. You know I didn’t even think you could use one of your Buff orphington’s as a backup bird to take to school and nursing home visits. I am glad that Amber was able to fill that role for you, and glad you are able to take Agatha and Amber. Maybe when your other two crazy broodies aren’t so crazy they can be your back up school birds as well. Maybe even taking more than one with you.
    Oh just as a head’s up, I know your eldest son is still in college,and I don’t know if last year’s free 100,000 free book rental giveaway helped him. But I have confirmed that the company Neebo is doing it again for 2013 in January, all you have to pay is shipping and handling for the book. I hope this can help defray some cost for your son. I know I will be using it for my 102 biology book, if I make it in to their site.
    Also I was wondering in your antique collecting of postcards, photos, and chicken memorable, have you ever bought anytihng off the site ? It is a online auction site for goodwill’s all over the country?

  7. I just noticed my.Jersey Giant is missing.all the feather around.her vent, I swear I.thought he Moulted 2.months ago when she lost.her tail

    • I doubt it’s the molt. I’ve got a number of FAQs and blogposts about bare butts on chickens. Vent gleet? Feather picking? Something else? (One of my hens lost her feathers when she was laying internally.) Let me know if you figure out what’s causing it.