Etheldred’s Molt

I have three Speckled Sussex, all hatched the same day at the same farm, but they have always been easy to tell apart. Etheldred is the largest, and she has a white head, rather like a Bald Eagle’s coloring (she is pretty, but not all of that white is not true to her breed standards.) Florence is the smallest, with the most classic dotted feathering. Agatha Agate’s coloring is somewhere in the middle between her sisters, but it’s her personality that sets her apart. Agatha is often underfoot. She’s sweet, but as dim-witted as a chicken can be.

They’re all molting at the same time, but each hen is losing her feathers in a manner unique to her. Florence’s molt is subtle, and despite losing feathers, she looks as fashionable and svelte as ever.



Agatha’s feather coat is loose all over, but, she doesn’t look too bad.



But, oh, poor Etheldred! She is a hen who is easy to ignore. She does what she has to, stays out of trouble and out of the way. She comes when called. She doesn’t bully or cower. Last night, though, I noticed her. She was huddled in a nesting box. I think that she’d been in there, staying out of the wind and feeling sorry for herself, when darkness fell and she didn’t have a chance to join the others on the roost (it’s been getting dark quickly.) I put her up on the ladder with the others and she settled in next to their warmth.

Just look at her. No tail. Long wing feathers akimbo.



Etheldred’s head is all prickly.



But, the new feathers are growing in and soon she’ll be back to her old, steady, glossy and beautiful self. Hang in there, Etheldred!


  1. We’ve got several that look this pathetic too. Like how can you loose many more and keep yourself warm. Even seem to be more so afraid and so very cautious of everyone and anything.

  2. Poor thing! I have one Araucana that looks even worse than poor Ethelred though. She has lost all her neck feathers, some wing feathers, her tail feathers and ALL the feathers off of her butt – a big, wrinkly red target. I’m keeping an eye on her so that her 8 sisters don’t peck at it. She looks so miserable about it all. Some new feathers are starting to come in, except on that back end target…

  3. Do they like to have their heads scratched or rubbed when they have all those pin feathers growing out?

    • Only my late, great Snowball (the actress who played Tillie in my book) liked that. They’re not like parrots that like head scratches, although as Snowball showed, there’s always an exception.

      • That just shows some chickens are way smarter than others Terry. And I have only heard of one other chicken a very friendly rooster who would sit their and let his owner gentlely rub off the kerain sheath off feathers during molting season. And I know I tend to over personalize with animals, but I think your Buffy is also smart in a way that she seems to take frequent meds and epsoms salt you had to give her to try and make her feel better. And that she has figured out, well I don’t like this, but whatever the large moving feeder thing does me makes me feel somewhat better so I will tolerate it. I had Siamese cat who was that way, he I think believe on his own figured out that insulin medication we were giving him made him feel better when he was diagnosed diabetic. He would come up to us twice a day with no training, and no treats, sit perfectly still on the desk and allow my mother, or a vet tech who babysat for us to give his shot every day for two years on his own. Since then I have never had a cat do that. I really do think some animals, no matter the species to figure out we are trying to help them, and cooperate on their own decision with us. Buffy I think is that way, my Toby was that way. I know the best example of animal species knowing we are helping are dogs, but I think your Buffy and Snowball figured that out as well. And birds will self medicate on their own, so why not a domesticated hen figuring out that her human wants to help as well.

    • All six of my hens do. But they adore head scratches at any time. And face rubs.

  4. Poor girls! They are lovely, though. I always feel for the molting chickens. We have one hen, Bear, who every year molts the hardest I’ve ever seen, and also hides–I think she gets embarrassed.

  5. If Santa were a chicken, he’d have a face like Etheldred! Such a sweet face. I thought my EE, Henny Penny, was finishing up with her molt because her tail feathers are growing back in but now she has just lost all of her flight feathers and a bunch from her pantaloons so I guess this will go on for awhile. Last year she slept in the nest box during her molt. I figured that she was cold and could stay warm in the box. Our night temps are dropping into the high 40s so we’ll see if she decides to stay in her boudoir.

  6. Beautiful breed. The markings remind me slightly f the belgan mille fleurs I have, the spotting on the feathers is similar. I would live to have a few of these speckled Sussex next time I get hens.

  7. I have had several hens molt but my slw has been is a molt since late aug. soft molt nothing horrible. Is it normal to go so long? She is15 mos old. I haven has any other hen go so long

  8. I have one barred rock hen who didn’t molt her first year and has no sign of molting this second year. Is this normal?

    • Chickens don’t molt their first year. The first molt is when they’re around 18 months old. Some chickens have stealth molts and you don’t even notice. The best layers molt late. I’m sure yours is, or will, molt.

      • She’s a superb layer. 6 of 7 days normally. She’s grouchy all the time… Very cute though :-) Thanks Super T!