Age and the Molt

It’s that time of year – leaves fall, and so do feathers. Have six hens and, starting in late summer, they’ll all start and finish molting at different times. Some of this variation is due to innate genetics. Some is due to health – a stressed hen molts. In my flock it’s obvious that age is a determinant of when a hen begins the molt.

The Gems in the Big Barn hatched in 2011. The Ladies in the Little Barn hatched in 2013.  Of the Gems, Pearl and Onxy are already done dropping feathers and are growing new ones in.




Other Gems are in various, obvious stages of the molt. For example, Ruby is rumpless.

rumpless Ruby


The younger Ladies are a several weeks behind, but the molt has started in the Little Barn, as well. See those twisted, loose feathers on beautiful Beatrix? Soon she won’t look so elegant.




But my Black Star, Beulah has yet to lose a feather (except to social picking.) She’s still laying, and I’m still having eggs for breakfast.



This is why I like having younger hens. I do enjoy eggs and toast in the morning.


  1. My favourite breakfast is toasted crumpets and poached eggs, yummy !!
    My girls are in various stages of molt. My RIR are both rump less like yours, two others have finished, one is nearly bald and one has not even started. My Girls are the same age as your Ladies. Still getting 5/6 eggs a week, better than none….:)

  2. Have you noticed other hens that quit laying when some of them begin to molt? My 4 girls are all the same age. All born April of 2013. One of them began molting a couple weeks ago. The other three haven’t lost a single feather yet. But I have completely stopped receiving eggs. (Before that, I was only getting 3 a day because my Ameracauna was broody all summer. She did the same thing last year. I rarely get eggs from her.)

    • This time of year you have less light, which triggers a reduction in laying. Also, before you see the feathers drop off, the hens are already going through metabolic changes.

  3. My 8 Isa Browns are in their first year, and have had their “pullet” molt earlie6, just before starting to lay. I expect eggs all winter from them. The others, a mixed breed group that includes seven hens and a rooster, is now 9 1/2 years old and are molting. I am still getting a few eggs…about two to four a week, from the elderly ladies. I noticed that several of the elder hens stay very quietly by themselves, as if the molt were exhausting. I understand that not only do they drop feathers, but the entire laying apparatus is reformed internally. Must be quite energy consuming. I give them lots of chard, kale, and other green things. (was wondering Terry, what the effect of chocolate is on hens. Haven’t found any info, though I have learned that most things poisonous to humans won’t affect them…they can eat all the apple seeds they want and not get strychnine poisoning, it seems).

    • Those are old ladies. Quite awhile ago I wrote about the decrease in egg quality from the older hens. I’ll have to do so again, as it seems that so many of my readers take such good care of their flocks that they have elderly chickens that are still laying.

      • Indeed, the quality goes down quite a lot. I keep those for my own use and not to sell to anyone. The eggs have thinner whites, smaller yolks, are generally smaller in size, and the shells are not as sturdy. But for the old ladies to keep going is amazing! I keep a keen eye on them. I have used baby aspirin for some of my hens that are injured from hawk attacks and energy loss…enveloped in a small dab of ground beef. I have seen very good results, and only use it rarely. Thanks for all the great info L

  4. It is hard for me to believe that my 3 girls are 3.5 years old now. Henny, the Easter Egger, is finishing up her molt. I’m waiting for her one remaining tail feather to fall off. Neither of the Barred Rocks seem to be molting though I do find an occasional feather around. Amelia is the only one laying right now (good girl!) so I am getting 4-5 eggs weekly. Scarlett laid 2 fart eggs this year…her system never came back online after being so ill last year. Both Scarlett and Amelia are seemingly in good health otherwise…bright eyes, red comb, good weight. I am looking forward to finishing up our backyard remodeling project so that we’ll have a shed where we can put a brooder. I miss the 5-6 eggs per week per hen…but not enough to have the brooder in the house. ;-)

  5. Mine are still growing so I suppose they will be going through “mini-molts” for another month or so. Some afternoons the run has loads of little feathers in it, the girls and Charlie seem to be growing out of their feathers overnight (they take LOTS of dust baths). From day to day they go from scruffy to beautiful and back then back again :) On their scruffy days they are slightly grumpy and don’t want to even be touched (most likely uncomfortable). On their beauty days, they all want a little scratching under their necks and a couple want to be held for a moment. I let them decide. It has been interesting to watch the transformation, not only in my little flock, but I keep up with your girls when I have a few spare moments.

  6. I would be very interested to read again about the decrease in egg quality for older hens. My hybrid is only 2.5 years but is suffering from softies. I have tried adding more calcium, via liquid calcium to add to their drinking water and limestone flour, plus crushed egg shells and oyster shell and general poultry grit. I wonder if it could be that she is just reaching the end of her laying life. She is well in every other aspect, although when a softie is brewing it does make her feel off colour until she gets it all out!! They do have good quality layers pellets as well, so this is a bit of a mystery. Chickens can be very complicated, I think.