Just When…

Just when you think that a hen can’t look any worse from the molt, she does.

Oh, Jasper!

front view


Not much better from this angle…

molt side view


Jasper is eating and drinking fine, but I know that she’s feeling out of sorts because she’s been sleeping in a nesting box at night.

This is a typical molt – for her. Do you think she’ll grow any tail feathers back in? Each year she has fewer and fewer.

It looks awful, but molting is a normal – and necessary – process. Your hens will get through it just fine. Don’t overdo the protein treats in worry over them. A little extra, and I mean a little, like a teaspoon, of extra protein in the form of meal worms or cat kibble per hen, is fine. Don’t go overboard or you’ll risk kidney disease. In the morning, just so that I feel like I’m doing something helpful, I toss a handful of MannaPro Poultry Conditioner to the girls.

I’m raking up feathers, but no white ones. I’m still waiting for Twiggy to molt! Beatrix is also still laying, as is Beulah. At this rate, I’ll be cleaning up feathers into November.


  1. I saw Twiggy go in the nest box at bedtime last night. Don’t know if she stayed there all night. My Henny stays in the nest box when she is molting too. Jasper does look a mess, poor girl.

  2. They always look like walking pin cushion when they molt like Jasper.

    My coop is going to get its top to bottom and inside and out cleaning this Monday. I will keep the shop vac handy to suck up all those feathers after the cleaning.

    Terry very good point on not over doing the protein.

    Like I’ve mentioned in the past I feed cat kibble during the molt but I distribute it like in the women you see in old western tv shows or movies when they feed the chickens. I stand in the run and scatter it all about so every hen gets a few pieces.
    Poultry love cat kibble and if you just put it in a bowl or feeder the dominates hens eat it all and fast!!

    • I think that you need a flouncy apron to go with your look when you feed the hens :) I’m waiting to do a thorough coop clean until the birds are done molting!

  3. Can I ask what you mean by cat kibble, we have dried cat food here in UK is it same thing. The pieces are quite big, about 4/5 times bigger than a layers pellet and very hard, will they not choke ??
    My Welsummer ‘ Welly ‘ looks bad but not quite up to Jasper’s state of dishevelment…:)

  4. Jan – Get the kitten version.

    Jasper looks like an angry, mini, oven-ready dinosaur. I hope she doesn’t feel as bad as she looks.

    • Good description. Who knows what a chicken is feeling? The fact that she’s sleeping in a box tells me that she isn’t thrilled with her condition.

      • It is a interesting question if the chickens are “uncomfortable” during the molt.

        I can tell they are “off” when molting.

        They don’t seem as active, seem to keep their distance from the flock.

        About a week ago when I locked up my Speckled Sussex who is normally one of the dominate birds and gets the top rung was roosting on the second rung from the bottom of the ladder that leads up to the main roosting area. I never have chickens roost on that ladder. It worried me a bit but she seems ok.

  5. Vee, I got the kitten one, girls still won’t go near it because its so hard. Should I try soaking some to make softer and get them used to it ??

    • Not uncommon for them to not eat it at first, its new. I would soak in water and see what happens. But it seems once the get the taste of it they go crazy for it.
      My 40 years of experience my poultry just about knock me over if they know I have cat kibble.

      • Thanks Ken will try, if not will go back to small amount of sunflower hearts as I have them for the wild birds. Does anyone know which would be healthier for them ??

        • Jan, this isn’t a forum – it’s my blog so I get to be opinionated here :) Your molting hens will be fine without anything additional to their diet – as long as they’re being fed high-quality pellets and get to scratch around. Sunflower seeds should be the hulled type (to prevent impaction.) Less than 1 teaspoon per day per hen! If they don’t want the cat food, then don’t feed it to them. If you really want to get them something special, you can go to the pet store and get supplements designed for pet parrots.

  6. Poor Jasper! Ouch!

    I don’t have chickens, but I do have the wild birds that come into my yard. I have seen some truly sad cardinals, blue jays, and doves. However, if I go walk on down the hill I can usually find some beautiful feathers! It’s amazing how tough they are that they can go through this and survive the cold till their feathers are all back.

  7. Hi Terry,
    I have a Polish who looks as bedraggled as Jasper. :( On top of that, she must’ve slept under one of her friends last night as she has been pooped on! She seems so uncomfortable already with the molt. Should I try to bathe her or hope those feathers fall off by themselves? I hate to see her looking so messy but I would also hate to hurt her while her skin is so prickly!

    • Don’t bathe! You can spot clean the dried poop, but you don’t want to handle her much during the molt. Make sure that she has lovely, loose, dry, “clean” dirt for her to dust bathe in. That will make her feel better.

      • Great advice! Thank you. Of course! A dust bath is a lovely idea.