Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

Do Ducks Molt? Here’s What You Need To Know!

We all know chickens go through a molt every year, but did you ever wonder “do ducks molt?”


In short, yes ducks molt. In fact, they molt quite a bit every year – possibly enough to build you a whole new duck.


In fact, I’ve gone outside and wondered whether the drakes, hens, and young ones had a pillow fight the night before and didn’t invite me!


Do ducks molt? Here's everything you need to know!


You might even wonder how such a little bird can have so many feathers hidden – more on that in a minute.


Our hen Henrietta, a Khaki Campbell is molting presently – and she looks quite a bit disheveled. Not sleek and bright like the younger ducks in her pen!


Like chickens, ducks molt to replace old feathers with new growth, and they do it every summer. So, expect it to be an annual event.


How do ducks molt?

Ducks molt different than chickens, and in the main summer molt, both duck hens and drakes will lose feathers.


Chickens molt by losing them on their head, neck, and back, and then regrowing them in the same top-down pattern.


Ducks, on the other hand, just lose their feathers all over the place and all at once, including their primary ones. They’ll also scratch and pluck them out with their bills to speed things along or just relieve the itch.


Henrietta has been caught with bits of plumage all over her bill – she dunks herself in water to clean it off!


Do ducks molt? Here's everything you need to know!


You might also notice your ducks aren’t playing or interacting as much – again, this is normal. Henrietta has been staying a bit back from the younger ducks as she loses her feathers.


Additionally, drakes (male ducks) will undergo an additional molt after the spring breeding season has ended – they will lose their fancy colored plumage for duller colored feathers – this is an evolutionary adaptation that protects ducks from predators.


Why do they lose so many feathers?

As you probably know, in addition to their primary plumage, ducks also have a large padding of down feathers (the same down you’ll find in coats and other winter apparel).


So, ducks will also lose their down during a molt, which is why it can look like a crime scene in their pen – and you might take a headcount, wondering how a predator got into the duck house.


Rest assured, it’s just natural feather loss.


In fact, ducks lose their primary feathers (such as flight) all at once. In the wild, they will be flightless for about a month – no big deal since ducks are usually close to water, keeping them safe from predators.


This is less of an issue for domestic ducks, although the sight of it can be overwhelming. Just grab the broom and sweep them out.


As Henrietta has molted, she’s looks very disheveled, and her color appears mottled – this is a result of losing feathers as well as loose ones that haven’t yet been shed.


Eventually, glossy new plumage will appear, and the ragged hen will look sleek and beautiful again.


Just remember, that the length of time it takes to complete a molt will vary from duck to duck.

What about egg production?

While your ducks molt, you might notice the hens’ egg production goes down – this is normal. Like chickens, growing new feathers requires a lot of protein for ducks.


We’ve noticed that Henrietta is laying less, and when she does lay an egg, they’re smaller. Again, this is totally normal, and once she’s done molting, production picks back up.


If your ducks stop laying completely, don’t worry – it’s normal, and they’ll start again eventually.

What should you feed during a molt?

When your ducks molt, it’s a good idea to give them extra protein. You can give them more feed, or offer treats of dried mealworms floating on water (it also provides extra entertainment). Giving them high-nutrient treats such as kale or parsley will help as well.


You can also switch to a higher protein feed.

Got Chickens Molting? Here’s What To Do.

Got Chickens Molting? Here’s What To Do.

Molting chickens can be stressful because, well, your flock looks naked and like they’re unhealthy.


In fact, they can look like they’ve been to hell and back. They can look scruffy, and you might worry that they’re sick. And you might even take them to the vet! (Want more help with your chickens? Grab my bestselling ebook right here!)

When we say “chickens molting,” you might wonder what that really means. It’s a term you see thrown around on Facebook, but it can be confusing if you’re a beginner with chickens.


Basically, when we say “chickens molting,” we mean that your hens and roosters are losing their feathers. Don’t worry – they’ll grow new ones, and chickens molting is perfectly normal.


When do chickens molt?

Inconveniently, chickens tend to molt in the late fall or early winter; breeding season is over, and your flock will start to grow new feathers.


As your chickens get more and more “naked,” you’ll probably worry that your flock is cold (they might be and you’ll have to find a way to keep them warm).


Chickens start molting typically in the winter after their first year (in case you wondered “when do chickens molt for the first time? – it’s a typical question new owners ask).


So, how often do chickens molt?

Usually every year, although the severity of the molt (meaning how many feathers they’ll lose varies from hen to hen and the year.)


Your mileage will vary; while some people have chickens that look like they’ve had every feather removed, I’ve personally never had a hen lose more than a few feathers.


We live in an area where the winters are mild, so maybe that has something to do with it!


How long does molting last?

Almost universally, when I encounter a new backyard flock owner who has chickens molting, I’m asked “how long does chicken molting last?” and the answer probably won’t satisfy you.


Truthfully, only your chickens know how long they’ll be molting for. We’ve had it last 2 weeks and up to 6 months. Most molting seems to last 60 to 90 days, from the time the hens start to lose their feathers to completely regrowing new ones.


During this time, as your hens regrow their feathers, they’ll be more physically sensitive than normal. As the feathers start to peek out, this new growth is called “pin feathers.” Touching them can hurt your chickens.


When the feathers finish growing, though, your hens won’t be so sensitive, and you can pick them up and pet them as you normally would.


You might be tempted to provide a sweater or saddle for molting chickens, but it’s best to just let nature take its course. If it’s very cold out, you can find another way to keep your  flock warm.


Chickens molting or mites?

When your chickens start to lose their feathers, it can seem similar to a mite infestation. However, the two present differently, so using these rules of thumb, you can confidently know whether your chickens are molting or if there’s a more serious issue.


When chickens molt, they lose feathers in a systematic, predictable fashion: From the top of their heads, then their necks, and then on down until they lose their tail feathers.


If you think your problem is mites and not chickens molting, you’ll usually see feather loss around the vent, the tail, or other areas; it’s not in a predictable pattern. You’ll also notice their skin is red and irritated, and possibly flaky.


What should I feed a molting hen or rooster?

Your molting chickens’ diet is extremely important. To grow feathers, your flock needs lots and lots of protein. In addition to a high quality layer feed (you can get my favorite feed recipe here), you’ll want to give your chickens extra protein.


Mealworms (or suet cakes made with mealworms) are a good supplement. You can also feed raw, unsalted nuts, kelp, freshwater shrimp, grubs, or crickets.


You can mix them directly with their feed,

or offer the extra protein separately. Molting chickens also need plenty of fresh water!

Heard your backyard chickens molting can be stressful? Here's everything to support your backyard chickens beginners need to know!

Molting Mania: Dealing With Feather Loss & Winter Care [Podcast]

Molting Mania: Dealing With Feather Loss & Winter Care [Podcast]

Ahhh….molting. It’s a crazy annual event that can definitely freak you out if you’re new to backyard chickens.


While molting is a totally natural process, if you’ve never experienced it, you might wonder how best to support your flock while they regrow their feathers.

In this podcast, you’ll learn:

  • Why you should never handle your chickens as they’re molting
  • How to best feed your flock so they stay healthy while they grow new feathers
  • How to keep them warm when the temperatures turn cold and they’re naked
  • The specific pattern you should look for when your chickens molt



Links we discuss:

Molting checklist

Manna Pro Poultry website

Where to buy Calf Manna

Where to buy Manna Pro Organic Layer Pellets

385x470 organic ad_frugal_chicken


I’d like to hear from you!

Have you ever dealt with a chicken molting? Did it totally freak you out? Leave a comment below!

3 Shockingly Common Myths About Feeding Chickens That Prevent YOU From Being Healthier [Podcast]

3 Shockingly Common Myths About Feeding Chickens That Prevent YOU From Being Healthier [Podcast]

The truth is there’s people who will tell you that if you worry about what your hens eat, you’re over complicating backyard chickens.


Feeding hens certainly isn’t complicated, but that doesn’t mean you should make things so simple your health and your flock suffers.


The truth is you CAN improve their health and yours when you improve your hens’ diet. 


I know from experience that when your hens get a sub-par dinner, you run the risk of scrawny hens, unhealthy eggs, or even no eggs.


We actually went through a 6 month period a number of years ago because we relied on a forage-heavy diet – you reap what you sow, and nobody needs to deal with feeding hens that aren’t producing.


Once we started looking at our flock’s diet, researching, and testing some of the things I learned in scientific studies, our flock’s health dramatically improved, our hens were happier, and we were happier – because we started getting eggs again, which is why we started keeping chickens in the first place!


In this episode, we myth bust 3 common misconceptions about feeding chickens that can impact your health.


There’s more than enough evidence that shows us that what your hens eat predicts the quality of their eggs – and you can ignore these results or embrace them and benefit from them.


Increasing the healthy parts of your chicken’s eggs while decreasing the unhealthy parts isn’t complicated, despite what you might read online and on Facebook.


You’ll learn:


  • Why raising chickens “traditionally” like our grandparents did 50 or 100 years ago is not always the best idea
  • Why ignoring modern research means you’re doing yourself and your flock a disservice
  • How educating yourself about your flock’s diet isn’t over complicating backyard chickens
  • The one thing you should always do if you’re totally overwhelmed by all the advice out there about what to feed your backyard hens.



Links we discuss:

Learn more about Butcher Box

Where to buy flax

Grab your free gift The Better Egg here

Worrying about your flocks's diet doesn't mean you're over complicating backyard chickens. In this podcast, we myth bust 3 common misconceptions about feeding backyard chickens.


I’d like to hear from you!

Do you think you’ll try changing how you feed your chickens? Leave a comment below!