Why Are My Chicken’s Feathers Falling Out?

Why Are My Chicken’s Feathers Falling Out?

Why are my chicken’s feathers falling out?!?!? This is one of the biggest questions I get from concerned new chicken owners.

 

There are many reasons why your chicken’s feathers might be falling out. I’ll go through some of the main ones today and give you tips on what you should do.

 

The top reasons chickens lose feathers are:

  1. Molting
  2. Not enough protein
  3. Self-inflicted from stress
  4. Broodiness
  5. Picking by bullies
  6. Mites and lice
  7. Vent gleet
  8. Overmating by roosters

 

Molting

So, chickens molt. And it’s a very common reason why chickens lose feathers.

 

In case you don’t know, molting is when chickens lose feathers and then those feathers are replaced by new ones.

 

And luckily, it’s a natural and totally normal process. (Ducks molt, too!) that happens more or less once a year (normally in the fall), and it can be ugly. (Not always, but sometimes you’ll wonder what happened to your once beautiful hens!)

 

I love chickens, but they just aren’t that good looking when they’re going through a rough molt. It’s messy, ugly, and a little bit uncomfortable as the feathers grow back.

 

The molting process can be scary for first time chicken owners, but realize that your chickens losing their feathers in a molt is a normal process.

 

If you want, you can feed them a high protein treat (like BEE A Happy Hen, which we sell in the store) to help them stay healthy and regrow their feathers.

 


Freaked out over feather loss?

 

Not enough protein

Another reason your chickens could be losing their feathers is because they aren’t getting enough protein. This can happen if you’re feeding your chickens scratch or letting them forage for their food

 

Even if you allow your chickens to roam around the yard and they’re finding and eating bugs as they do so, you need to make sure that you are also providing them with access to feed that is nutritionally balanced and has the appropriate amount of protein.

 

If your chickens start losing their feathers without an explanation (such as molting), then evaluate their diet and feed that you are providing.

black soldier fly larvae backyard chicken treat

What to do:

Provide more protein!!! Start incorporating black soldier fly larvae (we sell them in the store right here – use coupon code FEATHERS to save 10%) or mealworms (use coupon code FEATHERS to save 10%) into your chickens diet – you can mix it with their feed or give it as a treat (we have lots of treats in the store with dried insects for just this reason!).

 

Plus chickens LOVE them  (like….really love them, LOL!) so they will eat it happily! If you want to raise them yourself, it’s easy to start a mealworm or black soldier fly larvae farm

 

Self-inflicted picking or picking by other chickens

One reason your chickens might lose their feathers is from picking, which is usually caused by environmental stress such as over crowding or bullying. Think of it as a reaction to anxiety.

 

Bullying among chickens CAN happen (personally, we’ve been lucky and not experienced this in our coop, but yours might have an alpha hen who picks on a more subservient hen).

 

Every coop has a social order and particularly if the flock as a whole is stressed or the “picked on” hen is new, chickens will sometimes peck the victim until she’s lost her feathers.

 

Or your chickens could also be stressed and so they begin picking feathers of other hens in the coop to deal with that stress.

 

What to do:

The simplest thing to do in this case is figure out why your chickens are stressed and try to remove the problem. If they’re over crowded (10 square feet per chicken in a coop is a good guideline), then give them more room.

 

If they’re bored, then provide environmental enrichment such as treats they have to “hunt” for, swings, branches for them to fly up to (this can also give them more room), places to hide, etc.

 

One popular idea is to put a treat such as cabbage, carrots, tomatoes, or cucumbers on a string and allow your flock to peck at it.

 

If your flock has a bully, then you can remove the bullied chicken from the coop and isolate her from the flock (give her a friend since 2 chickens together are likely to bond since they only have each other for company). You can then try to reintroduce everyone a few days later or continue to keep them separate.

 

If your chickens lose feathers still, then you should figure out if the problem is something else.

 

Broodiness

Chicken’s may also be picking their feathers due to broodiness. Some chickens get broody (i.e they really want their eggs to hatch) and so they’ll sit on their eggs for long periods of time and often pick their own feathers and lay them around their eggs for warmth.

 

If you want your hen to hatch the eggs, then let her do it, and understand she’ll stop picking her feathers after the chicks hatch.

 

If you don’t want her to hatch chicks, then break her broodiness. She should stop losing feathers because she’ll stop picking at herself.

 

Mites & Lice

Yuck. I hate lice and chicken mites, and they can definitely cause your chickens to lose feathers. Now, you might say “I don’t see any mites on my chickens” and assume the issue is something else.

 

I hear this a LOT from chicken owners trying to figure out feather loss. Even though you might not see mites on your chickens, they can still be the source of your trouble.

 

Mites are sneaky. They hide in corners of your coop and then come out at night and infest your flock. And eventually, they can cause more than feather loss – they can cause your chickens to lose the scales on their legs and eventually death as they rob your hens of nutrients.

Chicken losing feathers completely? Here's what to do!

What to do:

Even if you don’t think mites are why your chickens are losing feathers, you can still preemptively clean your coop and use herbs such as peppermint and cinnamon and diatomaceous earth to keep mites and lice away.

 

If you don’t know, diatomaceous earth is a powder that your chickens can bathe in. It has been shown in scientific studies to reduce the number of mites and lice in chickens because it’s sharp edges cut the exoskeletons of insects, causing them to die.

 

However, I highly recommend that you only use DE in well ventilated areas, and keep your flock out of the coop while you’re spreading it about (a little goes a long way)! Chickens have a very delicate respiratory system, so you want to be careful that they don’t inhale it on a regular basis.

 

If you don’t want to bother with DE, you can just use herbs. Mint repels insects, so hanging peppermint around the coop or nesting box is a great way to get rid of or prevent a mite infestation.

 

Another option is to provide garlic for your flock (we sell shelf-stable garlic granules in the store, which I’ve found hens prefer over fresh garlic). Because of the spicy nature of garlic, it repels external parasites (and it’ll help your flock’s immune system as well!)

 

Vent gleet

Another reason your chickens could be losing their feathers is vent gleet, which is a fungal infection in the vent (where your chicken expels waste and eggs) and it can cause some pretty nasty whitish/yellowish discharge along with a loss of feathers.

 

Think of it like a yeast infection. It’s gross and it’s definitely not good for your chicken!

 

What to do:

If you think your chicken has vent gleet, then the best thing to do is take her to the vet, who can give you medications or make recommendations for all natural solutions.

 

One way you can help prevent vent gleet is to ensure your chickens have good gut health! You can do this by adding some apple cider vinegar (about a tablespoon per gallon) to your chicken’s water. We sell apple cider vinegar granules in the store – they’re shelf stable and easy to add to water or feed.

 

 

Rowdy roosters 

So roosters like to mate. A LOT. It’s normal and part of a flock’s social dynamics. If you notice your hens are losing feathers on their back (and only their back) and you have a rooster, you can be pretty sure the issue is overmating.

 

This isn’t to be taken lightly – I’ve seen cases where roosters were overmating hens to the point where the hens lost not just their feathers, but the skin on their chests – which, of course, is a much bigger issue than losing feathers. 

 

In summer, this can end in a bad case of fly strike, and you might have to put your hen down if it’s bad enough.

 

Fly strike is notoriously difficult to get rid of, and treatment – which consists of picking maggots off your hen’s body and removing dead tissue – is painful and difficult, and a lot of animals simply die of shock).

 

Roosters stand on top of hens backs while they are mating and they can cut your hens or cause them to lose feathers.

 

If this happens you might need to separate the roosters from your hens to keep your girls safe. If the issue is only feather loss (and not skin loss), you can also use a chicken saddle, which will cover the bald area.

 

If you have multiple roosters and see them excessively bickering over the hens, then it’s time to either give each rooster his own flock of hens, or re-home one of the roosters.

 

If you have multiple roosters and notice one rooster is losing feathers on his back, then it’s time to separate him from his “prison buddy” if you get my drift. (Yes, this is a real thing that can happen because it’s about social dominance and their pecking order).

 

 

These 10 Frugal Feeds & Chicken Water Feeder Hacks Are So Easy!

These 10 Frugal Feeds & Chicken Water Feeder Hacks Are So Easy!

Raising chickens can be as expensive or inexpensive as you want to make it. These 10 frugal feeds and chicken water feeder hacks are easy – and we’ve used them on our farm to help our flock (and our wallets) be healthier!

 

When it comes to raising chickens, I definitely think cutting corners is a bad idea – it puts your flock’s health at risk and might harm them in the end.

 

But that DOESN’T mean you have to spend a million bucks on your hens. So, in this article, I’m going to show you 10 inexpensive hacks that will help your chickens be healthier AND that chickens love!

 

(Need a chicken feeder? Here’s the brands we recommend)

 

Raise your own mealworms and black soldier fly larvae as frugal feeds

Raising mealworms is easy. Mealworms are the larvae of the darkling beetle – and raising them doesn’t take much space or investment.

 

In this article about raising mealworms for chickens, I show you step-by-step how to raise them in a dark, quiet corner of your farm. And chickens (especially my silkies and brahmas) love them!

 

Raising black soldier fly larvae is another option. Black soldier fly larvae are extremely healthy for chickens – with lots of protein and calcium, they’ll help your flock lay better eggs, grow beautiful feathers, and more!

 

Here’s my best article about black soldier fly larvae for chickens if you want more information.

 

Raise Mealworms for Your Chickens is easy with this guide!

 

Grow a garden with herbs and greens in spring

We all know fresh is better – and nothing is better than fresh food for your hens! One way we save some money on chicken feed and provide the flock with some healthy snacks is by devoting a corner of our garden to growing herbs and greens such as lettuce, kale, spinach and more for our flock.

 

Herbs are wonderful – they have way too many uses in the coop for me to list here. Everything from helping your hens lay better to being healthier!

 

Here’s some ideas about how to grow your own frugal feeds with herbs and greens:

How to get started with herbs for hens

10 herbs for backyard chickens

How to grow greens for your chickens

 

frugal feeds chicken water feeder hacks

Build your own automatic chicken feeder in 15 minutes and under $12

This is truly one of those genius ideas that takes just minutes but can be a lifesaver for your flock, especially on those super hot days!

 

Water is critical for your flock to stay healthy – chickens have a higher body temperature than humans, and feel the heat more than we do. Every day, you should double check (and during the summer, check several times a day) that your flock has free access to water.

 

This water is also easy to clean – just be sure to use a food-safe plastic bucket. If you have extra buckets hanging around, then you can easily use this hack!

 

My full plans to build an automatic waterer for under $12 are right here.

 

If you don’t want to make one, you can check out our review of the 7 best feeders on Amazon here.

 

Stop waste by building a frugal PVC feeder

PVC feeders are pretty popular – you can just drill some chicken-sized holes in a PVC pipe to stop your flock from throwing their feed everywhere.

 

This also will help keep mice and other critters out of the coop, since they won’t be attracted by the grain everywhere.

 

You can use these plans – and it should only cost you a few bucks.

Grow frugal feeds by sprouting fodder for chickens

Sprouting fodder is really easy – and I suggest only using seeds such as wheat and barley. If you don’t know what it is, fodder is simply seeds that have been sprouted into grass.

 

Seeds such as sunflower seeds, etc are great for sprouting – but fodder takes it to the next level by producing an actual grass.

 

Chickens LOVE it – they get the benefit of the nutrients from both the seeds and the grass. Your wallet will love it too, because while you’ll have to pay for the seeds, you’ll be maximizing your investment by quadrupling the nutritional benefit of the seeds!

 

You can read my growing fodder for chickens tutorial here.

 

Keep your chicken water feeder clean with apple cider vinegar

Apple cider vinegar is wonderful for your chickens! If you’ve never made it, you can download my “How to make apple cider vinegar” video here.

 

It can help keep your waterer clean because it introduces beneficial bacteria – and it’s great for your flock’s digestive system!

 

In the winter, you can add it to their water daily (and if you have chicks, you can add it to their water too!). In the summer, if you’re concerned about the vinegar dehydrating your chickens, you can limit it to once or twice a week.

 

frugal feeds chicken water feeder hacks

Buy grain in bulk

One of my favorite frugal feeds hacks is to buy grain for your chickens in bulk – we’ve been able to save SO MUCh doing this, and we can get all non-GMO feeds this way.

 

The best way to do this is to contact grain manufacturers in your area.

 

Scramble eggs with fresh herbs as healthy & frugal feeds

If money is REALLY short one week, you can always scramble your flock’s eggs for them to eat. It’s not weird and it’s not cannibalism – eggs are full of protein, and chickens love them!

 

The shells also contain calcium, which will help your flock lay great eggs with strong eggshells.

 

Mix them with herbs from your garden to make them even healthier (try oregano), and (I promise) your flock will go BANANAS for them!!

 

Just be sure to add the fresh herbs AFTER the eggs have been cooked to preserve the essential oils in them!

 

Make your own frugal feeds with this recipe

Yes, you CAN make your own chicken feed! And in this organic chicken feed recipe, I show you just how to do it!

 

You will have to buy all the individual ingredients, so it’s a bit of a process, but especially if you can find a bulk supplier, you can save quite a bit!

 

If you don’t have time to make your own feed, then you can always try to buy non-GMO feed in bulk from a grain manufacturer (see above).

 

Add garlic to your chicken’s water feeder to boost their immune systems

If one of your goals is to save money when raising chickens, then making sure they stay healthy is important. Everytime you bring them to the vet, your care bill increases!

 

One thing you can do yourself is try to boost your flock’s immune system, and garlic is a great way to do it!

 

You can use garlic granules (which we sell in the store here) or simply chop fresh garlic and add it to their water. The essential oils – allicin – in garlic has been shown in studies to improve immune systems.

 

Plus, chickens love them!

 

You can start by adding garlic to your chicken’s water feeder once a week and make sure they’re drinking it. Go with 1 clove per gallon of water.

 

Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens! Here’s How We Did it!

Grow Free Food For Rabbits & Chickens! Here’s How We Did it!

Buying grain for your livestock can add up – ask me how I know.

 

This year, we decided to do something different – we planted a garden to grow greens for our rabbits and chickens.

 

It’s been a success and now we have enough free food for everyone to have an extra bite every day – and it’s lowered our overall feed bill.

 

(Want some help with growing a garden? Grab my #1 Amazon best-selling book about organic gardening, Organic By Choice: The (Secret) Rebel’s Guide To Backyard Gardening – now available in paperback!)

 

 

We even have one rabbit who is picky about his feed – if it’s not exactly the right brand, he won’t eat it.

 

With the help of all the greens he’s been getting, his weight has picked up – and even on his snootiest “it’s not perfect so I won’t eat it” day, he’ll still chow down on fresh greens.

 

We’ve been using 5-foot by 10-foot raised beds similar to this one, which allows for 50 square feet of space devoted to growing. You can easily replicate this amount of space in your own backyard.

 

What should I grow for free food?

Glad you asked! We’ve had the best luck growing greens – they don’t take that long to mature (30-60 days, depending on variety), and you can grow a lot in a small space.

 

This year, we’ve been growing:

 

 

Some other options include arugula, carrots, and chard. Since rabbits can’t digest cabbage that well, avoid feeding it to them – use it for sauerkraut instead.

 

Bear in mind that you can’t necessarily replace ALL of your rabbits’ or chickens’ diet with greens, unless you can grow a large quantity. You will still likely need to supplement their diet with pellets and hay.

 

For your chickens, you can just bunch the leaves together and allow your hens to peck at the treat as a form of entertainment.

 

For ducks, your best bet is to tear the leaves up and toss them into a clean pool water for your flock to dig out – they’ll love it! Ours look forward to their “treat” every day (shhh….don’t tell them it’s good for them!)

How much space do I need?

 

In a 1-foot by 5-foot area, we’ve grown enough turnip greens to feed our 30 rabbits a healthy supplemental meal every day.

 

The amount of space you will need depends on what species of animal you’re feeding as well as how many – it’s best to start small and build up from there. You can experiment, weigh your harvests, see how your animals do with it, and scale up from there.

 

This fall, we will be devoting about 200 square feet to growing and overwintering greens for our rabbits.

 

Even if you have just a small space, for example, a table like this, you can still grow something – and anything is better than nothing! It adds up after a while.

 

Trust me when I say that getting their greens is the highlight of our rabbits’ day – they look forward to it, and it provides some excitement during an otherwise dull afternoon.

 

I’d like to hear from you!

Do you grow greens to feed your rabbits and chickens? What are your best tips? Leave a comment below!

 

 

Organic Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe (That Won’t Break The Bank)

Organic Homemade Chicken Feed Recipe (That Won’t Break The Bank)

Of course most people are interested in feeding their chicken flock a homemade, organic, non-gmo feed – you are what you eat, after all – but if you’re anything like me, the expense is out of your reach.

Until now. I’ve cracked the code on creating a homemade organic feed recipe your chicken will love, and your wallet will love it too. I’ve done it by pairing together two time-tested ideas, and the result is a huge amount of nutrients for your chicken with less cost.

I do keep a couple bags of commercial food on hand – sometimes this or that ingredient takes a while to get to us, and the flock still needs to eat!) You’re probably thinking, “Whoa, wait. You write books that tell readers to rely on a good layer ration. What gives?”

It’s true, I do tell readers to use brand name products. I’m a realistic person who’s here to help people – sometimes homemade products just aren’t for some chicken owners.

READ NEXT: 8 WAYS TO SAVE MEGA BUCKS ON YOUR CHICKEN FEED

Not everyone has the time or energy to research and mix a homemade organic chicken feed recipe, and commercial grains are formulated to give your flock the optimum amount of nutrients.

If you can afford to pay the high price for commercial organic grain, there’s nothing wrong with going that direction. Your chicken will get her basic nutritional needs met, and live a happy, productive life.

However: In my experience, what you’re really paying for is marketing. And if you use organic commercial chicken grain, you’re really going to break the bank.

So I’ve been testing a homemade recipe that still will let you throw organic chicken feed to your hens without breaking your wallet. Here’s my homemade recipe and method to creating an organic chicken feed that will help them stay healthy and produce great eggs and meat.

1. Gather Your Ingredients

The first question is to address the ingredients for your homemade chicken feed. You need ingredients that will provide the right protein, vitamin, and mineral content for your flock.

A note about corn: Although corn is a great source of energy, it’s nothing but empty calories.  It’s pretty much a cheap filler companies use to extend their ingredients that provide value. Can you raise a chicken on corn successfully? Yes. And there’s plenty of people who do it. But it’s not right for my flock because there’s other, better, things to feed them that are just as cost effective.

This homemade recipe leaves out corn, although a handful to your chicken’s dinner during the winter, if you live in a cold environment, will do some good since they’ll need an additional source of energy to help them stay warm.

READ NEXT: 10 ABNORMAL CHICKEN EGGS YOU NEED TO KNOW!

For my basic homemade chicken feed recipe, I use:

  • Wheat (hard or soft, winter or spring – it doesn’t matter)
  • Peas 
  • Mealworms (live or freeze dried)
  • Oats
  • Sesame seeds or sunflower seeds

A note about where to buy your grains: I do purchase my grains from Amazon. There’s no way around it for me because there’s no place local to purchase organic grains. Period. I included the links above for your reference, but you should always check to see if you can purchase them for less near you.

You can do the research about the ingredients for this organic mix here, but you’ll find when combined, this recipe yields between 16 – 18% protein – for a growing pullet and a layer, that’s the optimum amount of protein.

Both wheat and peas are great for protein (wheat has about 17% protein while the peas are about 24%). The oats are an excellent source of fiber in a homemade recipe, while the sesame and sunflower seeds are great for fat.

There’s some controversy about the amount of mealworms a chicken should eat. Given the ability to forage, hens will consume large quantities of bugs – which are almost pure protein.

However: If a chicken eats too much protein, she can develop kidney and other problems. When it comes to mealworms, add a 1/2 cup to their daily ration to start with, and let your chicken tell you if she needs more. If they seem like they need a protein bump, add another 1/2 cup or so of the meal worms.

While I believe it’s best to offer live mealworms, not everyone has the time or energy to raise them for a homemade recipe (or the desire, they’re bugs after all!). That’s okay – Freeze dried ones provide a nice protein bump to your homemade grain too, and they’re easier to store.

2. Sprout Your Seeds

This is where the real savings comes in. When you sprout your wheat into fodder, you automatically unlock nutrients, and create a homemade chicken feed that’s easier for your flock to digest. In other words, more of the nutrients become bioavailable.

The first time I sprouted seeds, it was revolutionary. Mind. Blown. A tiny berry in the recipe became something much more nutritious and valuable than it was before.

You can read my recipe to sprout fodder here. For homemade chicken feed, I recommend soaking the grains (also known as berries) for 24 hours, then allowing them 3 days to sprout. 

You can sprout them longer than 3 days, but you might run into issues with mold. After 3 days, they’ve started to sprout and unlock the grass, but they haven’t turned into a moldy mess that might make your chickens sick.

Once your grain has turned into fodder, you can feed the same weight or volume amount – which ends up being less seed overall.

And the berries have turned into something more nutritious that it could ever be as just a seed. Depending on the type of peas you purchase, you can sprout your peas as well. (Note, if you purchase split peas, you won’t be able to sprout fodder).

I don’t recommend sprouting oats. In my experience, by the time the oats actually sprout (it can take a while), they tend to be moldy. That being said, it’s perfectly fine to soak them overnight. (If you want, you can substitute the wheat for barley in your recipe – barley is hard to come by in my region, which is why I use and recommend wheat.) Before you feed your hens their ration, mix your sprouted seeds with the remaining ingredients. 

3. Create a daily ration

Because everyone has a different amount of chickens, it’s hard to give you exact recipe. For 5 chickens, however, in my experience, the following recipe works well for each meal:

  • Sprouted seeds (5 cups)
  • Peas (2.5 cups)
  • Oats (2.5 cups)
  • Sesame Seeds (2 tablespoons)
  • Mealworms (1/2 cup)

While this homemade recipe usually works well, you might need to scale up or down a bit depending on your flock’s needs, and whether you allow them to forage.

homemade organic chicken feed recipe with fodder

4. A note about fermenting

If you want to ferment your homemade chicken feed, you can leave the wheat soaking for another day or so. You will get bubbles what let you know the fermenting is taking place, and the berries will still sprout while submerged.

As with anything fermented, let your nose be your guide – if it smells funny or rancid, toss it. Wheat that’s properly fermented will smell something like fresh bread or slightly like beer. I don’t recommend letting it soak for longer than an additional 2 days. You will unlock a lot of nutrients as it ferments, but if you wait too long, you can run into other issues.

Make sure you keep your fermenting vessel covered and completely under water. You can ferment the peas as well, following the same steps. Here is my guide to fermenting chicken feed which works for my organic homemade chicken feed recipe or commercial feed.

5. Adding supplementary ingredients

You can add your supplementary ingredients to your homemade chicken feed, such as kelp, garlic, or oregano right before you feed your hens. Just mix them in as you normally would.

I’m a big supporter of giving all three of those supplements to your chickens in a homemade recipe – kelp especially will help ensure your flock gets an iron boost, and the garlic and oregano are great for their antiseptic and immune boosting properties.

This homemade organic chicken feed recipe has been successful for me – I hope it is for you, too!

I’d like to hear from you!

Have you tried making your own homemade organic chicken feed recipe? What have you tried? Email me at [email protected] or comment below!

Yes, you CAN make your own organic homemade chicken feed with this easy recipe!