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Lime the Chicken’s badly timed winter moult

Posted by on Thursday 6 January 2011 in chickens | 3 comments

You know when it was really cold a fortnight ago? When it was minus frickin’ 17C so nights and didn’t get above freezing at all for a fortnight or more? That was the time when one of our chickens, Lime, thought it would be a good idea to start her first moult.

Or rather that’s when I really noticed – looking back at pictures now, I can see she was losing feathers in late November – it just reached a critical mass in that cold snap in December – and it worried me a lot.

Lime has always been my favourite of the chickens – she was the first one we could identify (she had black flecks in her neck feathers) and from the start, she was the friendliest. She’s the only one to have jumped up on my shoulders/back (John says I look like a strange “farmer pirate” when she does it) and always wants to be as close to me as possible when I’m in the run. Her personality reminds me of our cat, Carla – and since me noticing her moult coincided with Carla having a cold and Lily-dog having food poisoning, I was already stressed about beloved animal illness!

During the coldest weather, I kept a close eye on her – she got a lot of warm porridge hand feeding and other treats, all including generous quantities of poultry spice (a mineral booster). I thought about making her a jacket but thought it might stress her out further so had it as a last resort plan. Thankfully her feather loss seemed to slow at that point and then eventually the weather got warmer too so I’ve not had to do it yet. She lost a lot of feathers on her neck and on her back & breast – but retained enough on her back & breast so she didn’t look completely bald, just white and scruffy. This pic shows her next to one of her sisters – she looked as red and fluffy as that before the moult started.

Over the last few days, we started seeing some great regrowth around her neck – yesterday the new pin feathers looked just like thin paper tubes (they’re actually a keratin sheath) but now little feathers are sticking out the end like super fine paintbrushes.

I suspect she might not be out of the woods yet but it’s still nice to see regrowth, to know that it won’t last forever and within, hopefully, a month or so, she’ll be back to normal.


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  1. Jan

    3 of ours are all 2+ year old February point of lay Pullets and they seemed to not moult for 2 years then they chose this winter to drop the feathers. They also managed to peck each other so had rather draughty derriere’s and looked very sorry for themselves. They all managed to get through without any issues, and look much better now. We tried experiments with candles beneath the coup, but I felt the fire risk no matter how carefully we prepared it with wind proofed tins and steel bowls etc. was not really worth the risk, given all the loose sawdust and wood. Jackets would just prevent the birds from growing feathers properly and would probably make them broody, as would any heating device. when they are out and about they will just slow down and spend more time indoors and at night they are quite warm. Pop in and pick them up past midnight, toasty, the more of them in there the merrier.

    Saw some other plans for bar heaters and lighting, but to be honest I suspect it doesn’t really make sense. If it gets difficult to imagine, consider those skinny little pheasants and robins who somehow survive through our winter.

  2. chicken rookie

    This is our first year raising chickens. We did a mixed flock and have really enjoyed our ladies.
    Normally my 11 year old daughter and husband do the morning and evening duties ,but today I went out to deliver some kitchen scraps and noticed that Lucy is having some feather issues. She looks exactly like the picture you have posted above of your Lime.

    I saw on another web site an article about mites and lice. And it scared me a little. Your blog here was much more encouraging, however I didn’t see any updates and thought I would ask if Lime made a full recovery or if she needed additional attention. And also if this was something she went through every year?

    Thank you – the rookie

    • louisa

      Hi Rookie,

      Lime did make a full recovery – it was just a moult, and she was perfectly fluffy again within a few weeks of that post. Those pin feathers come through surprisingly quickly and even though it was FREEZING, that winter, she didn’t seem unduly bothered by the cold at all.

      We’ve had numerous moults over the last four years and they always worry me, so I understand your fears! As far as I’ve experienced, summer is a worse time for mites – the cold seems to keep them at bay now. Our flock sometimes have pecking order issues and some of them lose a small amount of feathers to squabbling – that happens year around but they don’t seem to regrow them until the end of the moult, so they can look a bit patchy.

      Hope Lucy is just moulting and it’s nothing untoward.

      -louisa :)


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