If you notice feathers all over your coop or bald spots on your bird, you may wonder are my chickens molting or have mites? Mites and molting are the two most common causes of feather loss in backyard flocks.
What Is Molting?
Every year adult chickens go through what’s called a molt. They lose their old feathers and new feathers grow in. This usually happens in the fall when daylight starts becoming shorter. Generally molts start around the head and neck of your chickens and work downwards on the back.
You may never see big blank spots on some of your birds. The new feathers coming in is what pushes the old feathers out. However, sometimes birds have a tougher molt and it seems to take longer for the new feathers to come in fully. If your chickens are molting, even if there are featherless spots, you will still see the new pinfeathers emerging.
What Are Mites?
Mites are tiny parasites that hang out in your chicken coop and come out at night to snack on your birds. They often look like tiny red dots, or moving grey dirt specks. You would most likely see them at night as they usually hide in cracks and bedding during the day.
Mites can cause scabs on your birds’ legs and feather loss around their vent area. You will need to treat your birds for mites as well as deep clean your chicken coop to get rid of them.
How To Tell If Your Chickens Are Molting Or Have Mites
There are a few key indicators that you can use to tell if your chickens are molting or have mites. The biggest indicator would be if you actually see the mites themselves. Check your chicken’s vent area. If you see bugs it’s definitely mites. It’s likely mites if the vent area is dirty or losing feathers. If you see mites in your coop, I promise they’re snacking on your hens.
If you see a large amount of feathers underneath the roost in the morning, you may be looking at a molt. Chickens usually molt around 18 months, so if they’re close to that age, that increases the likelihood. And of course, if you see pinfeathers or have noticed a pattern of feather loss starting with the head and extending to the tail over time, your chickens are most likely molting.
Chickens can usually be pretty easy to keep, but every so often they need our help with their health! Have you had a time when you were worried about your birds losing feathers? Share in the comments!
Want To Raise Happy Chickens?
Subscribe for our newsletter and get the free email course Intro To Backyard Chickens as well as a free printable checklist to walk you through step by step!