If you’re keeping a flock of chickens for the very first time, then one sight that can be frightening is seeing them with bald necks. Although you might be aware of the annual molt, the first thought that comes to mind in such a scene is maybe a predator has broken inside the coop and attacked your flock. But, what if that’s not the case? Then you’re likely to wonder why are chickens losing feathers on necks.
Now, many factors cause chickens to lose feathers around their necks. Reasons such as molting, bullying, mating, and poor nutrition are just among the common factors. However, there are other factors that are less common and hence demand more research to identify the underlying problem.
That said, this guide will walk you through 10 common factors that cause chickens to lose feathers around the neck. We’ll also discuss why roosters lose feathers around the neck and also answer a few pressing questions you might have regarding this topic.
10 Reasons Why Chickens Losing Feathers on Neck
1. Annual Molt
The first obvious reason why your chickens are losing feathers around the neck is chickens molting or mites. A molt is a process where chickens gradually shed off their feathers to regrow new ones. In most cases, molting begins 18-20 weeks after your chickens’ hatch. This is the age where they reach maturity and begin to lay eggs.
You see, the first set of feathers usually lasts a year. After this period, feathers become brittle, old, and battered making it hard to keep your chicken warm. Molting doesn’t just happen. It’s triggered by hormonal changes when temperatures lower and the day length becomes shorter.
Now, molting usually takes around 6 weeks after which your chicken regrows a new set of beautiful shiny feathers. It can also extend up to 10-12 weeks if your chicken is too old.
If you’re asking whether it’s possible to stop molting, then the answer is no. However, there are ways you can control it. First, inspect the severity of the situation. If your chicken has damaged or bleeding pin feathers, you should isolate it immediately. This will prevent her flock mates from plucking the quills and eating them.
Secondly, feed your chicken with a high protein feed (around 20% protein). You can also add a few treats such as high-protein snacks, mealworms, and fish pellets.
2. Lice, Mites, and Other Parasites
If the reason for your chickens losing feathers is not molting, then perhaps another factor that might be the cause is lice and mites infestation. Now, imagine having something creeping on your hair. It can be disturbing and disgusting right? That’s exactly how chickens feel when they have lice and mites walking in their feathers.
Since it’s quite irritating, your chickens will scratch and pick their feathers in an attempt to relieve themselves. Now, lice on their part are easy to find and they usually don’t suck blood. But, when it comes to mites, these ones suck blood and can cause anemia and sickness to your flock.
In fact, the worst type of mite to watch out for is the red mite. This one thrives in the chicken’s vent where it’s warm and moist and it can cause chicken red bottom no feathers in severe cases.
In case you suspect your flock is infested with external parasites, then the best solution is to buy poultry dust from your local hardware. In the case of mites, you can spread the dust in your coop, and in the case of lice, you can apply the poultry dust directly to your chickens.
Continue spreading the poultry dust to the coop and the nesting boxes for several weeks until you manage to control the infestation.
If you inspect your chickens and realize that only one of them is missing some feathers, then there’s a possibility she’s broody. Now, broodiness is a condition that’s triggered by hormones. When a hen is broody, you’ll notice that she only wants to settle in her nest and she’ll rarely leave her eggs.
What your hen wants is to sit on the eggs and hatch them. Here, feather loss in chickens occurs when the mother hen plucks most of her breast feathers to insulate the nest. The warm downy feathers help to keep the eggs safe and at the right temperature.
Also, by plucking the feathers, a broody hen exposes her skin to the eggs to ensure they get sufficient warmth. Now, by sitting in her nest, a broody hen rarely eats and drinks. Since she’s not getting sufficient proteins, a hen will tend to shed most of her feathers during this period.
First, it’s normal for a broody to lose her feathers during this period. So, to solve this problem, just isolate her until the chicks hatch. After that, feed her with chick starters (high in proteins) to boost the feather re-growing process.
Sometimes, your hens will lose feathers on the neck due to mating. You see, when a rooster is mating, he’ll usually jump on the back of a hen and pin her down with his beak, in a process known as treading. When searching for stability, a rooster is also likely to step on the hen’s back with his sharp claws.
Although mating is necessary if you’re looking to gather fertilized eggs, this process can result in a chicken with no feathers on neck. When mating, a rooster will pull out some feathers from the back of the hen’s neck causing baldness.
If the rooster has several hens to mate with, then balding won’t be noticeable. However, if there’s only one hen to mate with, then a hen will suffer from severe loss of feathers. If not controlled, a rooster might even tear up a hen’s skin causing bloodshed.
If the case leads to bloodshed, then you must start by isolating the affected hen. Clean the bloody wounds and apply antibiotic ointment to accelerate recovery. To avoid cases of over-mating, you can consider adding a few more hens to balance the ratio of roosters to hens.
Now, chickens are intelligent creatures that form strong social bonds. While in a large flock, chickens develop a pecking order that resembles a hierarchy of status. This pecking order highlights the dominant or alpha chickens at the top of the social status.
If a chicken is new in the group, then he/she will have to respect the pecking order. Here, the alpha chickens will occasionally peck the new or weak chickens. Although it’s harmless, this ritual can turn bloody if the dominant chickens become too aggressive.
In most cases, if the new chicken is a rooster, then the alpha rooster might feel challenged causing him to peck the new rooster to a point of pulling off the feathers.
So, if your new chickens are being bullied, then you can try to reintroduce them again to the flock. You can also consider separating the new chicken from the old ones to lower the chaos. Lastly, consider upgrading your coop by making it larger.
6. Infections and Diseases
If you’re asking why are my chickens losing feathers, then one common cause is infections and diseases. Earlier on, we discussed mites, which we said are highly notorious for causing chicken feathers to come off. While most mites affect the legs, there are times when they attack the neck causing a chicken to pull out the feathers to relieve herself.
But, other than mites, there are various fungus, such as the favus fungus that attack the comb and neck causing them to appear crusty and bald. Other infections such as fowl pox, Marek’s, and cutaneous can also cause loss of feathers around the neck and other parts of the body.
Lastly, we have vent gleet. Although this fungal infection doesn’t attack the neck, it’s a very dangerous infection that affects the vent or the gastrointestinal tract. Here, your chicken loses feathers around the bottom. The bottom can appear swollen with a disgusting smell and yellowish-whitish discharge.
In case of a favus infection, then you need to apply a human foot treatment cream such as Miconazole or Betadine at least once or twice daily until the infection clears.
In the case of vent gleet, you can try to dip the affected chicken in a bowl full of warm water and Epsom salt. Dip the chicken for around 10 minutes then wipe her with a dry towel before applying some antifungal cream.
7. Predator Attack
The worst reason for feather loss in chickens is a sudden attack by a predator. This stressful and traumatic experience can leave your chickens with serious baldness if she manages to survive the attack. If an attack by made by an inexperienced predator, then your chicken might survive thanks to the dense layer of feathering.
However, if the attack is made by an experienced predator, then your chicken will not only lose a good clump of feathers, but they might end up being a chicken for dinner.
Thankfully, chickens have different ways of communicating. So, if you hear a sudden scream, then you should abandon whatever you’re doing and rush towards the coop.
To solve the issue of predator attacks, you should erect a high fence to ensure predators won’t sneak inside. Also, you can try clipping some chicken feathers to prevent your chickens from flying over the fence to unprotected areas.
8. Protein Deficiency
Another common reason why chickens lose feathers on the neck is poor nutrition or nutritional deficiency. Now, chickens demand a lot of proteins to form eggs and new feathers. For this reason, a diet with 15-17% protein is essential in maintaining their health.
However, there are times when you might deny them feeds with high proteins and instead feed them with fruits, vegetables, and kitchen scraps. This can cause your chickens to become protein deficient, causing them to find alternative sources of getting protein.
One of these sources is picking and eating their own feathers. Sometimes, they might eat the feathers of their flock mates resulting in chicken with no feathers on neck.
To ensure your chickens are happy and healthy, you need to feed them with a high protein diet such as layers pellets. You should also cut down treats and snack intake to only 5%. Lastly, use supplements such as Poultry Conditioner, Calf Manna, mealworms, and sunflower seed when feeding your chickens.
9. Stress and Boredom
Just like humans, chickens underperform when exposed to high stress and boredom. Speaking of stress, your chickens will lower egg production and sometimes go into a mini molt if they’re stressed. Stress in chickens occurs when new chickens are introduced to the flock. It also occurs when there’s a predator around or when you move your chickens to a new coop.
Factors such as a change of coop and a new flock can result in a change in the pecking order, which can be stressful to old chickens.
Speaking of boredom, chickens tend to get bored when the space is too limited or if they have fewer activities. Here, they’re likely to get frustrated causing them to pull out their feathers to stay busy.
To solve this problem, you need to start by removing the stressor itself. So, if it’s the coop, you need to extend it to create more space for your growing flock. You can also think of fencing the coop to minimize cases of predator attacks.
If it’s feeding, try to incorporate a nutritionally complete chicken feed diet. Make sure food is in plenty and don’t forget to add some treats and snacks. Lastly, your chickens demand ample water supply to keep their bodies hydrated.
The last reason that answers the question of why are my chickens losing feathers is the lack of adequate space. As you already know, chickens are creatures that love to forage. They do this by scratching and pecking the ground in search of food.
Now, imagine you’ve confined a large flock into a small coop. Well, your chickens are likely to get on each other’s nerves. The result is an aggressiveness that will force dominant chickens to pick on weaker ones in the flock as they fight for “bragging rights”.
In case some chickens become victims, then they’re likely to lose feathers on the neck and other parts of the body. Also, remember that chickens are cannibalistic. Since they’re attracted to the salty flavor of blood, they’re likely to tear each other’s skin to a point of causing death.
To solve this problem, you need to give your chickens adequate space both in the coop and in the run. In the coop, a standard chicken requires about4 square feet of space and 10 square feet in the run. With ample space and activities, your chickens will be happy and occupied.
Why Is My Rooster Losing Feathers Around His Neck?
It’s obvious for hens to lose feathers on the neck as this condition is caused by over-mating. But, to see a rooster losing feathers? Well, this is a matter that demands immediate investigation. Some of the reasons that cause roosters to lose feathers is bullying by other alpha roosters.
But, what if you have a few roosters? Well, then it means your rooster is molting or it has parasites. Lastly, your rooster might be a naked neck chicken, most specifically a Transylvanian naked neck chicken.
FAQs: Frequently Asked Questions
Q1. How Often Do Chickens Lose Feathers?
Chickens lose feathers due to molting. This happens once yearly and it mostly occurs when chickens are between 15-18 months after getting hatched. Molting is a process that consumes a lot of energy. For that reason, laying hens are unable to lay eggs during this period.
Q2. Why Do My Chickens Have Bare Necks?
From what we’ve discussed, there are many reasons that cause bare necks in chickens. Some of the common reasons are chickens molting or mites, over-mating, or bullying. There are also higher chances you might be raising a Transylvanian naked neck chicken. All in all, it’s always good to investigate the problem to know the root cause.
Q3. Do Chicken Feathers Grow Back?
Yes, they do. Actually, the usual molt lasts 6 weeks for healthy chickens and up to 10 months for old aging chickens. Since you can’t control it, farmers are advised to feed their chickens with high protein feeds to accelerate the process of re-growing new feathers.
Now, the topic of why chickens lose feathers on the neck offers a lot to be discussed. While some of the factors are natural, others are quite alarming and demand an in-depth investigation. For instance, a case of a chicken’s red bottom with no feathers is quite alarming and cannot be neglected.
Such a case points to a possibility of fungal infection spreading among your flock. So, to avoid some of these dangerous cases, you need to clear the coop regularly. You also need to give your flock enough space to forage to lower bullying cases and lastly, feed your flock with supplements and a good diet to keep them healthy.
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Hello, I am John Reid. I have been raising chickens for the last 15 years. I have got my experience from my father. My father is the owner of a large chicken farm. This is our family business that has been continuing for over 35 years. I am very interested in backyard chickens and I know how to take care of them. You can learn more About Us here. Happy Reading!!