The Ragged Feathers of Summer: 7 causes

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A chicken with ragged feathers from molting

Are you noticing your flock's feathers starting to look a little ragged? There are a few common causes of missing or ragged feathers, many of which are more of an issue in the summer. If you're seeing problems, take a moment to review what may be happening and address it if needed.

6 Causes of ragged feathers in summer

  1. Mites, lice, and external parasites are often more active in warmer weather. Such parasites can cause feather loss or breakage from over preening. You'll need to deal with lice and mites if they are a problem in your flock.
  2. Internal parasites can be more active as well.  Warm weather increases the likelihood of nutritional deficiencies caused by worms, leading to ragged feather issues or loss. Deal with worms if your flock is infested. 
  3. Having too many roosters in the flock can be a bigger problem in summer due to frequent breeding and wear on back feathers. While you won't magically have twice as many roosters during this season, their breeding behavior increases in spring. By summer, the hens' backs may have experienced significant wear, potentially leading to issues with ragged feathers.
  4. If your hen's diet has been too low in protein, her feathers will be left vulnerable. This is often a problem with those who spoil their hens with too much scratch, which is quite low in protein. It can also be a particular problem in summer if your hens have access to ripe, windfall fruit or berries from your yard, or if you offer your flock excess zucchini or corn from your garden. Treats are great in moderation, but hens need a high protein diet to maintain feather quality and to lay. 
  5. The heat of summer can increase irritability. It can also cause hens to be more prone to pecking one another and picking feathers. In addition, the long hours of bright light, can encourage aggressive picking, particularly if your flock doesn't have sufficient space to forage, or if the run they have is bare of grass.
  6. Finally, late in the summer or early in autumn, molting begins. Molting is when your bird sheds her old feathers to grow new ones, and is, of course, not a health or management issue! It's a natural part of her cycle. Remember, during this crucial period, provide a high-quality, high-protein diet to support your flock's growth of new plumage for the next year. Want to do your best to avoid ragged feathers next year? Ensure sufficient protein and balanced nutrition in their feed, especially during the annual molt.

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