Chickens are interesting, funny, and unique pets. Naturally, it can be quite concerning to see your chickens lose feathers and develop bald spots on their bodies.
So what causes chickens to lose their feathers and develop bald spots? And more importantly, how can you prevent this issue? Let us find out.
Why Do My Chickens Have Bald Spots? (The Quick Answer)
Chickens could develop bald spots due to a variety of reasons, such as natural molting, pecking/bullying, predator attacks, stress, diseases, parasites, over-zealous preening, nutritional deficiencies, allergies, and genetic issues.
10 Causes Behind Bald Spots on Chickens
No chicken-keeper wants to see bald spots on their hens. Here are the 10 common reasons behind feather loss in chickens.
Natural, annual molting is one of the most common causes of bald spots on chickens- especially around the birds’ heads. According to experts, molting is a natural process that paves the way for healthier feathers and you need not worry if this is the cause of your chicken’s bald spots.
Most chickens molt after the end of summer and towards the beginning of autumn. The new feathers should start growing soon after. Different species of chickens show different degrees of molting. Some experience very heavy molts, while others have lighter molts. The duration of molting can last anywhere between 2-4 weeks and it could take a few months for the new feathers to regrow.
Bullying is a common behavior in chicken flocks Healthy chickens peck at weaker chickens, causing the latter to lose a lot of feathers and develop bald spots.
This behavior could occur for various reasons,- to establish social hierarchy, to eliminate weak, sick, or injured chickens, or due to differences in sizes, colors, and ages of chickens, etc. Inadequate resources, overcrowding, and competing for food and water can also result in bullying and pecking. Good farmers always take the necessary precautions to prevent such behavior in their chickens.
Inadequate nutrition, especially deficiencies in protein or certain vitamins and minerals, can also lead to feather loss. This type of balding is preventable and should be resolved once the deficiency is fixed.
Chickens indulge in preening or self-grooming to keep their feathers free of parasites and debris.
However, over-zealous or excessive preening could be a result of stress or dietary deficiencies such as a lack of protein or sodium. This type of preening can result in bald spots on localized areas of the chicken’s body.
Certain poultry diseases can also result in feather loss and subsequent bald spots in chickens. Diseases such as gangrenous dermatitis, cutaneous Marek’s, polyomavirus, and fowlpox can result in severe hair loss with bald spots.
If you notice signs of illness in your chickens, please have a vet rule out these health issues.
Hens with high levels of stress can also display bald spots. Stress can occur due to various reasons: fear of predators, inadequate space/overcrowding, egg-laying, brooding and raising chicks, low-quality diet, etc. These changes and stressors can cause self-plucking and preening, resulting in bald areas.
Hens that survive predator attacks end up losing feathers during the attack and may continue to shed later due to the stress and trauma that comes with it.
A young, inexperienced predator might not be able to kill and carry away the chicken. The attacked chicken might have sustained injuries and bite marks. You must always examine such hens thoroughly and isolate them if needed to prevent a blood frenzy in healthy birds.
Lice and mites (especially depluming mites) can also trigger abnormal feather loss and plumage loss in your birds. These parasites bite the chicken’s skin, which gets irritated and itchy. The bird might relentlessly peck at the itchy areas, resulting in heavy feather loss and bald spots.
Environmental stressors like extreme heat-cold, bright lights, an unclean coop, chemicals in household cleaners, and toxins like T-2 toxin found in animal feed can also contribute to heavy shedding and bald spots on chickens.
Certain species of chickens naturally have fewer feathers and may appear bald. This is due to genetic factors that help the chickens adapt more easily to their environment. For example, the Transylvanian chicken has very few feathers on its neck, which helps it sustain heat and easily lay eggs in a warm environment.
How To Treat Bald Spots on Chickens?
Here are some steps to prevent and fix bald spots on your birds:
Provide Adequate Nutrition
Ensure that your chickens get adequate protein, biotin, and other vitamins and minerals. If needed, talk to your vet about supplements, especially during molting season.
Take the following steps to reduce stress in your hens:
- Keep the coop clean, dry, and well-ventilated to prevent the buildup of ammonia, bacteria, or parasites, which can contribute to feather loss.
- Make sure the coop is spacious. Provide adequate feeders, waterers, perches, roosting areas, and nesting boxes
- Avoid sudden changes in your birds’ routine.
- Offer environmental enrichment, such as perches, toys, or hanging vegetables, to keep your chickens occupied and to prevent boredom-related pecking.
- Maintain a safe and peaceful environment. Conduct regular checks of the coop to keep predators out.
Conduct Regular Health Checkups
Have a vet inspect your birds regularly for parasites and diseases. Regular checkups can prevent issues from escalating. Treat skin issues and diseases right away. Isolate sick chickens to keep the remaining flock healthy.
Provide Dust Baths
Chickens do not need water baths unless they have something dirty stuck in their feathers. However, you must provide them with regular dust-baths to eliminate parasites and maintain their skin health.
Separate Bullying Birds
Separate bullies and peckers to prevent them from pecking at the weaker birds. Similarly, isolate injured birds to prevent cannibalism and pecking.
Conclusion – Why Do My Chickens Have Bald Spots?
Chickens could develop bald spots during annual molting. Bald spots could also occur due to parasites, diseases, stress, predators, bullying/pecking behavior, inadequate nutrition, overzealous preening, etc.
By implementing certain measures, such as minimizing stress, providing supplements and a healthy diet, and conducting regular health checks, you can significantly reduce the likelihood of bald spots or feather loss in your chickens.