Why do Chickens Feathers Turn White?

Chickens’ feathers can turn white due to various reasons. Your chicken can turn white, for instance, if it lacks a particular type of melanin known as pheomelanin. Genetics is the other reason that can make your birds turn white. Some chickens can develop a white appearance from scratching through grass, mud, and other objects.

Reasons Why Chickens Turn White

Chickens turning white is a common occurrence that chicken owners experience while keeping their birds. It might seem like a strange condition, although it isn’t unusual for your chickens to turn white. Multiple things can explain why your chickens are turning white. Check these reasons below as to why chickens are turning white.

– Molting

Molting is the leading cause of chickens turning white. Molting is the natural process whereby chickens lose their feathers to grow new ones. You will notice your birds turning white at the onset of the molting process. Your chickens will develop a white color when they start losing their feathers, especially around their necks.

The white color will later spread to your chickens’ back before spreading to their breast area. Finally, the white color will progress to the tail feathers. Fortunately, your birds will resume their natural color after the molting process.

Furthermore, not all your chickens will develop a white color during the molting process. Some of your chickens will still keep their natural color despite the ongoing molting process.

– Injury

Chickens’ feathers will usually turn white following an injury. Injuries from pests such as mealybugs can make your chicken turn white as their bodies try to regain their natural color. Injuries from other chickens due to persistent fighting are also a potential cause of chicken developing a white appearance.

Your chickens can lose their feathers to other bullying chickens in the flock. The feathers will have a white color once they start to re-grow. Establish whether your chickens are developing a white color due to injuries from pests or fighting among the chickens. Simply put, address the cause of the injury in the chickens that are showing white color.

If it is cannibalism that is leading to injuries among your chickens, for instance, eliminate the cannibal and bullying chickens from the flock.

– Dietary Deficiency

Chickens that lack a constant supply of a balanced diet alongside an adequate water supply have a high chance of turning white. White color in chickens can be due to dietary deficiency in essential nutrients such as phosphorus, sodium, and protein.

Your chickens are more prone to turning white if you provide them with a low-fiber and high-energy diet. A diet lacking in essential amino acids such as methionine can make your birds turn white over time. Consider supplying your birds with supplements. Particularly if you have several birds that can’t get their nutritional requirements from the food you feed them daily.

Birds can still turn white if they don’t get a diet with enough salt. Failure to include salt in your birds’ diet can prompt their bodies to use the oil in their preen gland. This gland is near the tail of a chicken. Your birds will most likely overuse their preen gland if you fail to provide them with enough salt in their diet, making them turn white with time.

– Vitiligo

Vitiligo is perhaps the most common cause of white appearance in chickens worldwide. This autoimmune disorder causes patchy depigmentation among animals, including chickens. The white spots that result from this disease can make your chickens have an overall white appearance.

The leading cause of this disorder that leads to white color pigmentation in chicken includes environmental factors and a reaction between intrinsic melanocyte defects.

Other causes that can make your birds susceptible to this condition include exposure to harmful chemicals that affect the skin cells in your chickens. Yeast infection can also cause white spots in your chickens, making them develop an overall white appearance.

Unfortunately, there isn’t a definite cure for this disorder. Even medical treatments can’t stop your chickens from turning white as a result of this disorder. However, in some rare cases, your vet can administer camouflage therapy to combat vitiligo, especially if the condition is at its severe stages. Light therapy can also help treat the disease at its early stages.

– Leucism

Leucism is an abnormal disorder that affects various animals, including reptiles, birds, and mammals. This abnormal condition leads to a reduction of pigmentation, which makes your chickens turn white with time.

Some common symptoms of Leucism include patches with a strange coloring and an overall pale color. Leucism is a result of genetic mutation. This mutation inhibits essential pigments and melanin from getting to the skin of your chickens.

Chicken suffering from this disorder lack the usual plumage colors. Instead, their color plumage can comprise several colors, such as bold white and pale white. The ultimate way to figure out whether your birds are turning white due to Leucism is by checking their plumage color.

Birds with Leucism usually have bold white patches all over their bodies. The birds shouldn’t have such patches, even if their feathers are naturally white. Your birds could also be developing a white color due to Leucism, mainly if they exhibit an overall pale plumage. The plumage can be more distinct if it appears faint, bleached, or diluted.

Black chickens are the biggest casualties of Leucism. The most common feature you can use to differentiate whether your birds are turning white due to Leucism or albinism is the color of your birds’ eyes. The color of the eyes in birds with Leucism appears normal, while their albino counterparts are usually red-pink.

Unfortunately, there isn’t any known cure for Leucism. Nonetheless, you can prevent your birds from turning white due to Leucism by avoiding the causes of this condition.

You can make some dietary changes in your chickens’ diet if they suffer from Leucism because of dietary imbalance. Leucism will vanish away once you resolve your birds’ nutritional needs.

– Albinism

Albino birds have the highest chance of turning white compared to other birds in the flock. Albinism is a condition that counters skin pigmentation in a birds’ feathers and skin. The condition can appear in birds of all colors.

Albinism is rare among chickens and various bird species. A few individual chickens can live long even after turning white due to albinism. Most albino birds exhibit a white plumage, pale bills, pale bare parts, and pink-reddish eyes.

Genetics are responsible for albinism in chickens. An albino bird will develop a pure white plumage as a result of albinism. The bird will still have some orange or yellow feathers. The absence of melanin in albino birds allows their blood vessels to appear on the skin below their feathers, making their eyes turn bright red or pink.

You can’t cure your birds of albinism if they are turning white due to this condition, simply because the disease is a purely genetic disorder. Luckily though, poultry owners can lower the chances of their birds suffering from albinism by improving the lighting conditions in their chickens’ coops.

Also, remove all albino birds from your flocks to stop them from siring another generation of albino birds.

– Aging

Aging can make your bird turn white in appearance. Older chickens are at risk of turning white compared to their junior counterparts. Aging can affect a chicken’s color plumage, making it highly likely to turn white as it continues aging. Older chickens have lighter melanin, making them more vulnerable to albinism.

Furthermore, these chickens are less likely to grow feathers quickly after molting, which means the white appearance chicken have while re-growing their feathers will persist in older birds.

Conclusion

Chicken can turn white for several reasons depending on their environment, age, and diet. You can, however, address this issue of your chicken turning white by addressing the leading causes as to why your birds are turning white.

Consider getting rid of any bird that develops a white appearance from your flock, especially if the color changes are due to genetic factors.

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