Chicken Missing Feathers on Back – Causes & Treatment

Feather loss in chickens can be a devastating event, particularly for inexperienced chicken keepers. After all, you can’t expect your precious birds to lose the feathers on their backs. Every chicken owner would wonder why their flock is missing back feathers when it isn’t during the molting season.

chicken missing feathers back

Chickens can lose their back feathers because of different reasons. For instance, nutrient deficiency, parasites, feather plucking, vent gleet, and bullying can make your chickens have missing feathers on their backs.

7 Reasons Chickens Have Missing Feathers on Back

Dozens of reasons can make chicken lose their back feathers. Some are natural, like the annual molt, while others are health and environmental-related. These are the top seven reasons chickens have missing feathers on their backs.

– Nutrient Deficiency

Chickens usually don’t lose their back feathers mainly due to illnesses, although some conditions like Marek’s disease, polyomavirus, and gangrenous dermatitis can make chickens lose a substantial amount of feathers.

However, malnutrition could be one of the key reasons your birds have missing feathers on their backs. For instance, your flock could lose feathers because of a protein deficiency. Birds need this vital nutrient to support feather growth.

That’s why most chickens in the flock that isn’t getting enough protein will continue losing their back feathers. Check whether the chicken feed you are currently providing your flock is providing the birds with adequate nutritional nourishment. If not, switch to a more nutritious feed that offers your chickens complete nutrition.

Furthermore, allow the birds to free-range to get various foods that will give them those crucial nutrients and trace minerals they need to boost feather growth. You can quarantine the severely malnourished chickens from the healthy birds and give them adequate nutrition to see whether they will regrow their back feathers.

– Feather Plucking

Some birds in the flock will pluck feathers from other flockmates for various reasons. Some birds will peck each other, making the victims lose back feathers. Pay attention to incidences of feather plucking in your flock because this habit can lead to acute feather loss and cannibalism. Remove the bullying birds from your flock until the victims of feather loss have new feathers.

Feather plucking usually occurs when there is overcrowding in the coop. Therefore, reduce the number of chickens in the cage if the cage is too small to handle the birds. Insufficient nutrition in your chooks can also lead to feather plucking.

Chickens can pluck feathers from their fellow birds if the feed they are consuming doesn’t provide them with sufficient calcium and protein. Ensure your chooks have a feed with around 20% protein to discourage them from plucking feathers as they try to derive the protein they need.

The protein content in the feed should be high during the molt because your birds will require more protein.

– Parasites

Parasites like mites and other external parasites can prompt chickens to pluck out their back feathers as they try to rid themselves of the nasty creepy crawlies walking all over their feathers. Mites, lice, and other external parasites usually congregate under the chickens’ feathers. They typically hide under the shaft of the chickens’ feathers, especially around the vent areas.

Parasites cause irritation, and your chooks will pull out their feathers as they attempt to rid themselves of parasites. You must treat your flock for parasites regularly if you think they are plucking their back feathers due to parasite infestations.

You can treat minor parasite infestations with poultry dust. Alternatively, purchase pesticides if your flock has a severe parasite infestation.

– Bullying

Bullying is also a key reason why chickens pluck back feathers from each other. Chickens bully each other, especially when attempting to establish the pecking order. The junior flock members are usually the biggest victims of bullying because they aren’t strong enough to defend themselves from their senior bullying counterparts.

If some younger chickens have missing feathers on their backs, their older counterparts could be plucking their feathers as they bully and peck them. The best way to save such chickens from losing their back feathers because of bullying is to separate the bullying birds from their junior counterparts. Furthermore, establish why the older members are bullying, the younger chocks.

If overcrowding, for instance, encourages bullying and feather plucking in your flock, it is vital to have a spacious cage. Ideally, every chicken needs a minimum of 4 square feet to avoid bullying, coop fights, and feather plucking in the flock. You can also stimulate your chickens with toys to prevent them from indulging in destructive behaviors like feather plucking and bullying.

chicken lost feathers on back

– Vent Gleet

Vent gleet is another condition that prompts chickens to lose their back feathers, especially vent feathers. Vent gleet is a condition that makes chickens have a yellowish-white discharge around their vent areas. This condition isn’t painful and isn’t an actual chicken disease.

It usually occurs when chicken stool sticks on a chicken’s vent area, making the bird unable to defecate as usual because of inflammation on its cloaca.

Chickens with vent gleets will usually attempt to pluck out their vent feathers to eliminate the discomfort they experience because of this condition. Some of the many things that can make your chickens have vent gleets include poor food quality.

For instance, younger chickens can have vent gleets if they eat feed that other adult chickens consume. The baby chicks have no choice but to pluck out their vent feathers to feel comfortable.

Over time, the chicks will lose plenty of feathers leaving their backs and vent areas fully exposed. Chickens can also have vent gleet because of bacterial and fungal infections in their guts.

– Aggressive Rooster

Aggressive roosters can also contribute to feather loss, especially in hens. Frequent mating by roosters can leave hens with bald patches on their backs. The feathers around a hen’s comb area can become bald if she frequently mates with an aggressive rooster. Aggressive roosters usually like mating with hens frequently without giving them a break.

Because roosters will mount on the hens while mating, the females will lose their back feathers as the mating season progresses. If all the chickens with missing back feathers are hens, it means some aggressive roosters have been plucking out the feathers from the females.

If the roosters continue mating with the hens despite the missing feathers on their backs, the males will ultimately injure the hens. The hens will take time to heal the wounds and regrow feathers.

The best way to deal with aggressive roosters plucking feathers out of the hens is to introduce enough hens in the flock. The ratio of the hens vs. that of roosters should be at least one cockerel per hen. Alternatively, you can reduce the number of roosters in the flock, especially those that won’t stop mating with hens.

– Molting

Chickens will always lose their feathers during the annual molt. It’s a crucial process in a chicken’s life that occurs around the fall. Molting is a natural process that chicken owners can do nothing to stop. That means your chooks will lose their feathers at some point as they undergo the annual molt. Every chicken will undergo molting when it is between 15 and 18 months.

Chicken molt to shed off their old feathers because such feathers can’t keep them warm enough. Your chicken will have new feathers when the annual comes to an end. The chocks will regrow warm and shiny feathers that will keep them warm until the next molting season.

Your chickens will usually start molting from their heads to their backs. However, some chickens will start shedding off wing and tail feathers. Some chickens also start losing their back feathers during the annual molt.

Because chickens can’t grow feathers overnight when molting, you will have to wait for the chooks to regrow their back feathers. It would help if you also kept them warm during their annual molt because they will have no feathers to keep them warm.

Interestingly, the yearly molt corresponds with wintertime, when your chooks need feathers the most. You can support the birds during this challenging time by giving them plenty of protein to encourage them to grow feathers, especially on their backs.

Helping Chickens Grow Back Their Feathers on Back

Chickens will always lose feathers at some point, whether during their annual molt or for health and environmentally related reasons. Happily, you can help your birds grow back their back feathers. These are some helpful things to do to encourage your chooks to regrow their back feathers.

– Provide Balanced Diet

Poor nutrition can make chickens lose their back feathers. It can also slow down the process of regrowing back feathers during the annual molt. You can provide your chocks with a balanced diet if you suspect the birds are losing their back feathers due to poor nutrition. Give the birds a nutritious feed that gives them adequate nutrition to enhance feather growth.

– Separate from Flock

You should separate the chooks with missing back feathers from the flock, especially if they have missing feathers due to environmental reasons, such as overcrowding. Separating the featherless bird from the flock will help give them time to grow feathers when other birds aren’t disturbing them.

Furthermore, separating the birds will help you accord them the attentive care that will help them regrow their back feathers. Separation is vital, especially if some chocks lose their back feathers because of pecking or bullying.

– Treating Diseases

Many diseases and parasites make chicken lose their back feathers. For instance, your chickens will lose their back feathers if they have fowl pox or Marek’s disease. It is good you treat your chickens for any condition if they have an illness that makes them lose their back feathers.

You can administer treatment if the chickens have less severe disease. However, consider consulting a vet if the birds lose their back feathers because of acute illnesses.


It’s not normal for chickens to lose their back feathers. After all, you can’t expect your chooks to have missing back feathers when they need them most to keep warm. However, your chickens will lose their back feathers at some point because of many reasons.

Although some of the reasons chickens lose their back feathers are pretty natural, such as the annual molt, some are controllable. Kindly identify why your chickens are losing their back feathers and look into ways to help the chooks regrow feathers.

avatar James
Hey, I'm James, a hardworking homesteader for more than 30 years. I enjoy the feeling of accomplishment that comes from tending my flock. I've raised chickens and ducks for eggs and meat for many years. I also have experience with other poultry too. Learn more

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