At this time of year, many hens begin to look rather crusty and bald. Most likely it’s because they are molting. Once chickens reach 1.5 years old, they annually replace their feathers. This molting process lasts an average of 2 months and typically begins once the days shorten in late summer/early fall. That way, the hens will stay warm over the winter, as their new feathers retain body heat better.
Because feathers consist of nearly 85% protein (and thereby take a lot of energy to create), hens usually stop laying eggs when molting. They will also be less interested in being held because the sprouting feathers are quite stiff and can bend in awkward positions and cause pain. These are called pin feathers.
Though molting is a natural and necessary process, one can help birds get through it more easily by increasing their protein intake. Good examples of additional foods include worms, snails, cheese, cooked eggs, meat, and powdered milk. And once the girls have replenished their feathers, they look fluffy, shiny and beautiful again.