Non-molting Fowl and Feather Texture – By David Rogers

When selecting for non-molting fowl, it’s important to select for feather texture. This is just as important as choosing for the quick growth in the adult feathering phase.

Breeders often place too much importance on quick growth of the juvenile feathers from a very early age. Phoenix and other breeds of molting long-tails often exhibit this trait. The trait of fast growing juvenile feathers is preferred in such molting breeds, because feathers that grow very fast while the bird is young often times reach a maximum length of two and a half to five feet and then stop growing.

When it comes to non-molters, juvenile feather growth speed means very little. It is no indication that the feathers will continue to grow. Usually, the opposite is true. Feathers that start out growing very rapidly often times will stop growing very early.

Even pure Onagadori are somewhat slow feathered while young. They may take over two years to completely develop and pick up speed with their feather growth.

Above: The hackle like body feathers of a rooster that, though not pure, shares many Onagadori characteristics. The hackle feathers shown just behind the thigh are growing from the side of the body rather than from the spinal pteryla as with roosters of most other breeds.
Click photo to enlarge.
The birds that take longer to mature are often the better birds, who’s tails will grow much longer than their distant relatives that start out growing much faster in both body and tail feathering.

The important trait to look for early on is not necessarily feather length, but rather feather texture. The tail feathers should be narrow and limp like ribbons. Likewise, the saddle feathers should nearly be as fine as hair; half the width or less as compared to most Phoenix.

Even the body feathering of both sexes should be light, wispy, soft, and even hackle-like on roosters. After one year of age, hackle may even begin to grow on roosters from just behind the thighs on the sides of the body well below the spinal pteryla, from which such feathers would typically grow.

Long feathers also grow from the brow just above the eye. I have seen some lines in which these feathers exist, but they point upwards to the comb. If that is the case, the bird is likely too coarse feathered. Such feathers from the brow should be so light and wispy that they curl and begin to fall over the brow in a manner as to require trimming if they do not stay out of the eyes.

This ultra-light and ultra-soft feathering over the entire body is typically indicative of non-molting fowl. This mutant feathering appears to remain growing for greater periods of time than does wider, more coarse feathering.

Hens that produce such sons often have similar traits themselves. All be it somewhat more subtle in appearance. Typically, the body will be soft feathered and the cushion will be light, fluffy, and mounded quite high. There may even be a mutant type of cushion feather present. It seems that the more mutant, extremely soft feathers in the cushion, the more non-molting saddles there should be on the sons.

Not all of the saddle feathers on some males will be non-molting. There may be two types of saddle hackle on one bird; ones that are near normal and molt and ones that are mutant, narrow, and non-molting. It is important to select for feather traits in both sexes, because often times good hens produce more non-molting sons than do non-molting roosters themselves.

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6 Responses to “Non-molting Fowl and Feather Texture – By David Rogers”

  1. anthony Says:

    how tail of anagadori can grow faster?

  2. indianagardener Says:

    The adult feathers of Onagadori and some birds of partial Onagadori ancestry grow around 3 feet (.9 meters) a year because the fowl contain a gene for quick feather growth. It is a co-dominant, or incomplete dominant, mutated gene termed as Gt. The regular form of this gene possessed by non-long-tailed fowl is gt+, a wild trait for slower, normal feathering.

  3. merlimau exotic farm Says:

    Hi! I am Zam from Malaysia been following your blog for sometimes I find it quiet interesting your vast knowledge about ONAGADORI.Your details about caring for these special birds do help me tremendously as i also have a few pairs which i bought from a dear friend of mine who manage to brought in a few fertile eggs from Japan, somehow he managed. My major problem now is the wheather here in Malaysia which i think will hindered thier tail to grow into their full pottential.Sir,i’ll be very thankfull if you can take a look at my Japanese long tailed and give me some advice in caring for these bird.Do visit my blog at MERLIMAU EXOTIC FARM thank you

    • indianagardener Says:

      Hello Zam,

      Your birds look good for their ages. I would continue to breed them until you have 12 or so of each sex in your flock.

      At that point I would start choosing a few males to test for non-molting while using the rest as breeders.

      The males you test for non-molting must be kept away from hens in solitary pens. Hens should be out of sight of the roosters being tested for non-molting.

      Their ancestors came from climates much like your own. I’ve never had experience with keeping birds in a climate similar to yours. However, I’m remembering hearing something a number of years ago about heat not being conducive to good feather growth. Something about them being more sparse. I don’t know if that’s true or not.

      Here is a link to a climatic table for Kochi, Japan. It’s neither very hot or very cold. Anything you can do to keep your fowl in more moderate temperature may help. Though I would try growing them in your normal temperatures first just to see if anything needs changed. If they grow well, I wouldn’t change anything.


      • zam Says:

        HI, David thank you for your reply I really appreciate it for your info I’ve moved all my juvinile males away from the hens “out of their sight”and start them with neW diet which is cabbage and brown rice .In your blog u wrote about multi feathering thiS is something whiCH I don’t quite understand can you explain actually what is multi feathering . And by the way Happy Halloween to you

      • indianagardener Says:

        Hi Zam,

        They will need more protein than from brown rice and cabbage. Some fish will be beneficial. You can add small amounts of the dehydrated fish meal to the brown rice. The ratio would be about 8% by weight. So if you are mixing 10 Lbs of feed, you would want to add only about 12 oz of fish meal to that.

        A good source of all necessary minerals and trace elements would be kelp meal. That is added to the feed at only 2% by weight. You would be adding only 3 oz of kelp meal to your 10 Lbs of feed.

        Multiple feathering is a mutation that causes more than the usual amount of feathers to grow in a given area of the tail. The typical count of coverts on each side of the tail on a “normal” chicken is 6, totaling 12 in all. Anything over this would be considered multiple feathering. Some lines of fowl exhibiting good multiple feathering may produce 30+ coverts in all. Some may grow long and some may not. Usually 12 long ones plus some shorter ones and also some extra smaller mutant feathers growing there too would be considered a good quantity. Any number greater than that would be considered exceptional.

        This young cockerel would be considered multiple feathered. The quills are quite close together and there are many.
        Recessive white Cockerel Blood Feathers


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