What is eclipse plumage and do chickens have it?
ANDY SAYS: In wild forms of chicken, such as the Red Jungle Fowl, a moult can occur in two stages effectively giving the impression of two moults. It is particularly evident in males. Firstly they will moult their brightly coloured body and head feathers, replacing them with more subdued tones more akin to the females. This affords them a level of discretion and camouflage while they go through the vulnerable stage of moulting their wing feathers and primary flight feathers.
When these are moulted and not yet fully grown, the birds ability to evade predation by short flight is compromised, hence the ‘eclipse’ of their coloured plumage. Once the wing feathers have re- grown the second stage of the moult occurs where the temporary dull coloured feathers are replaced by the bright breeding plumage.
Moulting in this manner is more frequently seen in ducks where the drakes on a lake seem to disappear. They are, in fact, still present but hiding in more subdued female looking feathering.