Chickens don't seem to have a set schedule when it is time to molt. We have had them molting on and off throughout the year. The first time they molted, it was in the fall and I kept counting chickens to make sure nothing had killed one because there were so many feathers in the yard. It looked like a pillow fight gone bad.
The poor things always look sad and scruffy. They seem to stay off by themselves when molting as well. The molting girls are more skittish and often hide when we come out. Sometimes the other chickens seem to peck at them them more as well.
It seems like Mother Nature would know better than to allow chickens to molt during the winter.
Look at the poor girl next to her fully feathered friends. It is hard to fluff up against the wind when you are lacking enough feathers to fluff.
It looks like she had a brush cut and uses gel to make the few feathers she has on her head to stand up.
I also wish they would stay in the coop instead of going out in the snow but when given the choice, especially on a sunny day they all head outside feathers or not. We always leave the door to the coop open during the day so they can come and go as they please.
We have found that we just have to keep the door shut on cold, windy days because the girls just want to go out and some have gotten frozen combs. On those days, we just feed them indoors and listen to them complain bitterly about being "cooped up".
Here we see this poor girl is down to one tail feather and very few long flight feathers on her wing. Poor scruffy dear.