Fall is coming, the leaves are falling… and so are my chickens feathers?

It’s close to that time of year again when your chickens may start to molt. I’ve seen a lot of people on Backyard Chicken posting threads about their chickens losing feathers, asking if was an illness, but it’s much simpler. By looking at the pictures, I could see that the chickens were molting. Molting occurs once a year, and it occurs so your chickens can grow new feathers for the winter to replace the old, nasty ones. Normally, chickens will molt either in late summer/ fall, or even in the middle of winter, but I’ve had a couple of chickens who decided to molt in the spring…

What Age is Normal for Chickens to Molt?

Chickens generally won’t molt until they are older than 18 months, but chicks actually go through a mini-molt when they’re young. Your chicks will lose their first feathers and grow bigger, stronger ones for when they’re grown. You won’t really notice this molt except for a few feathers scattered around your run.

How do I know if it’s Molting?

When your chickens molt, they stick to a pattern, making it pretty easy to tell when they’ve started to molt. The molt starts on their necks, then it continues down their body, ending with the tail. When the new feathers grow, they push out the old feather, and you can see the new pin already there, so bare patches shouldn’t be visible.

Behavior is another way I can tell if they’re molting. One of my sweetest hens, a blue Easter Egger, went into her molt and wasn’t the same until she was done molting. She was a moody little thing, let me tell you! In fact, all my hens that were molting acted strange. They were flighty and shied away from me, but after the molt was over, they returned to their normal selves. Chickens don’t like to be handled while they are molting, as the new feather pins hold blood inside, making it painful to be touched.

molting chicken
Picture credit to Susan Ellis on Google as I don’t have any molting chickens yet LOL! The hen’s name is Bea.

Laying during a molt

Chickens generally slow egg production or don’t lay at all while they molt. All their energy and attention goes into growing new feathers, so laying eggs is the last thing on their minds! Usually the harder a chicken molts, the better layer she is. The ones who seem like they’re hardly shedding a feather may be your hens that only lay 3-4 eggs a week! Roosters molt also, but they lose fertility during a molt or are not fertile at all during a molt.

Protein Snack Recipe

I actually came up with this after doing some research on what foods are filled with protein that chickens could eat. I’m definitely to try it out when my littles go through their first molt. Let’s head to the kitchen!

Ingredients:

  • Eggs (use enough so that when boiled or cooked, every hen can have enough. Roughly for every 2-3 hens, use 2 eggs. The more hens you have, the more eggs you have!)
  • 1 cup of my chicken treats scratch (I use sunflower or pumpkin seeds, mealworms, and oats)
  • Basil (I’ll pick a few stems and cut up the leaves, sprinkling them on top of the eggs and scratch treats as it contains protein)

Instructions:

  • Once the eggs are cooked and cooled to room temperature, sprinkle the scratch over the eggs and top with basil. It’ll be nutritious and delicious!
  • I like to put any of my chicken treats in a rubber pan or a hanging treat feeder to help it from getting dirty, but they always seem to drag it around the run

I want every one to know and remember that molting is hard on chickens, so remember to do what you can to help speed up and make the process easier. Your hens are going to look quite interesting for a few weeks, almost like when they were chicks, but once the molt is over, they’ll have strong, shiny, soft feathers for winter. I hoped this helped and can’t wait till next time!

Dancing with Chickens

© Dancing with Chickens, 2018.

 

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