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Now is the Time for Molting Chickens

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a rooster and 3 hens

Molting is the natural shedding of old feathers and subsequent regrowth of new feathers.  In other words, molting is the chicken’s way to refresh old feathers and replace them with new in preparation for the winter months.  The molt can, however, be a stressful time for both chickens and their owners.  Not only do chickens lose their feathers and slow their growth if they’re young, not fully mature hens, but symptoms such as those below can also occur:

  1. Weight loss
  2. Reduced (or no) egg production
  3. Mood changes – yes, chickens may get grumpy
  4. Skin sores

Once chickens reach adulthood, they usually molt twice a year.  As summer turns to fall, day length shortens and temperatures start dropping.  This signals chickens to replace their feathers before the winter months arrive.  Natural molting usually takes a few weeks, and chickens must use a lot of energy to quickly grow new feathers, which are very high in protein. Egg production dramatically decreases or even stops completely when energy and nutrition are diverted to growing new feathers.

Although molting is a natural process, there are a few things you can do to help your birds through the process more quickly and more easily.  Keep a close eye on your chickens to ensure they are:

  1. Healthy – Check and if necessary, treat for parasites like mites and lice to ensure new feather growth isn’t affected by challenges other than the molt itself.
  2. Warm, calm and protected - Avoid extra stress such as moving them to a new location, regrouping or adding birds to the flock. Limit handling of the birds to reduce stress and to avoid irritating hens since the skin and pin feathers are tender and sensitive during this time.
  3. Eating adequate amounts of a high quality, fortified feed. Even though hens may be laying fewer eggs (or none at all), don’t skimp on feed during molting.  Because feathers are approximately 85% protein, increasing the protein level of feed is a good practice during molting to help with feather regrowth and quality.  

Nutrena’s Feather Fixer is a unique feed specially formulated to support feather growth and get hens through molt more quickly. 

 

If egg production stays very low after molting, try adding a light in their coop to extend “daylight” hours.  This may help with egg production through the winter months.

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