We are getting closer and closer to fall, and you may be noticing that your chickens are starting to lose some feathers. Don’t worry, that’s just your chickens molting and it’s a natural course of a their life.
Are your Chickens Molting? How to tell and how to help!
Why Do Chickens Molt?
Molting is a chickens way of preparing for winter, getting rid of the tired and worn out feathers and adorning themselves with a full covering of feathers. This new coat if you will, keeps them warm in the coming winter months. Of course, a fresh coat of feathers also increases their attractiveness to the opposite sex.
Do all Chickens Molt?
It happens every fall to both hens and roosters older than 12-18 months old. They may not all start molting at the same time, and some chickens even molt in the spring or summer, but it’s not common.
The one exception to that norm is broody hens who may begin molting after they raise their nest of chicks. Their body begins to lose feathers and transform that worn-out mama into a new hen.
What Does Molting Look Like?
Chickens usually lose feathers starting at on the head and neck area. The loss then continues down their back, then their breast and thighs and then tail feathers.
When the new pinfeathers come in, they follow the same pattern as to how they lost the feathers.
How Long Does Molting Take?
The average length of a molt is three to sixteen weeks.
Why such a time difference?
Each chicken has its own timetable, but one distinction can be the age of the hen. Older hens do take longer to molt.
The hens that take a shorter time to molt are usually your most productive layers, so it’s good to note which ones go through molting more quickly.
How to Help Your Chickens during Molting
The molting process is very taxing on a chicken’s body, so reducing their stress level is an important task.
Their diet also needs to be changed during this time with an increase of protein of 18-22% in their feed. Feathers are 85% protein, so this addition will help produce feathers more quickly.
A great way to give your birds a protein boost is to supplement their diet with dehydrated grubs or mealworms. We love giving our chickens Tasty Worms and Grubblies, as they’re both grown and processed in the US.
An abundance of water is also essential, and some flock owners add apple cider vinegar and lactobacilli for gut health.
Avoid handling your chickens during molting as it increases stress and can be painful for them.
Any Other Changes during Molting?
The significant change is they stop all egg production because of how taxing it is for their body.
The molting season is the end of that year’s egg cycle for your hens and self-preservation kicks in to play to get them through the winter months.
Egg-laying can be started again if you add additional light to your coop.
The other thing to watch for is picking at each other while molting. The chickens that are especially vulnerable for this are the lower hens on the pecking order.
Once you see the signs of being picked on, it is best to remove them from the coop until their molting process is complete. If you don’t, they may not survive the molting season.
Don’t be alarmed if your chickens look rough during this time. They will undoubtedly look unkempt and tired as they go through these weeks of replenishing their feathers, but they will come out on the other side.
Once molting is completed your chickens will perk right up, and will be back to their old selves.
Remember molting is a normal process and helping your chickens through this molting will help them come through the winter months much healthier.
And to prepare for the winter months check out: The Ultimate Guide to Raising Chickens in the Winter.
If you have questions about molting, please feel free to ask in the comment section below!