The days are getting shorter and there is a definite chill in the air. Before long the leaves will be dropping and winter coats will be coming out of storage. Your flock is preparing for their winter coats as well. It starts gradually – one day you notice extra feathers in the corners of the coop or run, the next day you think the girls are looking a little ragged around edges and there is a noticeable lack of eggs in the nest box. Before you know it the whole flock looks like they got in a bar fight and there are feathers EVERYWHERE. So what can you do to help the flock through molting season?
Keep up the high quality feed
They might not be laying eggs as regularly as usual but molting can be stressful to their system. Egg production drops because they are using all of their resources to make new feathers. You should eliminate scratch and other “filler” feed to ensure they are eating enough high quality layer feed. Did you know feathers are made of 85% protein? You can also offer some high protein snacks like meal worms, black oil sunflower seeds, scrambled eggs or try our Chicken Comfort Food
Avoid Stress & Handling
You should avoid adding stress to their life (not a good time to introduce new chickens). Handling can also be stressful to them. As humans we want to hug away the hurt, but not only is handling during molting stressful, it is also painful. The new feather shafts (pin feathers) are very sensitive and can be painful when touched. If the pin feathers are damaged, they can bleed profusely. The blood can attract bully birds so the injured bird should be removed from the flock until she recovers.
How long does molting take?
The length of time will vary from bird to bird. Some breeds are heavy molters (like frizzles). Some years a bird might have a light molt followed by a heavier molt the next year. Expect molting to take anywhere from 3-12 weeks and maybe sometimes even a little longer in a really heavy molt. It is normal for egg production to slow way down or even stop, but they should be acting normal. If anyone is acting sick you should investigate other causes for the feather loss like parasites. Chickens typically molt in early fall, this annual molt is brought on by the diminishing daylight hours. Molting can take place at other times during the year however, and can be brought on by stress. Common causes include lack of water or food, stressful flock dynamics (bullies), and sometimes after raising chicks as they re-enter flock life.