During the fall season, your flock can create a panic when chicken molting starts. If you’ve never seen chicken molting up close it can first be a scary sight. Feathers every where makes your heart stop and you wonder where that predator came in at. You search for the missing bird, but can’t find her. Finally you do a head count and realize everyone is present.
But where did all these feathers come from?
You glance around the coop and see several birds with missing feathers. If you’re like us you run inside and jump on google hoping to find your answer. The simple answer is every year chicken molting is nature’s way of starting over. A bird’s feathers, over time, will become oily, brittle or break. It’s just part of being a chicken. Several of our girls have feathers on their wings that dangle or have broken off.
But every year chicken molting takes place to replenish what is broken.
Each fall, your chickens feathers will fall out. They shed them like a dog shedding their winter coat. With 35 birds, we look around our coop and wonder how many pillows we could make! The main cause of this is due to shorter days and less light. It’s God’s way of triggering your birds to go through this regrowth process. Some people force molts for different reason while others try to prevent it by supplementing light in the coop. We recommend allowing your birds to naturally go through this process.
When chicken molting occurs your birds will be bare. They will lose feathers on their wings, back and neck. You might think they are sick, but rest assured they are not. If they are eating, drinking and their comb and wattles are not pale, they are just molting. This is rough process on a bird. They are in pain as the new feathers grow back. I’ve heard it likened to when we have a hangnail. So touching your bird during this time in not wise. Naturally we want to hold and comfort them, but remember this only hurts their bodies.
When chicken molting occurs, they will stop laying eggs.
A chicken needs a lot of protein to grow feathers, and no matter how much protein you give them, their bodies can’t grow feathers and lay eggs. So God made them to quit laying eggs when they start molting. The molting process takes anywhere from 6-8 weeks in full. This counts the time they start losing feathers to the point they are fully feathered once more.
Their wings will look like bones and they will be irritable and crabby. The best way to help the chicken molting process is to make sure they have plenty of high protein feed and water. Some birds will stay in the coop and up high where they can’t be bothered. Other birds might go to the run and gain the space they need away from the other birds. Let each bird do as she pleases.
In our experience, birds in their first year of laying don’t molt.
This isn’t to say they won’t. Chicken molting seems to start in their second year of laying. To keep their bodies happy and healthy you can add 6-7 drops of oregano oil in a two gallon watering bucket each day. You can also give them Poly-vi-sol (without iron) to help keep their bodies balanced during this time.
Chicken molting is a sad sight for sure, but once their new feathers come in, it’s a grand sight! They are full, soft, and beautiful to look at. We can tell our birds feel so much better when the molt is over and they act like their old fashioned selves.
Here are 3 ways you can support your flock during chicken molting:
- Have plenty of high protein feed on hand. Typically 20-22% protein is best.
- Add vitamins or essential oils to their water, keeping them happy and healthy.
- Don’t touch and handle them during the process, they will let you know when they feel well enough to be cuddled.
We hope this has been helpful to you. Please shoot us a message in the comments if you have questions about the molting process.
~Until next time,
Question: How do you support chicken molting on your farm?
This post is participating in the Homestead Blog Hop at the Cape Coop!