Helping Molting Chickens
How to Help Molting ChickensFinding lots of feathers in those leaf piles this fall? The trees are turning, but chances are the chickens are molting, too. They may appear patchy and even ill with missing feathers, but it’s a normal process they experience each fall. We’ll break down the process and explain how you can help your molting birds while they’re building up their winter coats.
Are Your Chickens Molting? Molting is a natural process where chickens lose and then regrow their feathers (plumage). A hen often begins to molt at about 18 months of age, and it happens each year as days get shorter. Losing feathers that are old and worn down or broken is important for the birds to grow new feathers for insulation and basic protection from weather. Don’t be alarmed if hens aren’t laying eggs during this time – it’s typical for them to pause while molting so they can accumulate and preserve their nutrients.
How Long Do Chickens Molt?Some hens molt during the summer, but most often molting often happens as sunlight hours decrease during the autumn months. This timing helps transition the chickens to winter when they need top-notch feathers. Molting timelines vary for each bird, but usually the process lasts about 8 to 12 weeks. Older hens may take up to 16 weeks to grow back their feathers.
The Molting Process Just before the process begins, a chicken’s feathers look dull. When you start seeing missing feathers or bare patches, that means the new plumage is coming in and has pushed out old feathers. At this point, make sure you’re enhancing the chickens’ diet with protein, minerals and vitamins. Protein (or keratin) accounts for 80-85% of a feather’s composition, so the extra boost is necessary for proper regrowth during molting. Increasing probiotics and prebiotics helps as well.
The molting process often works its way from a chicken’s head/neck down to the tail and it can be painful or even stressful on the animals. They may display some aggression or other moodiness, but some chickens behave like normal – they’re all different.
Caring for Molting Chickens
It might be messy and stressful, but PBS Animal Health can help to make molting easier on your chickens. Power through with extra protein, the best products and plenty of insights about what to expect from start to finish. Shop the full lineup of Strong Animals Poultry products on our website for coop cleaning, chick care solutions, and much more.
Here’s how you can help the flock move through molting season with ease:
- Avoid stress: Keep the birds sheltered from weather and don’t over-clean their coop or introduce any new birds to the flock during molting. If necessary, separate the birds who aren’t getting along.
- Increase protein: Look for a higher protein feed, or supplement with high-protein items like mealworms, scrambled eggs or sunflower seeds. Cut back on unhealthy foods (especially treats) to ensure the birds get all the nutrients they need.
- Try not to touch them: Losing and growing new feathers can be a painful experience. The new growths are full of blood, and if broken or injured, they can create other problems – infections and pecking/pestering from others in the flock, among others.
- Supplement vitamins: Flock Fixer is a non-medicated poultry supplement that restores vital nutrients during molting and other times of stress (hot/cold weather, chick arrival, etc.). The water additive contains oregano essential oil, prebiotics, probiotics, electrolytes and vitamins that hydrate the chickens and support their immunity.