What is moulting? Molting is the process of shedding old feathers and bringing on new ones. During this time the hen will normally slow down in production of eggs or stop laying totally. The timing is determined by the breed and age of the chicken.
When I first got my chickens, which was in December a few years back, the chickens had already passed this stage for that year. I’m guessing they did since I’m not really sure of their age. Come about June, one in particular starting looking a little sick and became lethargic. As the feathers started dropping and little “pin feathers” came into place, I quickly had a self-taught lesson in molting.
Ugly, the part Americana hen, was the victim at the time and that was how she got her name. She was not a very pretty sight. She lost all her feathers off the rear end and tail feathers. At that time I thought it was because she was one of those rumpless chickens. Turns out she was just moulting.
Lacy is losing her feathers lightly but has a bald spot on her back.
The feathers are coming in but the negative side is when a hen is in the molting process, the bare skin is a major attraction to some of the other chickens and if they get the opportunity they will take a peck at it. (Pepper is really bad about doing this). So much so that the chickens will peck each other to the point of bleeding at times. If that happens I recommend separating the hen who is moulting so she is able to recover from the constant pecking and able to bring on her pin feathers.
As you are bird watching in your backyard, you will probably observe some of your visitors in the process of molting also. I have seen some Cardinals land on my feeder that were definitely not pretty to look at. But it is kind of like the ugly duckling who became the swan, after they are through their process they are more beautiful due to the new feathers.
During this time make sure your chickens get plenty of good feed to help them remain healthy while they are going through the process. If you would like to maintain your current year round egg production, try adding six month old pullets about this time of year to fill the gap for the older birds that have stopped laying due to molting. When the pullet reaches a year old next spring/summer, the older birds should be laying again to maintain your current egg production.
So if you have an over abundance of chicken feathers at this time of year, do not fret, it is just part of chicken raising. Roosters and hens alike will shed the old feathers but when they are done it is like having a brand new hairdo. They look so much healthier with beautiful new feathers.
Tags: chicken facts